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EO Research and Beyond

What RSS can do for supporting your EO Research, application or service
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EO Research Process Re-engineering

Trying to see the things from the EO scientist viewpoint, the idea behind the RSS service is that the research process can be conveniently separated in different sub-processes or steps and the effort related to some of such steps can be drawn from other sources, when available.

A generic research process can be schematized as in the left panel of the figure below, while in the central panel the sub-processes where RSS can have a support role by providing resources to EO scientists are highlighted. Three phases can be distinguished. The first phase of the research process is composed by three steps going from open questions to hypothesis formulation. The first step, selection and definition of the question to deal with, initiates the process. The second step represents the sub-process aiming at gathering, organizing and evaluating available information, in order for the scientist to formulate the hypothesis in the successive third step. In this phase, RSS can contribute playing the role of information/resources provider.

The core phase is composed by steps four to six. In the fourth and fifth sub-processes, experiment and data analysis, respectively, RSS can provide a very significant support. The experiment, that in the case of EO research means data processing, can be supported by RSS not only by means of the mentioned grid processing environment, but also by making available resources and services such as support to algorithm development, algorithm integration, product access/delivery. The data analysis step can be also supported by RSS by providing specific reference data sets, processors and tools, in order for the researcher to confirm or re-formulate the hypothesis in the successive sixth step. Finally, the third phase regards the results publication. This sub-process, can also benefit from RSS resources such as the Join&Share area for e-collaboration, the "Reference Data Sets" (or RDS) and the WebMap/Feature/Coverage Server environments. Besides the usual channels, such environments can allow the scientist to communicate and publish his results, sharing knowledge, information and data within the EO community.


How can I get resources for my EO research from RSS?

Can you get resources for your EO research from RSS? Yes, you can! RSS slogan is indeed "Resources for your EO research, application or service". How can you obtain access to such resources? It's only access to data, processing capacity and knowledgeable, user oriented support team or you could get resources for validating your algorithms, funding, an e-collaboration environment, new contacts, opportunities for your students, as well? The answer is yes, you could obtain all these things under certain conditions. What else? You could use the RSS Join&Share area for promoting your ideas, finding potential partners, starting, leading or simply participating in scientific discussions (for example on the scientific potential of ESA Sentinels). As a first step to access RSS resources you need to get in touch with us, by sending an email to rss_team@esa,int, for example, or by clicking on "Contact Us" (top of left menu in this page) and filling in the request form. Just briefly explain the context of your project, your needs and your goals. We will take care of gathering all the necessary information and come back to you with a concrete usable answer in a short time.

Could you provide some examples, please?

Last year a professor from the University of British Columbia (a PI in Forest Sciences) was looking for composite MERIS MGVI at 1.2 km resolution over Canada, for his research in the field of Remote Sensing of Forest Vegetation. It was mid-July when he contacted us asking if an MGVI global dataset was available at that resolution. We informed the PI that an MGVI Regional service was available - at that time - over Europe at the desired resolution via the SSE, but could be set-up over any other region. In fact, the MGVI level-3 aggregation processor, developed and maintained by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC), was (and is) routinely operated on the ESA Grid Processing on Demand (G-POD) at ESRIN.
A few emails were exchanged to understand the user requirements. Then the production chain involving the interoperation of various RSS systems (GPOD, SSE, WMS) was set-up and the processing on MERIS data from 2002 was started according to the user requirements. By the end of July the complete dataset over Ontario was made available via SSE and since then new data related to this region are systematically ingested in the catalogue. The scientist commented enthusiastically: he defined the service "absolutely wonderful"!.
At the moment the MGVI Catalogue Search and Download service allows access to MGVI for the entire ENVISAT mission over three regions: Europe, Ontario and Horn of Africa. Of course, we can add other regions of interest upon PI's request.

Another RSS user, a PI from the UK involved in the marine carbon cycle monitoring, at the end of August 2009 contacted us (via GPOD Cat-1 initiative) because was planning Radar Altimeter 2 data processing by BRAT (Basic Radar Altimeter Toolbox). We immediately started RA2 data ingestion into GPOD while waiting for user requirements. Around mid-November the scientist defined his requirements for the BRAT Service to be integrated into GPOD. In four weeks a GPOD BRAT Service prototype was made available to the user for testing. The PI was very busy for a few months, but as soon as he was able to validate the service he gave us his positive feedback and requested to process RA2 data for the entire year 2004. After a few of days the results of this processing were available.
A few months ago, the scientist required us to update the GPOD BRAT Service to the newly available BRAT version 2.1.1 and to re-process RA2 data for the years 2006 to 2009. Consequently, the service was updated and the production started right away. The entire re-processing campaign for the four years took only four days!
Of course the service is now available on GPOD to PIs interested in processing Radar Altimeter data.

Does the same approach apply to my EO service?

Yes, the same approach applies to EO Service Providers as well. I will tell you more about this in another post. For now, if you see potential benefits for your EO data based business that you can obtain by resorting to RSS support, just contact us specifying your needs and goals.


Entering the RSS world

As many of you know, RSS stands for Research and Service Support. It means that RSS mission is to provide support to both EO research centres and companies providing services based on EO data. But how such support is concretely provided? Well, to put the things simple, let's see the research first and then the service companies.

What can RSS do for supporting your EO Research?

RSS makes available to Earth Observation researchers (from research centres, universities, or even industry) resources for their EO research. "Resources" means first of all EO data (a lot of data, we have huge archives and continuously store new data from many sensors onboard ESA and non-ESA satellites); then, processing capacity (we have a very powerful grid environment where you, as RSS user, can test your new algorithm on very large datasets, improve and validate it, re-iterating this process until you have reached your scientific goal, published your paper, finalised your student's thesis, etc); knowledgeable people (we have a fantastic supportive on-site team dedicated to our users community); and last but not least a brand new component-based processing environment allowing easy creation, chaining and execution of EO data information retrieval components (this is ideal for easily developing and testing new versions of algorithms on reference datasets).

All these things are available now, and there is more to come in the next months...

What can RSS do for your EO Service?

If you work with a company providing services to the Earth Observation market, RSS makes available a Service Support Test Environment where you can test and improve your EO service. Then, once you are satisfied with its performance and reliability, and you decide to provide your customers with its output, you can request us to transfer your service to the Service Support Operational Environment. The on-site team will support you to make it compliant with the service guidelines, and enable it to effectively and efficiently provide your customers with the expected products.

The Service Support Environment can be used as service demonstration environment or permanent test-bed as well. Also in this case of course, you can resort to the on-site team knowledge and support to achieve your goals.

Research and Industry

I have put the things simpler than they are, by separating research and industry. However, the boundary is not that sharp! On the contrary, we would like to stimulate, where possible, fruitful co-operation between researchers and industry, by supporting both in using and sharing our resources.

Such co-operation could really lead to fertile and virtuous scenarios for both. By resorting to RSS resources, of course!

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