Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Call for Papers: Democratizing Earth Observations-Based Science to Improve Agriculture, Food Security and Resilience, from Village to Globe

Research Topic editors: Kiersten B. Johnson, USAID Bureau for Food Security and US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service; Inbal Becker-Reshef, University of Maryland; Molly E. Brown, University of Maryland.

From the launch of Landsat I in 1972 until today, satellites have captured critical, continuous information about the Earth’s natural resources and the changing human footprint, particularly regarding agriculture.

With increasing launches of Earth-observing satellites, data policies allowing broader access to moderate and high-resolution Earth Observation (EO) data, and rapid advances in cloud and high-performance computing, possibilities have blossomed for extracting and applying insights from these data to humanity’s most urgent problems: food security, climate change and peoples’ resilience to shocks and stresses, including drought, flood, conflict, and others.

However, challenges to efficient uptake and application of EO data persist at every level, from farmer’s plots to ministries of agriculture and international fora. One challenge is the extent to which access to and use of EO data and derived products is democratized. Another relates to communication inefficiencies between technical experts who work with these data and the decision-makers -- from farmers to politicians -- who could benefit from them. Others relate to technical challenges brought about by the lack of ground-truthing and validation data for training models as a result of limited access to fields, decaying monitoring infrastructure, and privacy concerns around these data, limiting researchers’ ability to develop robust, widely applicable models across cropping systems at scale.

This Research Topic seeks to demonstrate the extent to which the field is making revolutionary strides in applying EO data to the world’s most pressing problems while leveraging and building capacities of all stakeholders, from village to globe. This Research Topic therefore invites papers that:

- Present the latest applications of EO data for addressing aspects of food security, hunger, and human and environmental resilience (e.g., land cover/land use for agriculture and biodiverse environments, crop classification, yield estimation, water both marine and freshwater, climate variability and change, markets, agricultural insurance, land tenure, soils, etc.);

- Describe how possibilities for using EO data to address these urgent problems -- defined locally, regionally and globally -- have increased exponentially in recent years, while efforts to build human capacities to use these data have not kept pace, creating a bottleneck to progress that underscores the practical as well as ethical need for EO data democratization. What are examples of success in these regards? What challenges do we face to increasing EO data democratization and how might they be overcome? What could an EO data-democratized future look like? How much faster could we address these urgent problems if there was more capacity to use these data, and more opportunity for all stakeholders to engage in solution-finding and decision-making processes?

- Describe significant EO-enabled possibilities on the horizon, e.g., the development of a global agricultural field boundaries database, global agricultural land use change, or shared ground-truthing data sets; and

- Illuminate and prioritize challenges to maximizing the possibilities of EO data for improving food security and agriculture and how they might be addressed.

Authors should address the extent to which research has been grounded in local realities; how the continuum of stakeholders has been engaged in producing, translating, and applying the findings of this scientific endeavor; what challenges to cross-stakeholder communication and collaboration exist; and what examples of successful cross-stakeholder engagement exist or are envisioned for the future.

Keywords: Earth observations, Food security, Climate change, Climate shocks, EO data, Environmental resilience, Land use, Global agriculture, Land use change, Data policy, Human resilience, Environmental change impacts