Since the European Commission’s Communication on SEIS in 2008, numerous efforts have been made to create a SEIS and implement its principles and pillars throughout Europe and even beyond. During this time, EEA has been a leading proponent of SEIS, and has increasingly applied SEIS to its own work. EEA also encourages external organisations, networks and processes to do the same, and manages or participates in on-going European and global initiatives contributing to the implementation of SEIS. Here are some examples:
Eye on Earth
Eye on Earth is a ‘global public information service’ for creating and sharing information. All are invited to participate in the new and dynamic online ‘environmental community’ facilitated by EEA, technology leaders, cutting-edge innovations and cloud technology. EEA uses Eye on Earth (a good practice for implementing the SEIS principles) to support its expanding role as an agent of change that facilitates information sharing, and to strengthen its effectiveness and efficiency in collecting and providing environmental information. Users can choose to share information with closed groups or everyone. Data and information will come in a variety of formats such as maps, graphs and tabular spreadsheets, alongside various tools. Maps can be viewed, created, interacted with, manipulated and shared. EEA also uses Eye on Earth to engage citizens.
EEA and Linked Open Data
SEIS is not only about making information available for human consumption, it is also about making the data available for machine-to-machine communication via standard APIs (application programming interfaces) and open data formats. Implementing and supporting SEIS-friendly technology is one of the core activities of the Agency.
SEIS-friendly technology allows several organisations to automatically interconnect, exchange data and stay synchronised in a effective way. Therefore removing inefficiency often created by cumbersome and repetitive manual data exchange steps.
For these reasons the Agency main portal has been extended with semantic web technology also known as Linked Data 1). The technology is open and standardised by the W3C consortium, the leading organisation behind most open standards that makes what today we call the Web. The same technology is widely used to implement SEIS within Eionet and Reportnet.
The Linked Data technology allows any external system to connect to our servers and extract any data / information in a systematic way.
Basically, everything you see on our EEA's website is harvestable via external systems and linked data spiders, so the data and information can be easily re-used, integrated and re-distributed by to a wider network of users. As a practical example, organisations are now able to easily exchange their catalogues of datasets creating more complete federated dataset catalogues, also knows as Open Data Catalogues. The technology makes it effortless for the Agency to contribute to the European Commission Open Data Portal.
- EEA Semantic Data Service
(the entire EEA website content is available via a SPARQL endpoint)
- Eionet Linked Data project site
- More info about Linked Data
1) The term Linked Data was coined by Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the Web) in his Linked Data Web architecture note from 2006. The term refers to a style of publishing and interlinking structured data on the Web. Read more on Linked Data at http://linkeddata.org/ and http://www.w3.org/standards/semanticweb/data
The European Copernicus programme, previously known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) is an EU-wide flagship programme that aims to support policymakers, business and citizens with improved environmental information. Copernicus integrates satellite and in-situ data with modelling to provide user-focused information services. ‘In-situ data’ are all data from sources other than Earth observation satellites (e.g. ground-based, air-borne, and ship/buoy-based observations and measurements).
EEA coordinates the GMES/Copernicus in-situ component through the GMES/Copernicus In-Situ Coordination (GISC) project. GISC aims at linking data providers and service providers using the principles of SEIS and INSPIRE. GISC is proposing sustainable mechanisms for in-situ data delivery/access, based on existing information capacities (e.g. national systems, European networks). The ultimate goal is to build up an Initial Framework (IF) that comprises tools and methods necessary for an efficient and sustainable interface between in-situ data providers and the GMES services. GISC’s role is to effectively manage this interface.
EEA has also been appointed as the technical coordinator of the GMES/Copernicus Initial Operations for the Land Monitoring Service (GIO land). Its objective is to provide land cover information to users in the field of environmental and other terrestrial applications. Initial operations of the service focus on four components, two of which are coordinated by EEA -- the pan-European and local components. Initial activities around the pan-European component include providing: a land cover change product between 2006 and 2012, and a land cover product for 2012; and five pan-European high-resolution layers for artificial surfaces, forest areas, agricultural areas, wetlands, and water bodies. Eionet countries are encouraged to participate in GIO Land pan-European activities.
The EU directive ‘INSPIRE’ (INfrastructure for SPatial InfoRmation in Europe) aims to benefit European public authorities (and others) by making available relevant, harmonised and quality geographic information that support policies and activities impacting the environment. It requires EU Members States to provide 34 different spatial data themes through a network of ‘services’. INSPIRE also requires the adoption of ‘Implementing Rules’ which set out how the system will operate. EEA has been continuously involved with INSPIRE since its preparatory phase.
- EC geoportal: http://inspire-geoportal.ec.europa.eu/
SEIS plays a crucial role in the EEA’s collection of environmental information from Eionet. Eionet includes some 900 experts from over 300 governmental organizations in 38 European countries. Its ‘Reportnet’ infrastructure, which integrates different web services, is used by countries for reporting specific environmental datasets to the EEA. More recently, it began hosting some of the EC's requirements for environmental reporting. One recent success is that Sweden, Norway and Slovenia now use Reportnet for almost all of their European and international reporting requirements (e.g. EU- and UN-related).
SEIS Country Visits
Since 2007, EEA has conducted some 50 ‘SEIS Country Visits’ to its member and cooperating countries, and to its European neighbours. The visits aim to explain SEIS and its benefits, encourage implementation and identify existing SEIS-compliant activities at the national or regional level. Some conclusions to date are:
- Some countries are fairly advanced in implementing SEIS, while others need to take significant steps.
- Most are up-to-date with the new opportunities offered by modern ICTs.
- Some countries have a need for better cooperation between their institutions.
- The benefit of having access to European information within a national context is still often vaguely recognised within countries.
Through the ENPI-SEIS project, which began in 2011, EEA country visits to the European Neighbourhood (ENP) included Algeria, Armenia, Jordan, Egypt, Palestinian Authority, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, Moldova, Belarus, Lebanon, Tunisia, Russian Federation and Ukraine. Follow-up workshops are now being held at EEA. The project aims to build up cooperation and discuss national priorities and needs. The SEIS ‘Cookbook’, a guide for implementing SEIS for national authorities, is now near completion.
SEIS for the Pan-European Region
A major EEA achievement for SEIS revolved around the seventh Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference held in Astana, Kazakhstan in September, organized by UNECE. For the conference, EEA produced the report Europe’s Environment – An Assessment of Assessments (link). It provided a comprehensive overview of available sources of environmental information across the pan-European region and was developed using SEIS principles. The assessment analyses more than 1,000 environmental assessment reports that were identified and recorded in a dedicated virtual library, with the support of experts across 53 UNECE countries and international organisations. The two thematic areas covered by the assessment and conference are: water and related ecosystems and green economy.
The report also documents the benefits of a SEIS-based ‘regular reporting process’ for environmental assessment to streamline and improve existing information systems and processes. In response, through the Astana Ministerial Declaration, Ministers agreed to establish such a process and to develop SEIS across the region. This will serve multiple policy processes, including multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), and include capacity-building of countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South-Eastern Europe to monitor and assess their environment. EEA (and its partners) were invited by Ministers to develop an outline for how these actions could be performed. EEA also hosted a side event which reinforced the role of SEIS as a key initiative in supporting the path to Rio+20, the global UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio in June 2012.
Interactive map viewers
EEA continuously produces new web-based map viewers and applications for various ‘environmental thematic information services’, using the latest information and communication technologies (ICTs). Some are developed in response to requests from DG Environment. Eye on Earth (link), which stores many thematic datasets from many different themes, is often used to focus on one theme and to present and assess how that theme interacts with other themes (e.g. a focus on water will also show how it is affected by land use). Examples include:
- Water Information System for Europe (WISE): Integrates reporting data flows from many water-related directives as well as water-relevant statistical data.
- Biodiversity Information System for Europe (BISE): single entry point for data and information on biodiversity in the EU.
- European Climate Adaptation Platform (CLIMATE-ADAPT): Aims to support Europe in adapting to climate change.
- European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR): Europe-wide register that provides easily accessible key environmental data from industrial facilities.
A recent EEA success story with SEIS was the completion of the first ‘SENSE project’. SENSE established an automated process where interested countries report online their state of environment (SoE) information from national websites to the EEA’s SOER (European environment state and outlook 2010 report) web pages for ‘Country assessments’. Phase 2 of the SENSE project, beginning in 2012, will focus on the exchange of indicators between countries and EEA as well as among themselves.
Group on Earth Observations (GEO)
GEO is a global partnership which includes the European Commission and its Member States. One of its main tasks is to coordinate efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). EEA has been encouraging the implementation of SEIS principles into GEO processes, has contributed to the GEOSS data core, and has offered Eye on Earth as a point of entry for GEOSS data.