NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) released a Federal Register Notice on May 25, 2021, inviting the public to submit comments on best practices for federal government procurement of commercial Earth observation data, as well as geospatial data and services. Comments must be received by June 30, 2021. A virtual public meeting will be held on June 23, 2021, on this topic. Input from private sector providers and users, academia and the public is being sought.
The effort is being conducted by the United States Group on Earth Observations (USGEO), a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)—Subcommittee on Environment. USGEO’s purpose is to: plan and coordinate federal Earth observations, research and activities; foster improved Earth system data management and interoperability; identify high-priority user needs for data; and engage international stakeholders. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) is the means by which the federal executive branch coordinates science and technology policy across the federal research and development enterprise.
This initiative reflects recognition of the rapidly advancing commercial sector in providing innovations in observation systems and analytical services. A 2019 national plan for civil earth observations written by the USGEO lays out three goals: maintain a balanced and robust Earth observation portfolio that leverages the strengths of all partners of the Earth Observations Enterprise to provide public services, research in the public interest, and private sector innovation and growth; create mechanisms for coordination across the Earth Observations Enterprise; and increase the use of Earth observation data, products and services to enhance their value and improve return investiment (p. 4).
The Earth Observations Enterprise includes: federal agencies and labs; state, local, tribal and territorial governments; colleges and universities; private industry; and NGOs involved in the collection and dissemination of observations, operation of enabling infrastructure, and end-users of Earth observation data (p. vii).
Through the Federal Register Notice the USGEO is seeking comments on the following areas:
1. Use of a consistent set of definitions in solicitations and contracts.
2. Data sharing and distribution rights.
3. Challenges in responding to federal Requests for Proposals.
4. Acquisition processes that would facilitate business opportunities.
5. Clarification of federal agency roles related to imagery acquisition.
6. Individual vs. coordinated procurements.
7. Technical, scientific, legal and other impacts associated with commercial data.
8. Legal issues.
9. Non-technical barriers to increasing federal procurement of commercial data.
10. Fostering the development of businesses and start-ups that provide commercial data or derived products.
11. Trends in commercial Earth observations and/or geospatial information.
Comments can be submitted electronically the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal as described in the Register Notice.