Shared Environmental Information System
What is SEIS?
History: In February 2008, the European Commission (EC) Communication 'Towards a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS)' proposed a solution to Europe's environmental information challenge. Since then, SEIS has become a collaborative initiative of the EC together with the EEA and the 39 countries of the Eionet (European environment information and observation network). In fact, the implementation of SEIS has been at the centre of our work since 2009 and still underpins the 2014–2018 Multiannual Work Programme and our daily work.
Goals: SEIS aims to create an improved environmental information system for Europe. It is a key driver for the growth of our knowledge base and it integrates a wealth of information from the Eionet and other networks and partners, citizen science, crowd sourcing, and new environmental information gathering initiatives such as Copernicus. These goals are underpinned by a network of public information providers that share their environmental data and information. SEIS helps simplify, streamline and modernise their existing systems and processes, and makes them web-enabled. It is a decentralised yet integrated system that improves the quality, availability, accessibility and understanding of environmental information.
SEIS is also about a shift in approach, from individual countries or regions reporting data to specific international organisations, to their creating online systems with services that make information available for multiple users — both people and machines. Such a shift happens in a stepwise way, ensuring that SEIS remains a driver for access to environmental information and its integration in the knowledge-based economy.
Seven SEIS principles: SEIS is based on seven 'principles'. Information should be:
- Managed as close as possible to its source.
- Collected once and shared with others for many purposes.
- Readily available to easily fulfil reporting obligations.
- Easily accessible to all users.
- Accessible to enable comparisons at the appropriate geographical scale and the participation of citizens.
- Fully available to the general public and at national level in the relevant national language(s).
- Supported through common, free, open software standards.
A key cross-cutting goal of SEIS is to provide access to environmental information, and maximise and expand its use. Information is often created to serve one purpose, but there is usually lots of potential for other uses. Applying the SEIS principles makes that easier. For example, information about floods, while needed to mitigate potential flood impacts, is also extremely valuable for insurance companies and homebuyers to assess property risks.
Technological opportunities: Clearly, SEIS needs to take advantage and foster the development of modern information and communication technologies (ICTs). ICTs are making it increasingly easy to share information, be it among individuals, closed groups or entire web communities. Examples of ICTs include sensors, satellites, interactive map services, web services and mobile applications.
ICTs are particularly valuable in providing real-time data that can be used for immediate decisions — from national governments managing emergencies to citizens planning their day on the basis of information about local weather or traffic conditions.
Reduced costs: A reduction in the administrative burden of public authorities, and the associated cost savings from improved efficiencies, are added benefits of SEIS. For example, automated electronic systems are starting to replace much of the human resources now devoted to exchanging information.
Three pillars: A functional SEIS should be structured around three pillars: content, infrastructure and cooperation. First, the system needs to identify the types of content (data) required, as well as potential sources. Second, an effective, web-enabled technical infrastructure is required that takes full advantage of the most cutting-edge ICTs, including web services (where machines talk to each other without the need for costly or less efficient human involvement). Third, the cooperation and governance structure is required to manage human resources, inputs and networking.
Many applications: Application of the seven principles and three pillars of SEIS is becoming increasingly relevant and necessary for any network based on information sharing, including the EEA's Eionet.
The EEA is modernising its own information system based on SEIS principles. The EEA provides linked data as part of a semantic data service, maintains interactive and collaborative map viewers and generally promotes online and up-to-date State of the Environment Information through its website.
Other SEIS related initiatives of relevance today are:
Copernicus - implementing monitoring services offering the potential of Earth observation data
INSPIRE - improving access and standardising environmental data for better integration
ENI – extending SEIS to the European neighbourhood
GEO/GEOSS - building a Global Earth Observation System of Systems
UN-GGIM – providing data and information for the UN Sustainable Development Goals
For more information on SEIS:
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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