A Review of Global Learning & Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE)

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The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program was first announced on Earth Day, April 22, 1994. The fundamental idea of GLOBE was to engage students in science through participation in scientific activities in their local environments. This idea was realized with the launch of the GLOBE interagency program on Earth Day the next year.

In its early years, GLOBE’s pooling of resources among the agencies expanded GLOBE’s reach. From 1995-2002 GLOBE drew from the Department of State (DOS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Science Foundation (NSF) resources and engaged primary and secondary students in hands-on data collection and analyses of the environment and the earth system. From 2003-2009, DOS, NASA, and NSF continued GLOBE’s vision to foster an international community of students, teachers, scientists, and citizens working together to better understand the earth’s environment.

GLOBE’s initial robust interagency effort suffered in subsequent years from declines in agency participation. In 2002, NOAA and EPA stopped participation in GLOBE and NSF reduced its participation level. NASA continued participating, but changed their approach from one that was government-run to a multi-institutional team chosen through an open competitive process under NASA oversight. The strong national and international GLOBE community that emerged during GLOBE’s early years buttressed the impact of these declines in agency participation levels and GLOBE continued to grow.

Congress asked the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to conduct a thorough review of the program. This review is focused on GLOBE’s viability and interagency management and is not an assessment of GLOBE’s educational achievements and outcomes. The administration is considering modifications to GLOBE’s current and near term activities. These include incorporation of new technologies, integration of climate education with agency environment and climate change programs, expanded outreach, and sustained interagency GLOBE involvement from NOAA, NASA, NSF and other agencies.

Strong formalized interagency leadership of GLOBE is critical to its future success. To achieve this, the two primary agencies, NASA and NOAA, must share in GLOBE’s leadership. This could be achieved via an interagency Executive Management Board (EMB) that would coordinate and manage interagency GLOBE activities. To ensure shared leadership, NASA would retain the trademarks, international agreements, and oversight of the GLOBE program Office (GPO) through its existing cooperative agreement. NASA and NOAA would co-chair the new Board. Each agency would self-select their representatives to the EMB.

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