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EO4GEO: open and useful resources for geospatial training

on 19 August 2021

Satellites, planes and drones have become essential in society, facilitating services that improve the economy and the lives of citizens through the data they provide. At the same time, it represents a technological progress which created extraordinary opportunities for innovation, development and building new jobs, especially in two sectors: Earth Observation and Geographic Information.

These fast-developing technologies need a workforce whose training can keep up with the high-speed innovation in the field. What are the necessary skills in the geospatial field? What are the business needs and how can they be correlated with the human resources training? How can the workforce in this field be supported? The European project EO4GEO, implemented in Romania through the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA), offers resources and tools in order to respond to these challenges.

EO4GEO offers solutions such as a set of tools, study materials and courses, based on standardized concepts from a library (Body of Knowledge). The platform’s purpose is to support the updating of workforce skills in the geospatial sector and to encourage the absorption and integration of spatial data and services into a wide range of areas.

Space/Geospatial Sector Skills Alliance was created around these tools, which has the leading role in improving and retraining the workforce in the geospatial field. The Alliance comprises a network of 26 partners from 13 countries- academic, private and public sector institutions and experts- which ensure strategic cooperation between the interested parties regarding the skills development in the geospatial sector. This strategic collaboration supports the growth, diversity and flexibility of this field by improving educational training at different levels of learning, including vocational and academic training and the development of new occupational profiles in the geospatial sector.

In order to develop educational offers related to the real needs of skills, the first step proposed by the project is to identify the work stages in business processes, from three areas: integrated applications, smart cities and climate change.

EO4GEO provides the space community with the following results:

EO4GEO library (Body of Knowledge)

EO4GEO library provides a vocabulary of terms in the geospatial field, which contributes to the improvement and requalification in this activity field.

Created on the basis of Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge (GIS&T BoK) by expanding the activities carried out in the GI-N2K project, EO4GEO library defines fundamental interrelated concepts (theories, methods, technologies, etc.) of the geospatial sector that should be covered in education and training curricula.

By describing the basic skills needed in the geospatial field, the EO4GEO library aims to become a reference for people who want to work in this field.

The EO4GEO library can contribute to the improvement of educational offerings, training materials and training activities, offering the possibility to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to become a specialist in the geospatial field.

Access to the EO4GEO library is open to all users via the EO4GEO website and an API. Thus, anyone can develop tools based on the EO4GEO concept platform.


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Business processes

The contribution of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) in this project consists in elaborating an innovative method to update the university curriculum, in order to improve the knowledge of the future workforce, in the space field. This method takes into account market requirements and modeling workflows and activities that take place in each process.

More precisely, business processes reproduce the steps to be followed from an idea to the final product, through a set of related activities, initiated in response to an event, performed by both people and computer equipment, in order to obtain a specific result for the user. Using this approach, there can be identified the work stages needed by the workforce to carry out in the professional activity. Business processes indicate both the occupational profiles involved in the workflow and the interrelation of the component information, in order to obtain a final product. Process activities and occupational profiles are two basic marks in the development of the university curriculum, which is adapted to the needs of the workforce. The occupational profiles targeted vary from the basic level of knowledge in the geospatial field, to an advanced level of skills in the development of geospatial services. In order to acquire knowledge within these occupational profiles, several types of educational programs can be created, covering vocational education, retraining of the existing workforce and university education. The challenge in terms of updating the educational curriculum in the space field will be to implement, in a suitable structure, the study base of the necessary skills and the updating of learning materials.

EO4GEO tool portfolio

EO4GEO tools are designed as an independent software tools ecosystem, based on the EO4GEO library (BoK), as a common vocabulary of knowledge and skills in the geospatial field. Two types of tools were developed: platform tools for viewing and editing the EO4GEO library and user centered tools. Here we mention the Curriculum Design Tool, for the educational sector, Occupational Profile Tool and Job Offer Tool, for the commercial sector, and BoK Matching Tool, which allows any stakeholder in the educational or commercial sector to compare educational resources. By using EO4GEO, as a common vocabulary, which substantiates the resources created by the EO4GEO tools, one can associate and compare different resources regarding knowledge and skills. For example, the job offer can be compared to a candidate's study program, in order to determine the percentage of knowledge and skills he has among those needed at the job or what training course he should attend for completing knowledge.

The EO4GEO software tool ecosystem is designed to be flexible and open, so that stakeholders can build their own tools, using the concept platform (EO4GEO library). The tools thus developed can then be made available to other end-users, together with those offered by the EO4GEO consortium.


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EO4GEO educational offer

Based on the EO4GEO library and the Curriculum Design Tool, EO4GEO developed a model to create educational offers for the Earth Observation field and for the related curricula.

A system for designing educational offers was developed, which can serve as a basis for designing any other type of educational offer. The basis consists of courses and modules, cumulated in a higher-level educational offer, by using the Curriculum Design Tool (CDT), developed for this purpose (eo4geo.eu/tools/). The consortium involved in this activity has initiated a series of educational offers, in the form of courses and lessons for undergraduate, master's and doctoral studies. Curriculum Design Tool is based on the Concept Platform (EO4GEO library), using the notions specific to each course.

EO4GEO training materials

EO4GEO offers a set of training materials, which respond in particular to the needs of geospatial lecturers. The lessons focus on introductory topics and the presentation of current technologies that contribute to the development of a service or product. All materials use the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

By accessing the EO4GEO course catalog you can obtain:

  • An overview of available lessons;
  • A way to directly access the materials as online presentations;
  • The access of the source code for each material;
  • The possibility to build your own material on existing bases.

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EO4GEO training materials are designed in a web format and accessible within the open Github platform, their simple reuse having the possibility to keep the materials updated for the author. All materials were documented using a generous set of metadata, including concepts from the EO4GEO (BoK) library, which allow searching or comparing specific terms. The initiative of software development is also encouraged, especially the use of Jupyter Notebooks, Terrascope platform, H5P etc.

The metadata elements for each course (following the Dublin CoreTM Metadata Initiative) allow integration into the EO4GEO BoK Matching Tool, a tool that can be used to compare training materials with metadata from other EO4GEO resources, along with associated knowledge and skills.

Technological progress and globalization offer extraordinary opportunities for innovation, development and building new jobs. However, the workforce, but also the entire educational ecosystem that leads to professional qualification, must keep up with these fast changes. The EO4GEO project supports these needs, and the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA), through the infrastructure it provides, facilitates its implementation in Romania, so that professionals in our country have access to tools to help them remain competitive. at European and global level.

This article was originally published in Market Watch, July-August 2021 edition. Authors: Maria Ioana Vlad Sandru, Ion Nedelcu — ROSA

Images credit: ROSA/EO4GEO