Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) Columbia University
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CIESIN's mission is to provide access to and enhance the use of information worldwide, advancing understanding of human interactions in the environment and serving the needs of science and public and private decision making.

The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) was established in 1989 as an independent non-governmental organization to provide information that would help scientists, decision-makers, and the public better understand the changing relationship between human beings and the environment. In 1998, CIESIN joined the Earth Institute at Columbia University as a research center based at Columbia's Lamont campus in Palisades, New York. In 2021, CIESIN became part of the new Columbia Climate School. CIESIN continues to focus on applying state-of-the-art information technology to pressing interdisciplinary data, information, and research problems related to human interactions in the environment, directly supporting the Climate School's commitment to transdisciplinary research and impacts.

CIESIN has a diverse and multi-disciplinary staff, including experts in:

  • Climate change impacts and adaptation
  • Climate and hazard vulnerability and resilience
  • Climate mobility
  • Data for sustainable development
  • Data science and policy
  • Demography
  • Earth observations
  • Environment and security
  • Geographic information science and technology
  • Urban sustainability

CIESIN staff are proficient in:

  • Spatial data visualization and analysis
  • Mapping tool and services development
  • “Big” data and machine learning approaches
  • Web and media design
  • Systems Integration
  • Open geospatial data and technologies
  • Remote sensing applications
  • Digital data archiving and stewardship
  • Metadata and information management
  • Data system design, implementation, and security
  • Mobile app development
  • Citizen science approaches

CIESIN was one of the first organizations to develop and provide interactive data access and mapping tools via the Internet. Given the great diversity of scientific data and information resources and new technologies now available, CIESIN continues to implement innovative approaches to data creation, access, visualization, and analysis across distributed data systems and diverse application areas. This includes creating user-focused decision-support tools and information resources, providing training and technical support services around the world, and developing interdisciplinary data and information resources to address challenging problems such as climate change, disaster risk management, and global-scale pandemics.

The careful integration of natural and social science data and information has long been recognized as vital to scientific research and societal decision making related to diverse societal issues. CIESIN continues to provide leadership in key national and international networks and communities involved in topics such as climate change assessment, population-environment research, sustainable development data and indicators, global geospatial information management, public health and disaster response, Earth observations and applications, and open data sharing and standards. CIESIN has developed strong partnerships with both large and small private sector entities, and strongly promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in both its internal and external activities.

CIESIN supports both the research and teaching missions of Columbia University, as well as Columbia's “Fourth Purpose,” i.e., “the advancement of human welfare through the complex process of merging scholarly knowledge and our distinctive intellectual capacities with groups and institutions beyond the academy.” CIESIN's innovative applications of information technology, extensive experience in working with stakeholders from policy and operational domains, and ability to support operational data services over the Internet serve as a valuable complement to traditional University-based research and education in the natural and social sciences and to professional disciplines such as public policy and public health. CIESIN provides state-of-the-art expertise and access for the most popular Geographic Information System (GIS) software for students and scholars in all schools of the University, widely utilized in interdisciplinary research and applications across diverse disciplines and application areas. CIESIN staff also teach in a number of departments throughout Columbia, and are already contributing to the expanding curriculum of the Climate School.

This page last modified: Oct 07, 2021