Borowitz’s Book Published by MIT Press

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Mariel Borowitz, assistant professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, has written a book titled, Open Space: The Global Effort for Open Access to Environmental Satellite Data. The book was published by MIT Press.

Understanding and addressing environmental challenges, including climate change, requires access to accurate data from many sources. In some cases, government agencies that operate Earth observing satellites have been leaders in this regard — making their data freely available to all users. In fact, some of the earliest references to “open data” can be traced back to early government satellite projects. However, many governments continue to restrict access to their unclassified Earth observing satellite data, and even those that now make their data freely available did not always do so. This book examines how government agencies developed data sharing policies for their Earth observation satellites and how these data sharing policies changed over time. The insights from this study can help to improve international sharing of data critical for understanding environmental challenges and provide insight into the open data movement more broadly.

The book starts with a thorough review of the literature on data sharing and presents a practical model of data sharing policy development, looking at the role of the actors involved (agency officials, legislative officials, executive branch officials, and non-governmental organizations) and at the importance of the attributes of the data itself (economic, security, normative, and technical). 

The book includes case studies of both the World Meterological Organization (WMO) and the Group on Earth Obersvations (GEO), providing some historical and international context in which data sharing decisions have been made. Borowitz then presents agency-level historical case studies looking at data sharing policy development in the space and meteorological agencies in the United States, Europe, and Japan (i.e. NASA, NOAA, USGS, DoD, ESA, EUMETSAT, JAXA, and JMA) as well as summaries of data sharing policy developments in the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). There is an appendix that discusses the data sharing policies of every nation that has ever owned an Earth observation satellite.

The final section discusses why some agencies have made their satellite data openly available while others haven’t and offers some practical recommendations on how international data sharing could be improved. Borowitz also specifically addresses the economics of data, commercial remote sensing, and the potential for public private partnerships, as well as challenges related to big data and other evolving technologies.

Borowitz’s research focuses on international space policy issues, primarily international cooperation in Earth observing satellites, and satellite data sharing policies. In the Spring, Borowitz will be teaching a class with Michael Salomone, professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, on Modeling, Simulation, and Military Gaming.


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