[OSGeo-Discuss] A report on my recent trip to Brazil

P Kishor punk.kish at gmail.com
Sun May 20 20:41:21 PDT 2007

[I have put the following report on the wiki as well. It may not be
the most appropriate place, but I don't seem to have access to a Tyler
Mitchell-style blog ;-) ]

The second week of May I attended three different but related meetings
of interest in Atibaia, Brazil (São Paulo). Here is a brief report.

1. The United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development launched
a "Global Alliance for Enhancing Access to and Application of
Scientific Data in Developing Countries," or e-SDDC for short, on May
7 <http://www.un-gaid.org/en/node/237>. Besides representatives from
UN-GAID, representatives from various national science academies,
research foundations, and international agencies were present. I was a
"rapporteur" at the meeting. Of particular interest is the plan for a
series of online courses/workshops on data management, access, and
repositories. The focus is on scientific data, but open geospatial is
very germane to the underlying themes of disaster mitigation, poverty
reduction, and public health. It would be worthwhile keeping an eye on
this initiative and look for opportunities to contribute to it in the
area of geospatial data management and access.

2. The second meeting was a 3-day workshop on "Strategies for
Permanent and Open Access to Scientific Information in Latin America
and the Caribbean" <http://www.cria.org.br/eventos/codata2007/agenda>
sponsored by the International Council of Science's (ICSU)
<http://www.icsu.org/> Committee on Data for Science and Technology
(CODATA) <http://www.codata.org/>. The meeting was hosted by Brazil's
Centro de Referência em Informação Ambiental (CRIA). I made a
presentation on geospatial data and integration with biodiversity
information. I received help from several people in putting together
the presentation including Ned Horning and Markus Neteler of OSGeo. I
had very fruitful discussions on licensing of geospatial data with
Harlan Onsrud of the University of Maine, Orono, and John Wilbanks of
Science Commons. John has promised to actively work on clarifying the
issue of geospatial data licensing.

3. Finally, I attended a meeting of the Inter-Academy Panel (a panel
of 94 national science academies from around the world) on
International Issues focusing on the use of digital knowledge
resources in developing countries. Of particular interest was a focus
on the science academies of Latin America and the Caribbean promoted
by the Brazilian, Chinese, Indian, and the US national science
academies. There is likely to be a project on access to publicly
funded geospatial data in the near future.

4. After 5 days of meetings, I visited Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas
Espacias (INPE) <http://www.inpe.br/ingles/index.php/>, the premier
Brazilian National Institute for Space Research at the invitation of
its Image Processing Division (DPI) in nearyby São José dos Campos.
Researchers from DPI are also developing a project called TerraLib
<http://www.terralib.org/>, an open source set of GIS classes and
functions library written in C++. Of particular interest is a program
called TerraView <http://www.dpi.inpe.br/terraview/index.php> based on
TerraLib. Also open source (GPL), TerraView can be described as a more
scientifically and analytically oriented ArcView. I promptly
downloaded TerraView, and within minutes, with a little help from the
TerraView Development Manager, I had it running under Parallels/WinXP
on my MacBook Pro, and had imported Shapefiles into its own data
format. A very quick program, TerraView not only works with PostGres,
MySQL, and Oracle, it natively manages geographic data in a relational
format using ADO. TerraLib/TerraView are successors to INPE's earlier
free, but not open source, project called SPRING
<http://www.dpi.inpe.br/spring/english/index.html>. Because of
historical reasons, SPRING is not open source, but is available to
anyone and can be used on Windows or Linux. TerraLib/TerraView are
currently under more active development, and are available as true
open source programs. At my suggestion, INPE will be looking into
joining OSGeo. The INPE researchers are doing amazing work, and the
spirit of free access to data and software seemed to permeate everyone
I met. Having active involvement and backing of an institute of INPE's
prestige and caliber will be very beneficial to the open geospatial

5. I also had a long meeting with the director of the Inter-American
Institute for Global Change <http://www.iai.int/>. Promoting open
geospatial software and data is directly convergent with IAI's mission
of science and capacity building, but there is a general lack of
understanding of the issues related to open and free access to data
and software, especially at the highest levels. OSGeo can once again
play a significant role by providing software, educational material,
and data sets in this.

I wrote the following summary in an earlier email on the edu.osgeo
list. I am reproducing most of it here as it sums up my findings --

a. The scientific community as a whole wants open and permanent access
to scientific data, and that includes raw research data, not just the
publishable results of it;

b. GeoSpatial data are a small but significant portion of the corpus
of science data, so it is very important to continue to maintain an
active and vocal presence in the dialong;

c. A clear understanding of the licensing of geospatial data will be a
big aid to everyone. Creative Commons/Science Commons has promised to
help us in this;

d. Following up on #c above, educating those at the highest levels in
international organizations, funding agencies, and even the scientific
community in the issues of open access to geospatial data and software
is very important and needed;

I will do my best to answer any further queries you may have. Many thanks,

Puneet Kishor http://punkish.eidesis.org/
Ph.D. Program, Nelson Institute, UW-Madison http://www.nelson.wisc.edu/
Vice-President, Open Source Geospatial Foundation http://www.osgeo.org/
Fellow, National Academy of Sciences http://www.nationalacademies.org/
collaborate, communicate, compete

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