The development of a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) demonstrates that voluntary collaboration between governments and international organisations can be an effective way to address some of the world's pressing scientific concerns, says Michael Williams.
GEOSS, which will provide better access to environmental change data and analysis — to help the fight against global warming, biodiversity loss and resource depletion — relies on a flexible form of governance embodied by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), says Williams, a spokesman for GEO.
GEO is an intergovernmental organisation consisting of 75 members (national governments and the EU) and 51 participating organisations, working to a multilaterally agreed 10-year plan.
Collaboration on GEOSS occurs through a series of tasks carried out by any governments and organisations that are willing to participate.
Although this flexible and voluntary approach would not work for some problems — for instance, controlling the release of CFCs worldwide — GEOSS has gained firm support from emerging economic powers such as Brazil, China, the Republic of Korea and South Africa.
In a world becoming ever more interconnected and interdependent, this model of co-operation, using a "light touch and minimal formality," is well worth considering for other global endeavours, Williams says.