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Sixty nations from the developed and developing world have signed a ten-year plan to build the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), paving the way for a more complete collection of global geographical data. 

GEOSS, to be run from the World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, will aim to coordinate data held by the multitude of existing agencies that spend billions of US dollars on Earth observation globally.

A central task of GEOSS will be to provide a framework that will make data available for free, easier to use and more accessible to researchers.

Last year's tsunami provided a fresh impetus to the project, which was developed by a group led by the United States, the European Commission, Japan and South Africa. It is estimated that GEOSS will cost tens of millions of US dollars annually.

Reference: Nature 789, 433 (2005)