Harnessing the Digital Revolution to address major societal challenges: a multi-organizational response

Dr Simon  Cox1, Dr Simon Hodson2, Dr Erin Robinson3, Dr Lesley Wyborn1, Dr  Ben Evans4, Dr Tim Rawling5

1CSIRO, Clayton, Australia, 2CODATA, Paris, France, 3Earth Science Information Partners, Boulder, United States of America, 4National Computational Infrastructure, ANU, Canberra, Australia, 5AuScope Ltd, Melbourne, Australia


Developing evidence-based responses to major societal challenges depends on integration of data from globally distributed, heterogeneous sources. The International Science Council’s (ISC) Action Plan for 2019-2021 identified data-driven interdisciplinarity as one of twelve projects of critical importance to science and society, and one of two components of the ‘Digital Revolution Domain of Impact’ (https://council.science/publications/science-as-a-global-public-good-isc-action-plan-2019-2021).

The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an exemplary challenge, with target deliverables due by 2030. Making significant progress on data integration in support of the SDGs will require global collaboration, with specific attention being paid to technology and expertise transfer between the Global North and the Global South.

CODATA and the International Science Council (ISC), UNESCO, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), CSIRO, the Research Data Alliance and multiple international research infrastructures have separately initiated work on various aspects of both technical and organizational solutions needed for effective data-driven interdisciplinarity. Each is investigating many of the key topics such as the application of the FAIR principles, disaster data standardization, ‘fitness for use’ criteria, Operational Readiness Levels, alignment of metadata specifications, risk assessment, social awareness, organizational drivers and constraints etc. Combining efforts will more effectively contribute towards solutions needed to provide an evidence-based framework to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs by 2030. As a focal point, we are targeting three case studies: resilient cities, infections diseases and disaster risk reduction, to explore how these organisations can better collaborate on the overall problem.


Simon has been researching standards for publication and transfer of Earth and environmental science data since the emergence of the world wide web. He is principal- or co-author of a number of international standards, including Geography Markup Language, and Observations & Measurements, that have been broadly adopted in Australia and Internationally. The value of these is in enabling data from multiple origins and disciplines to be combined more effectively, which is essential in tackling most contemporary problems in science and society. His current work focuses on aligning science information with the semantic web technologies and linked open data principles, and the formalization, publication and maintenance of controlled vocabularies and similar reference data.

Simon was awarded the 2006 Gardels Medal by the Open Geospatial Consortium, and was selected to present the 2013 Leptoukh Lecture for the American Geophysical Union.


AeRO is the industry association focused on eResearch in Australasia. We play a critical coordination role for our members, who are actively transforming research via Information Technology. Organisations join AeRO to advance their own capabilities and services, to collaborate and to network with peers. AeRO believes researchers and the sector significantly benefit from greater communication, coordination and sharing among the increasingly different and evolving service providers.