The generic goal-based approach to the identification of Essential Variables (EVs) that correspond to societal goals is depicted in Figure 1. In order to implement this generic approach, knowledge is needed about applications, activities and tools to quantify the indicators and to assess the progress towards the targets. Rules are required to derive the EVs that need to be observed in order to quantify the indicators. In the expert-based based approach, these rules are to some extent ad hoc and community determined. Many communities use deliberations without well-defined rules. For the goal-based approach, rules could be based on sensitivity studies that reveal to what extent the quantification of indicators is impacted by certain variables. In most cases, the tools used to quantify the indicators can be used to develop the set of rules to identify the required variables. In some cases, human interactions will be required, for example, in form of surveys or community deliberations. Knowledge of the users associated with the targets and goals as well as the societal benefits can further support the identification of the EVs.
In order to apply the goal-based approach, it is of importance to make an explicit choice of the agreed-upon societal goals, for which the associated observational requirements should be prioritized. This will allow a focused efforts on meeting the observational and information requirements for societal goals of high relevance, while not excluding other goals established, e.g., in scientific communities, that can benefit from the observations and information provided by GEOSS. Below, we provide a review of examples of societal goals that are candidates for being selected for a focus in GEO. Following the guidance of the Ministerial Summit in 2014, the SDGs are one of the examples considered.
Summary of Societal Goals to Consider
Figure 1: Generic Goal-Based Approach for EV Identification. The goal-based approach assumes the existence of agreed-upon goals and targets as a starting point, and a set of indicators that can be used both as reporting card for progress towards the targets and a planning tool for measures to make progress. The knowledge base has rules and models to link the indicators to those variables that need to be observed in order to quantify the indicators, and an inference engine that can deduce these variables from the indicators.