Group On Earth Observations banner Group On Earth Observations banner


Germany’s national GEO coordination strategy

By Carsten Dettmann, GEO Principal Alternate, Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, Department of Aerospace, Germany.

The participants assembled at the GEO Summit in November 2010 included in the Beijing Declaration a call to “support the establishment of national GEO coordination mechanisms among relevant ministries, institutions and agencies.”

The German experience confirms that establishing such a national GEO structure, with a leading coordinating Ministry, a national Working Group consisting of colleagues from concerned authorities, and a national GEO Secretariat can noticeably improve the effectiveness of GEOSS implementation at the national level as well as a country’s contributions to international efforts.

The national implementation plan

The German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS), which is an important provider and user of operational Earth observation systems, leads and coordinates the implementation of GEOSS in Germany, in close cooperation with various authorities and facilities.

The Ministry has published a national plan for the German approach to GEOSS. This German implementation plan addresses the central issues and perspectives of Germany’s participation in GEO and recommends various measures. It was adopted by the German Interministerial Committee for Geo Information (IMAGI) in 2008 and serves as the basis for the further national development of GEOSS.

Progress on the national plan is assessed yearly together with an updated annual German GEOSS Work Plan. The annual German GEOSS national progress report and the annual work plan are distributed to relevant ministries, agencies and organizations.

D-GEO at work

D-GEONational coordination is achieved through the German GEO Working Group, which is called D-GEO. D-GEO serves as a forum for sharing national and international GEO developments, agendas, proposals and documents. It also develops Germany’s opinions and engagement in GEO’s efforts to build the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

D-GEO encompasses, among others, the following institutions: the German National Meteorological Service (DWD), Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG), the Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy (BKG), the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Ressources (BGR), the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH), the Commission of the Geo Information Industry (GIW) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

A national D-GEO Secretariat has been established at the German Aerospace Center Space Administration (DLR) on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS). The national D-GEO Secretariat works on preparing GEO meetings, distributing relevant information, creating advisory opinion, communicating with the GEO community and acting as a point of contact for interested institutions and protagonists.

The national D-GEO Working Group meets regularly at various facilities throughout Germany. This mobile meeting scheme makes it possible to introduce GEOSS to potential stakeholders and to get into contact with organizations active in Earth observation that could possibly contribute to GEOSS. The locations and dates of the D-GEO meetings are planned and announced well in advance so that all colleagues can plan to participate. The presence of the national D-GEO Group can also strengthen working relations and raises awareness of GEOSS within the institutions that host the meetings. Direct contact with potential new “GEO activists” in relevant organizations can be vital for creating a better understanding of GEOSS and a basis of trust for further cooperation.

In addition to the official meetings, there is regular interchange via e-mails, telephone calls and meetings amongst colleagues on specific issues such as technical requirements providing Earth observation data. D-GEO members are also invited to report on specific activities to ensure continuous information exchange. The German GEO Principal, the German GEO Principal Alternate and the national D-GEO Secretariat meet and communicate regularly to discuss GEO Tasks, to prepare activities and to steer the German GEOSS contributions.

In addition to the official D-GEO website, an internal website is maintained by the national D-GEO Secretariat. All German colleagues can use a password to access and download documents in advance of meetings, a list of working actions and their implementation status, the minutes and results of GEO conferences, announcements of GEOSS events, and other information.

Ensuring broader cooperation

Most of the work of D-GEO is currently carried out by federal public servants. This network needs to be made broader, e.g. by intensifying the engagement of science and research institutions. These institutions are making important contributions to Earth observation and many of their specific activities are relevant to, and should become a part of, the GEO Work Plan.

A continuous challenge for GEO as well as for the German D-GEO Working Group is to integrate the efforts of generalists responsible for coordination with the work of experienced specialists responsible for implementation in specific Societal Benefit Areas or domains such as remote sensing, in-situ monitoring, or data management. Awareness of the broader vision of GEOSS still needs to be increased for certain stakeholders and potential contributors who tend to focus their work on very specific issues.

Finally, as a member state of the European Union, Germany will continue to ensure that its GEO contributions are coordinated with European activities such as the European GEO High-Level Working Group, the European GMES Programme (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), European Space Policy and the European Research Framework Programme.

For further information, documents and contact details on D-GEO and Germany’s contributions to GEOSS, please visit the D-GEO website.