EarthStat: Spurring food systems innovation through data sharing platforms
Even when new articles are published in the world’s leading scientific journals, it’s still a long road for that research to translate into action in the broader world. Most academic articles are read by authors’ scientific peers within a given discipline – and often the challenge of getting research to those in a position to use it out in the world is left unanswered.
EarthStat addresses just this barrier. Launched in 2015 by the Institute on the Environment’s Global Landscapes Initiative and the LUGE Lab at the University of British Columbia, the website hosts cutting-edge data on the global food system in a form that’s easy to sort through and access.
This month, the site was re-launched to make it even easier to access data – and will highlight new data sets that will be released throughout the year.
“We do excellent science, but we’re as driven by using our information with partners to effect change on the ground,” says Paul West, co-director of the GLI. “EarthStat is a critical tool for us to ensure our cutting-edge science isn’t just useful, but used.”
All EarthStat datasets are spatially-oriented and drawn from research published in the world’s leading scientific journals. Data hosted range from the global allocation of crop calories between food, feed, and fuel, to climate variation effects on the world’s crops. Other datasets consider the extent and spatial distribution of global croplands and pastures, or the fertilizer application to major crops and the resulting nutrient balances around the world.
Each year, thousands of scientists and environmental professionals download EarthStat data to use in new research or organizational decision-making. In addition, GLI collaborates frequently to translate the knowledge generated inside of universities into storytelling for general audiences. In the past several years, EarthStat data enabled collaborations with National Geographic, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Science Museum of Minnesota.
“The global food system is facing unprecedented challenges. For scientists, publishing top-tier research isn’t enough,” says James Gerber, GLI’S co-director. “We need to make it as easy as possible for this science to be used by our partners around the world who will apply it to their decision-making.”