Friday, August 12, 2011

PCAST Sustainability Report Emphasizes 'Informatics Technologies'

CCC Blog (08/10/11) Erwin Gianchandani

Better accounting of ecosystem services and broader protection of environmental capital are the recommendations of a new report from the U.S. President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST). The report calls on the federal government to institute and finance a Quadrennial Ecosystems Services Trends Assessment that taps existing monitoring programs and newly recommended activities to identify trends associated with ecosystem sustainability and possible policy responses, and recommends the expansion of informatics technologies. "The collection of data is an essential first step in the powerful and rapidly developing new field of informatics," PCAST notes in its report. "The power of these techniques for deriving insights about the relationships among biodiversity, other ecosystem attributes, ecosystem services, and human activities is potentially transformative." To address the extreme heterogeneity of the data, PCAST urges the establishment of an informatics infrastructure embodying mechanisms for making data openly and readily available in formats accessible to both human and machines. The council also presses for the provision of standards that foster interoperability, and decision support software incorporating insights from government, industry, and academia.