Digital Earth project gets exposure ahead of Wellington summit

Geoscience 'vision paper' published in prestigious scientific journal

International interest in the Digital Earth project will be greatly boosted by the publication of a “vision paper” on the project in a prestigious scientific journal a few months ahead of the next Digital Earth Summit, in Wellington, says summit steering committee member Richard Simpson.

The paper will appear this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the US, a journal which has featured many papers by Nobel prizewinners. It is scheduled for early online publication on the journal’s website [on June 18, US time].

“This can be leveraged as a milestone as Digital Earth becomes widely recognised as mainstream big science,” says Auckland-based Simpson, a co-author of the paper.

Lead author is Mike Goodchild, director of the Centre for Spatial Studies, and professor of geography at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is reliably said to have been a ghost co-author of the 1998 paper that launched the Digital Earth concept. Entitled The Digital Earth: Understanding our planet in the 21st Century, it was credited to then US vice-president and environmental champion Al Gore.

The Digital Earth initiative attempts to link databases into a multi-layer digital model of the planet with representations of its human-made infrastructure, buildings and facilities and links to appropriate digital repositories of knowledge about Earth.

“This PNAS paper is effectively the Digital Earth 2.0 vision that reflects back to 1998 and projects forward into the next decade,” Simpson says. “Goodchild is widely considered the world’s most eminent mind in geosciences.” This is a discipline “critical for resilience of cities” says Simpson “and should become a cornerstone for advancing NZ’s knowledge economy.

“The convenient timing of a feature paper also benefits New Zealand as it will build greater global awareness and will help ensure wider global interests by the scientific communities in Wellington’s Digital Earth Summit,” Simpson says.

“This should be leveraged by government as a New Zealand opportunity to brand its alignment to an initiative that will not only become a critical infrastructure for the planet but also define the way we see the world and view ourselves in the 21st century.”

The Digital Earth Summit is scheduled to take place in Wellington from September 2 to 4.

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