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Current News | 2007 | 2006 |  2005 | 200420032002 | 2001 | 2000

Article on Proposed Global Roads Database Published

December 19, 2006

An article by Andrew Nelson, CIESIN staff member Alexander de Sherbinin, and CIESIN alumna Francesca Pozzi has been published in the December issue of the CODATA Data Science Journal. The 49-page paper, “Towards Development of a High-Quality Global Roads Database,” describes the existing demand for a global spatial public domain roads data set with improved geographic and temporal coverage, consistent coding of road types, and clear documentation of sources. The article then evaluates the best available public domain and commercial data sets, assesses gaps in global coverage, and proposes a number of strategies for filling them. It identifies stakeholder organizations that might provide leadership or funding for its development and closes with a proposed set of actions to begin the process. The article is based upon a report produced by CIESIN and The World Bank. The CODATA Data Science Journal is an open-access, peer-reviewed electronic journal published by the Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council for Science.

see: Article (pdf)

National Research Council Report Features CIESIN Data and Resources

December 19, 2006

The cover of a recently released workshop report by the U.S. National Research Council features a map of subnational poverty data for Kenya distributed by CIESIN that is blended with remote sensing imagery for East Africa. The report, Contributions of Land Remote Sensing for Decisions about Food Security and Human Health, also lists several papers and reports developed by CIESIN's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), including a thematic guide on social science applications of remote sensing. Participating in the January 2006 workshop that served as the basis of the report were CIESIN interim director Robert Chen, associate director Marc Levy, and CIESIN Fellow Roberta Balstad. The workshop discussion emphasized the importance of integrating remotely-sensed spatial data on environmental conditions with socioeconomic data.

See: Workshop Report

PERN Member Survey Launched
December 18, 2006

The Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) has been in existence since February 2001 and now has close to 1,300 members. In an effort to assess how well it is meeting member needs, PERN is sponsoring a brief survey that asks members to provide feedback on its services and identify potential areas for improvement. The 12-question, anonymous survey will be open until January 31, 2007 and takes just a few minutes to complete.


CIESIN Leads Dialogue on Research Translation at Superfund Annual Meeting

December 14, 2006

CIESIN staff member Meredith Golden led a session, “Research Translation Capacity-Building,” at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) held in San Diego December 10–12. The session was attended by 45 participants from 15 university-based SBRP Research Translation Cores (RTC). Columbia will continue to spearhead discussion of these issues among RTCs and interested agencies, culminating in the submission of a proposal to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in July 2007 to host a more in-depth research translation conference. Golden also presented a poster on “The Columbia University SBRP Research Translation Core—Collaborating with Government and the Public: Arsenic and Manganese Exposure via Groundwater.” The Columbia RTC consists of health and geoscience researchers dedicated to converting Columbia’s SBRP findings and products into public health applications. Golden is co-Principal Investigator for the Columbia RTC.


CIESIN Participates in Environmental Public Health Conference Sponsored by CDC/ATSDR
December 6, 2006

CIESIN staff members Melanie Brickman and Meredith Golden participated in the seventh National Environmental Public Health Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on December 4-6, 2006. The theme of the conference, which was sponsored by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), was "Advancing Environmental Public Health: Science, Practice, New Frontiers." Golden gave a workshop presentation, "Advances in GIS Research and Their Application to Environmental/Public Health Threats," which discussed GIS and health activities at the Earth Institute of Columbia University. CIESIN also sponsored a booth featuring posters and materials of various Earth Institute and CIESIN projects that have significant environment and public health dimensions.


DADDI User/Provider Workshop Hosted by CIESIN

November 20, 2006

CIESIN's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) hosted a user/provider workshop November 16–17, 2006 related to Discovery, Access, and Delivery of Data for the International Polar Year (DADDI), a new NASA-funded project which aims to improve the accessibility and usability of Arctic environmental and socioeconomic data. The workshop took place at the Lamont campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York, bringing together members of the scientific, data provider, and tool development communities to help define system requirements for Arctic data search and registration interfaces. The workshop was followed by a public lecture on "Arctic Coastal Climates" by Roger Barry, Distinguished Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Director of World Data Center for Glaciology, and the Director of National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).


CIESIN Exhibits at International Poverty Forum

November 17, 2006

CIESIN staff exhibited highlights from its Global Poverty Mapping Project as part of the International Forum on the Eradication of Poverty held November 15-16, 2006 at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City. The Forum was organized by the Division of Social Policy and Development (DESA), in collaboration with UN and outside agencies. It brought together a wide spectrum of stakeholders, from Government to academia to social and private agencies. The Forum focused on looking forward, and on sustaining and increasing the commitment to eradicating poverty as the UN Millennium Development Goals target date approaches. CIESIN displayed a poster describing major products of its mapping project, a collaboration with The World Bank sponsored by Japan Policy and Human Resource Development Fund. CIESIN also distributed copies of the recently published Where the Poor Are: An Atlas of Poverty and other materials describing CIESIN’s poverty and population data holdings.


Coastal Population Vulnerability Paper, Posters Presented by CIESIN at ESSP

November 13, 2006

More than 1,200 scientists and scholars attended the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) Open Science Conference in Beijing, China on November 9-12, 2006. Among them was CIESIN staff member Alex de Sherbinin, who presented an oral paper on coastal population vulnerability on behalf of colleagues Deborah Balk and Bridget Anderson. He also presented two poster papers, one on human-environment interactions using fine-resolution socioeconomic data, and a second on spatial patterns of emerging infectious disease outbreaks. A number of other poster papers cited the use of CIESIN data products.

       CIESIN Conference Presentations

CIESIN's Greg Yetman Elected to GSDI Board
November 9, 2006

Greg Yetman, a staff associate in the Geospatial Applications Division of CIESIN, was elected to the Board of Directors of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) Association, representing GSDI-related global initiatives. The election took place at the GSDI Board meeting in Santiago, Chile on November 5, 2006, just prior to the opening there of the 9th International Conference for Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI-9), held November 6-10. CIESIN is a founding member of the GSDI Association.

GSDI-9 focused on the theme "Spatial Information: Tool for Reducing Poverty." CIESIN's new poverty mapping data were featured prominently in the welcome address by outgoing GSDI President Harlan Onsrud of the University of Maine. During the Conference, CIESIN Interim Director Robert Chen delivered a paper, "Poverty Mapping: New Advances in Spatial Data." Greg Yetman demonstrated the use of interoperable Web mapping and analysis services to address poverty-drought linkages as part of a special workshop, "Users and the GEOSS Architecture," organized by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE). CIESIN distributed more than 350 copies of its new publication on poverty maps, Where the Poor Are: An Atlas of Poverty, to GSDI participants.


CIESIN Active in CODATA 2006 Conference in Beijing
October 30, 2006

CIESIN's Interim Director, Robert Chen, and Associate Director for Information Services, W. Christopher Lenhardt, had active roles in the 20th International CODATA Conference October 23-25 and at related events in Beijing, China. On October 20 prior to the conference, Lenhardt took part in a Sino-U.S. Roundtable on Scientific Data Cooperation organized by the Chinese and U.S. National CODATA Committees. The following day both Chen and Lenhardt participated in a workshop, "Creating Digital Information Commons for Science." Chen then chaired an experts' meeting October 22 intended to further the application of the agreed data sharing principles for the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS), a task from the 2006 work plan led by CODATA.

At the Conference, which focused on "Scientific Data and Knowledge within the Information Society" and was a celebration of the 40th anniversary of CODATA, Lenhardt presented two technical papers and chaired the Conference key session, "Crossing the Social-Natural Science Data Boundaries," and the contributed session, "Data Mining/Knowledge Management." Chen presented a technical paper and chaired a key session for young scientists and two concurrent sessions on disaster data. He later participated as a discussant in a workshop organized by the electronic Geophysical Year, and served as a panelist in a live Internet-enabled forum between CODATA and the International Association for Universal Design (IAUD) in Kyoto, Japan.

Arctic Data User/Provider Workshop Slated for November 16–17

October 27, 2006

CIESIN's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) will host a user/provider workshop November 16–17, 2006 related to Discovery, Access, and Delivery of Data for the International Polar Year (DADDI), a new NASA-funded project which aims to improve the accessibility and usability of Arctic environmental and socioeconomic data. The workshop will take place at Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, and aims to bring together members of the applied and research science, data provider, and tool development communities to clearly define system requirements. The workshop will be followed by a public seminar for broader discussion of polar data issues in the context of the International Polar Year, an international scientific initiative aimed at increasing understanding of the critical role of the polar regions in global processes.

For more information about the workshop, please contact Mark Parsons of the National Snow and Ice Data Center; for more information about the seminar, please contact Bob Chen, CIESIN interim director.


U.S. Grids 2000 Web Site Officially Released

October 26, 2006

As the United States reaches a population count of 300 million, CIESIN has officially released spatial data on census-derived population characteristics. The U.S. Census Grids, 2000 Web site provides raster data sets describing the distribution of population, housing units, minorities, poverty rates, the elderly, and other census-derived population and housing characteristics. Produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), which is operated by CIESIN, these gridded data sets transform irregularly shaped census block and block group boundaries into a regular surface—a raster grid—for faster and easier analysis. Data sets are currently available for the year 2000; those for 1990 will be released in the near future.


CIESIN's Natural Resource Management Index Selected for the Millennium Challenge Account

October 20, 2006

CIESIN's Natural Resource Management Index (NRMI) has been selected as a supplemental indicator for use in Fiscal Year 2007 in the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a multi-billion dollar U.S. government development aid program. The 2007 selection indicators, including the NRMI, were released in October by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which as part of overseeing the MCA utilizes objective, quantitative indicators to reward countries for good policy. A product of CIESIN's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), the NRMI was proposed by a consortium led by CIESIN and Yale University in May 2005, as part of an open call for proposals, and was later selected as the result of extensive peer review and stakeholder dialogue. It builds on CIESIN's experience with sustainability indicators and longstanding partnership with Yale on the Environmental Sustainability Index and Environmental Performance Index.

The NRMI is an average of four related indicators: access to adequate sanitation, access to improved drinking water, mortality rate of children aged one to four, and eco-region protection. The eco-region protection measure was calculated using spatial data integration and analysis carried out by CIESIN scientists, following indicator frameworks put forth by the Convention on Biological Diversity; the other three indicators are provided by United Nations bodies. An interactive Web mapping tool for exploring the ecoregion protection indicator inputs is available on the Web site.


NeighborhoodScout Mapping Services Available through CIESIN

October 20, 2006

Now accessible through CIESIN educational resources, NeighborhoodScout is a commercial site that compiles information from many sources to provide profiles for neighborhoods across the United States. Users can find and map information about housing values, neighborhood ethnic and racial composition, crime rates, and school quality. This password-protected service is provided free of charge to Columbia University staff and students. Please visit our Educational Resources page, url below, to enable access.


Radio Interviews with CIESIN Staffers Discuss Human Global Environmental Impact

October 17, 2006

Two CIESIN staff members were interviewed recently as part of the Earth and Sky program, Human World. The interviews coincided with the United States population reaching 300 million. Alex de Sherbinin, senior research staff associate, discussed sustainability issues and demographic trends, and suggested some ways that the United States— "a nation that prides itself on innovation" —might respond creatively to the challenges of population growth. Malanding Jaiteh, staff associate and one of the developers of The Human Footprint and Last of the Wild datasets, talks about why research on the "human footprint" is possible now, and how such research may motivate a harder look at the human impact on ecosystems.


Second Volume in Hotspots Series, New Disasters Web Site Announced

October 11, 2006

Natural Disaster Hotspots: Case Studies was officially released on October 11. A joint publication of Columbia University and The World Bank, the case studies report complements the global analysis of disaster risks presented in the first volume (Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis, 2005) of the Hotspots project. The release coincided with the World Bank's launch of a new interactive Web mapping site that allows users to visualize the Hotspots data in conjunction with World Bank project information.

The Hotspots Project is a collaborative effort involving The World Bank, Columbia University’s Center for Hazards and Risk Research, and a number of international partners. It aims to provide disaster risk information to inform development strategies and to prioritize actions for reducing the impact of natural hazards. CIESIN distributes the Hotspots data through its NASA Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (SEDAC).

See: (report order site) (PDF file) Internet Explorer 6 for all features)

CIESIN Participates in Lamont Open House

October 7, 2006

CIESIN participated in the annual Open House of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory held October 7 at the Lamont campus in Palisades, New York. The all-day event attracted nearly 4,000 people from the greater New York metropolitan area, including many Earth science teachers and students. Against a backdrop of full-color maps from recent projects, CIESIN staff guided hands-on demonstrations of its spatial data viewer, TerraViva! SEDAC, and showed visitors how to use Google Earth to access CIESIN's data. CIESIN also showcased two NASA-produced DVDs on the Earth's cryosphere and on detection of wildfires from space.


CIESIN's Bob Downs is Appointed a Columbia IRB Vice-Chair
October 4, 2006

Dr. Robert Downs, senior digital archivist and senior staff associate with CIESIN, has been appointed vice-chair of Columbia University's Morningside Campus Institutional Review Board (IRB). The Columbia University IRB is responsible for reviewing, approving, and monitoring research conducted by Columbia University faculty, staff, and students to ensure the safety and welfare of the human subjects. Bob is archives manager for the Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (SEDAC) and conducts research on issues pertinent to the responsible conduct of research, including digital archiving, data management, and scientific data preservation. Previously, he was a member of an ad hoc committee to educate the Columbia University community on the protection of human research subjects. He continues to serve on the IRB as the scientific member representing the Lamont campus.


Two Research Awards Explore the Nature of Conflict in Africa and Conservation in Long Island Sound

October 2, 2006

CIESIN researchers have been awarded two new Federal research grants. Marc Levy, associate director of Science Applications at CIESIN, is principal investigator of Hydrology and Social Interactions: A Focus on Conflict in Africa, funded by the National Science Foundation under its 2006 Human and Social Dynamics Program. The project is an interdisciplinary exploration of the impact of drought on the incidence of civil war in Africa over the past three decades, with initial field work in Sierra Leone planned this fall. The methodology combines spatial time series data on natural resources with a widely-used social science data set on internal war. CIESIN co-leads the study with the Water Systems Analysis Group at the University of New Hampshire and is also collaborating with the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway. For preliminary results, please download the pdf.

A second award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will support conservation efforts by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the Long Island Sound Study (LISS). Dr. Yuri Gorokhovich, an associate research scientist with CIESIN, is leading the project in collaboration with the Westchester County Department of Information Technology. The project will use Geographic Information System (GIS) tools to analyze parcel data from the most significant unprotected and undeveloped coastal areas of Long Island.

New CIESIN Atlas Depicts Advances in Integrated Poverty Mapping Techniques

September 28, 2006

Where the
Poor Are: An Atlas of Poverty has been published by CIESIN in collaboration with The World Bank. Featuring 21 full-page poverty maps, the atlas depicts small area estimates of vital development indicators at unprecedented levels of spatial detail, gathered from countries and cities around the world. Geographic patterns are revealed, with practical examples discussing how the data and tools have been used, and may be used, in decision making and poverty interventions.

The atlas demonstrates the breadth of contemporary poverty mapping. As poverty maps have achieved greater resolution—thanks to the integration of recent advances in econometric techniques, innovations in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, and ever-improving access to Census and survey data—it is now possible to develop, interpret, and apply such maps to better understand poverty and improve our capacity to address it.

Where the Poor Are: An Atlas of Poverty is a product of the CIESIN Global Poverty Mapping Project. The project Web site, Global Distribution of Poverty, offers downloadable maps, spatial data, and tabular data. Infant mortality and malnutrition are available globally, and higher-resolution consumption and basic needs data are available for 28 countries. The project was made possible by support from the Japan Policy and Human Resource Development Fund, in collaboration with The World Bank.  

To view the atlas in pdf or request a hard copy, go to

U.S. CODATA Committee Members Visit Moscow

September 15, 2006

Several representatives of the U.S. National Committee for CODATA, including CIESIN Interim Director Robert Chen, visited the Russian National CODATA Committee in Moscow on September 10-14. Dr. Chen, as Secretary-General of CODATA, presented an overview of CODATA international activities and strategic planning. Bonnie Carroll of Information International Associates, Inc., the U.S. delegate to CODATA, and Paul Uhlir, staff director of the U.S. National Committee, gave presentations on US CODATA activities. The delegation visited several research institutes in Moscow, including the Schmidt United Institute of Physics of the Earth, the Geophysical Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytic Chemistry, and the Russian Scientific and Technical Center for Information on Standardization, Metrology, and Conformity Assessment (STANDARTINFORM).

CODATA is an interdisciplinary Scientific Committee of the International Council for Science (ICSU), working to improve the quality, reliability, management, and accessibility of data of importance to all fields of science and technology.


Arctic Data Web Site Established

September 15, 2006

A new Web site for Arctic coastal dynamics data and information has been established by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in collaboration with CIESIN's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC). The site provides information on a new NASA-funded project, Discovery, Access, and Delivery of Data for the International Polar Year (DADDI), which aims to improve the accessibility and usability of Arctic environmental and socioeconomic data. CIESIN will host a user workshop for the project in November 2006 at the Lamont campus. The DADDI project is intended as a contribution to the International Polar Year (IPY), a major international scientific initiative aimed at increasing understanding of the critical role of the polar regions in global processes.


New SEDAC Web Release Features Compendium of Environmental Sustainability Indicator Collections
August 24, 2006

CIESIN's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has just released its Environmental Sustainability Web site. A major element of this Web site is a compendium of environmental sustainability indicator collections, which includes 411 variables from five separate efforts:
  • The YCELP, CIESIN, WEF, and JRC 2006 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI)
  • The SOPAC and UNEP 2004 Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI)
  • John O'Connor's and Jochen Jessinghaus' Rio to Johannesburg Dashboard of Sustainability
  • Robert Prescott-Allen's The Wellbeing of Nations.

The compendium also includes useful ancillary data such as region name, dummy variables for landlocked countries and small island states, and population and GDP for several years (38 additional variables). Files are downloadable in CSV, SPSS, and Stata formats.

To visit the site go to

For CIESIN Interns, a Summer of Research and Learning

August 3, 2006

Ten interns have been selected to work at CIESIN this summer on a variety of multi-disciplinary research projects and data development and dissemination activities. Two from this group are part of the 29th Lamont Summer Intern Program, which is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The remaining interns are supported by various CIESIN projects, including its NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC).

The majority of interns are working closely with CIESIN staff on existing CIESIN projects such as SEDAC'S Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP);the Global Poverty Mapping Project; the Pitney Bowes Hazard Exposure Assessment Project; the Environmental Policy Report Card Project; the Millennium Villages (MV) Database Project; the SEDAC Map Gallery Project; the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Project; and the Low-Elevation Coastal Zone (LECZ) project.

Two of the interns, sponsored by the Lamont program, are working on research projects they initiated using CIESIN data. The project by Noah Schwartz, “Census Taking and State Capacity,”  is a compilation and analysis of data on temporal and spatial resolution of country censuses, state capacity and governance, and other socio-economic and biophysical indicators, looking for correlations between census quality and state capacity. The other project, by Hagar Elbishlawi, is “The Hydrology of Political Violence: Exploring the Connections," a compilation and analysis of data on civil conflict and water scarcity, looking for connections between access to water and conflict in Africa.

CIESIN Creates New Geospatial Applications Division
August 1, 2006

A Geospatial Applications Division has been created at CIESIN. The new division seeks to advance the role of geospatial technologies in the support of integrated studies of human/environment interactions. It provides a geospatial technology knowledge base to support CIESIN’s research agenda and general operations, working closely with the existing three divisions—Information Services, Information Technology, and Science Applications—in the creation and distribution of CIESIN’s spatial data products and services.

Mark Becker, formerly the manager of the Geospatial Section of CIESIN's Science Applications Division, has been appointed as the associate director of the new division. Mark has more than ten years of experience with geospatial data and applications in community planning, resource management, and education. He has taught at Columbia's School of Public Health, School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Continuing Education Program, and leads a variety of projects at CIESIN, including the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Northeast Information Node.


$16.9 Million NIEHS Superfund Grant Renewal Awarded
July 26, 2006

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) have been awarded a five-year, $16.9 million grant renewal from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP). The grant will fund ongoing investigations into the health effects, geochemistry, and remediation of arsenic and manganese exposure in groundwater in Bangladesh, India and the United States (New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Maine). It also includes a component studying the effects of environmental arsenic on children's health.

As a principal investigator for the SBRP Research Translation Core (RTC), CIESIN works with other Columbia SBRP scientists to communicate program findings and technology to key audiences, including government agencies, academia, and the private and public sectors. The goal is to inform decision making in order to minimize human exposure to arsenic and manganese in drinking water. CIESIN's contributions include online information dissemination, seminar and workshop convening, GIS management and training, gesopatial visualization, and other tools for decision support. The CIESIN SBRP RTC team includes Meredith Golden (Co-PI), Mark Becker, and Annie Gerard (Web designer).


CIESIN Associate Director Chris Lenhardt to Serve on ESIP Federation Executive Committee

July 24, 2006

W. Christopher Lenhardt, associate director of CIESIN's Information Services division, was elected as ESIP Type I representative to the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (“ESIP Federation”) and to the Foundation for Earth Science board. Lenhardt is also deputy manager of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), a Type I ESIP operated by CIESIN as part of NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System. Lenhardt will serve a one-year term on the Federation’s Executive Committee, participating in policy development and planning for the Federation.

The ESIP Federation is a consortium of Earth science data centers, scientists, technologists, educators, and applications developers. Initiated by NASA in 1997, the Federation provides data, products, and services to decision makers and researchers in public and private settings.

For more information, please see:

Case Studies Volume in Hotspots Series Published

July 20, 2006

Natural Disaster Hotspots: Case Studies is the second volume produced by the Natural Disaster Hotspots project. It presents a series of case studies undertaken to complement the global analysis of disaster risks presented in the first volume (Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis, 2005). Three of the case studies address specific hazards—landslides, storm surges, and drought—and three address regional multi-hazard situations—in Sri Lanka, the Tana River basin in Kenya, and the city of Caracas, Venezuela. CIESIN's interim director, Robert Chen, helped commission and edit the case studies, and Randolph Pullen of CIESIN contributed to editing of the volume, which has been published as part of the World Bank's Disaster Risk Management Series.

The Hotspots Project is a collaborative effort involving The World Bank, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and a number of international partners, which aims to provide information to inform development strategies and to prioritize actions for reducing disaster risk. 


Remote Sensing and Global Change: CIESIN-authored Article Featured in Earth Imaging Journal
July 20, 2006

The role of remote sensing in assessing global environmental change is examined in a new article by CIESIN's Alexander de Sherbinin and Robert Chen. The article, "Global change: Revealing humanity’s impact on Earth," appears in the May/June 2006 issue of Earth Imaging Journal. One notable contribution of remote sensing has been the confirmation and visual depiction of the seasonal hole in the ozone layer, leading to widespread awareness of the seriousness of the problem and international actions to address it. Others include: visualizing land use and land cover and assessing changes over time due to deforestation and other causes; monitoring sea surface temperatures to better understand global climatic variability and change; and providing vivid images of the impacts of environmental change at local, regional, and global scales. The article also discusses innovative uses of remote sensing, including its use as an assessment tool for monitoring compliance with international environmental treaties.

National Public Radio Airs Two Interviews with Bob Chen
July 17, 2006

Two interviews with CIESIN interim director and SEDAC manager Robert Chen on the topics of poverty and coastal population were broadcast July 13 and 14 on on National Public Radio as part of the Earth and Sky radio series. Linked with World Population Day, the programs were conducted by by Deborah Byrd and Joel Block. Transcripts of the interviews, links to SEDAC's data, and downloadable MP3 files of the interviews are available at:

SEDAC Hosts ESIP Federation Meeting July 18–21
July 13, 2006

Hosted by SEDAC, the 2006 Summer Meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) will take place in Palisades, N.Y. July 18–21 at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), one of the premier Earth science research institutions.

The 17th Federation meeting provides a unique opportunity for Earth scientists and data professionals to interact in a mix of plenary, technical, and cluster breakout sessions. Six Science/Applications communities (“clusters”) will be meeting: Air Quality, Coastal Management, Disaster Management, Ecological Forecasting, Public Health, and Water Management. A set of technical workshops, held on July 18, will cover topics such as: Web services, GIS, knowledge representation, collaboration technologies, data access, and data quality.

CIESIN's Interim Director, Dr. Robert Chen, will help open the Federation meeting, which will include plenary presentations by Dr. Margaret Leinen of the U.S. National Science Foundation and Martha Maiden of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Dr. Kim Kastens of LDEO will also give a plenary presentation on "To What Extent Should Human/Environment Interactions Be Included in Science Education?"

For further information on the Federation Meeting, please see:

New Members Join SEDAC User Working Group
July 11, 2006

The SEDAC (Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center) User Working Group (UWG) is pleased to welcome five new members. They are:

•Melba Crawford, Laboratory for Applications of Remote Sensing, Purdue University
•Lisa Curran, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
•Roger Kasperson, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University
•Karen Seto, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University
•Eric Swanson, DEC Development Data Group, The World Bank

Chaired by Prof. Harlan Onsrud of the University of Maine, the SEDAC UWG provides ongoing advice and guidance regarding SEDAC activities and plans.


July 2006 WHO Bulletin: Monitoring of Health-Related Goals

July 6, 2006

The July 2006 issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization features the paper "Setting the stage for equity-sensitive monitoring of the maternal and child health Millennium Development Goals." The authors are Meg E. Wirth, Deborah Balk, Enrique Delamonica, Adam Storeygard, Emma Sacks, and Alberto Minujin. The paper concludes that the analysis and tracking of inequities by the health-related Millennium Development Goals and other development initiatives must become more comprehensive and explicit; and that policies designed to narrow health gaps must take into account country-specific inequities.


Geoconnexion International Interview with Robert Chen

June 29, 2006

The June 2006 issue of Geoconnexion International Magazine includes an interview with Robert S. Chen, CIESIN interim director and secretary general of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA). The interview focuses on data access and application issues, especially with respect to natural disaster management and emergency response. Geoconnexion International is a geospatial industry publication distributed primarily in the U.K., Europe, and the Middle East.


New SEDAC Product: TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer

June 15, 2006

SEDAC, in collaboration with ISciences, has released the TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer, a dynamic global spatial data visualization and analysis product. The standalone software application utilizes a powerful data-viewing engine and tools to aid the examination of SEDAC collections of sustainability and socioeconomic variables and maps. Easy to use and flexible, TerraViva! Sedac Viewer is a windows-only application with minimum computing requirements.

The integrated visualization, analysis, and display of geospatial data that TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer makes possible will be of most interest to fundamental and applied researchers, operational users, and public policy experts in the social and Earth sciences. For more information, or to request a CD of TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer, please visit the Web site.


Climate Change Web Site Released

May 31, 2006

The Web site Global Geographical Distribution of Vulnerability to Climate Change has been released by CIESIN. It features the report “A Synthetic Assessment of the Global Distribution of Vulnerability to Climate Change from the IPCC Perspective that Reflects Exposure and Adaptive Capacity” and a complete set of downloadable global distribution maps and data. Scientists and researchers from Wesleyan University, the University of Illinois, the University of Maryland Joint Research Center for Global Change (JRCGC), the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) of the U.S. Department of Energy, and Columbia University together conducted the assessment, which seeks to advance the understanding of the nature of climate change risks and vulnerabilities. The report and the maps and data are available for download on the Web site.


Beta Release of New Raster Datasets by CIESIN/SEDAC

May 31, 2006

The U.S. Census Grids, 2000 (currently in beta release) provide raster data sets that include not only population and housing counts, but a wide range of socioeconomic characteristics. Produced by CIESIN's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), these gridded data sets transform irregularly shaped census block and block group boundaries into a regular surface—a raster grid—for faster and easier analysis. Data sets are currently available for the year 2000; those for 1990 will be released in the near future.


The Global Distribution of Poverty Web Site Officially Released

May 10, 2006

CIESIN has released its Global Distribution of Poverty Web site, capping the two-year Global Poverty Mapping project undertaken in collaboration with the World Bank. The Web site features a rich compilation of subnational, georeferenced poverty measures, unprecedented in scope. Easy-to-download maps, spatial data, and tabular data are available. Global data sets provide measures of infant mortality and malnutrition; there are also higher-resolution poverty measures for 28 countries.

The Project was made possible by support from the Japan Policy and Human Resource Development Fund (PHRD). Its aim was to take advantage of new data availability to consolidate a spatial depiction of the global poverty challenge; to improve understanding of the causes of poverty; and to support more effective interventions.

In addition to producing the Web site, CIESIN will release Where the Poor Are: An Atlas of Poverty in July 2006. The atlas contains a number of poverty maps, illuminating possible causal patterns and how the maps have been used in practice.


Bob Chen Appointed CIESIN Interim Director

May 1, 2006

Dr. Robert S. Chen has been appointed by The Earth Institute as CIESIN interim director, effective May 1, 2006. Dr. Chen joined CIESIN when it was a consortium in Michigan in 1993 and has served as CIESIN deputy director since July 1998. He is currently the secretary general of CODATA (the Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council for Science), and manages the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A geographer by training, Dr. Chen has conducted research on a range of topics including natural hazards, climate impacts, food security, sustainable development, and geospatial data management.

For more biographical information, please see:

Two New Papers from SEDAC Research Scientist Deborah Balk

May 1, 2006

Deborah Balk and others recently published a paper on low coastal zone settlements, appearing in the peer-reviewed journal, Tiempo. Another paper by Balk and others, “Determining global population distribution: methods, applications, and data," has been published in the peer-reviewed volume, Advances in Parasitology.


Remote Sensing Technologies Project Completed

April 21, 2006

The project on Remote Sensing Technologies for Ecosystem Management Treaties has recently been completed. Funded by the Department of State, this two-year project involved a partnership among CIESIN, IBAMA (the Brazilian environmental protection agency), PROBIDES (a Uruguayan parastatal organization), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Main products include: (1) an overview report on the application of remote sensing to ecosystem management treaties, and (2) a technical report on a case study of Laguna Merín, a transboundary lake, and associated wetlands.

Straddling the Brazil-Uruguay border, Laguna Merín (Lagoa Merim in Portuguese) is South America's second largest lake in areal extent. The lake and its surrounding wetlands have been recognized for their importance to migratory waterfowl through a variety of international site designations. The catchment includes a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, two UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) reserves, and a BirdLife International Endemic Bird Area. For reports and data, please visit the project Web site.


CIESIN Director Roberta Balstad Departs

April 18, 2006

Roberta Balstad has announced that she will be stepping down as director of CIESIN as of May 1, 2006. Dr. Balstad became president and CEO of CIESIN in 1993, when it was an independent consortium in Michigan. She led the organization through its transition from dependence on congressionally-directed funding to a diversified portfolio of research support obtained through competitive sources of funding. In 1998, Dr. Balstad moved CIESIN to Columbia University, where it became a center within the Earth Institute. After 13 years as head of the organization, she is looking forward to spending her time on research projects. She will remain a senior fellow at CIESIN and will be a senior research scientist in the Earth Institute at Columbia, where she is a principal investigator in the NSF-funded Center for Research on Environmental Decisions and co-principal investigator in the NSF-funded ADVANCE Project. 

Dr. Robert S. Chen has been appointed acting director of CIESIN until the Earth Institute completes a search for a new CIESIN director.

Population-Environment Research Network Hosts Online Seminar

April 10-24, 2006

The PERN cyber-seminar will provide a forum for international scholars from a wide range of disciplines to discuss recent research examining the reciprocal relationships among household-level population dynamics, rural livelihoods, and the environment. This area of research is of particular concern to policy makers working in developing countries where large sectors of the population live in rural areas. Thus, the seminar will both directly engage policy makers, and seek to develop conclusions that are relevant to policy audiences.


Version 3 of Gridded Population of the World Officially Released

February 10, 2006

Gridded Population of the World (GPWv3) is the third edition of a large-scale data product indicating the spatial distribution of human populations across the globe. GPW is a spatially disaggregated population layer compatible with datasets from earth and environmental science fields. The data are unique in that the distribution of human population is converted from national or subnational spatial units (usually administrative units) of varying resolutions, to a series of geo-referenced quadrilateral grids at a resolution of 2.5 arc minutes.

This third version of GPW incorporates a number of improvements. Input administrative data have been improved for nearly all of the 232 countries in the dataset. (The number of administrative units has increased three-fold since GPWv2, and twenty-fold since GPWv1.) Also, the input data years have been updated for more than two-thirds of the countries. The population data estimates, previously available only for 1990 and 1995, are now provided for the period 1990–2015, by five-year intervals.

Release of the Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index

January 23, 2006

The Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a joint product of CIESIN and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, was released today. The EPI identifies targets for environmental performance and measures how close each country comes to these goals. It ranks 133 countries on 16 indicators tracked in six established policy categories: Environmental Health, Air Quality, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Sustainable Energy. As a quantitative gauge of pollution control and natural resource management results, the Index is a powerful tool for improving policymaking and shifting environmental decision making onto firmer analytic foundations.


Urban and City Populations Workshop Held January 9-10

January 11, 2006

A workshop, "Rethinking the Estimation and Projection of Urban and City Populations," was held January 9-10 at Columbia University, New York. CIESIN's Deborah Balk co-chaired and other CIESIN staff participated. Experts in remote sensing, demography, and the social sciences discussed the use of remote sensing data to detect and track urban and intra-urban features, systematically and globally. The workshop was funded by the NSF Advance Project at Columbia's Earth Institute, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, and the United Nations Population Division.


Confidentiality Issues in Geospatial Data Applications

January 5, 2006

This Web site promotes awareness of confidentiality and privacy issues related to the integration of geo-referenced data from the natural, social, and public health sciences. It provides access to resources that analyze these issues and reviews existing policies and protocols for safeguarding confidential information. Iintended for researchers, educators, data managers, and decision makers who use and disseminate geospatial data, especially remote sensing data.



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