Academic and research capacity development in Earth observation for environmental management

Gemma Cassells, Iain H. Woodhouse, Genevieve Patenaude, Mavuto Tembo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Sustainable environmental management is one of the key development goals of the 21st century. The importance of Earth observation (EO) for addressing current environmental problems is well recognized. Most developing countries are highly susceptible to environmental degradation; however, the capacity to monitor these changes is predominantly located in the developed world. Decades of aid and effort have been invested in capacity development (CD) with the goal of ensuring sustainable development. Academics, given their level of freedom and their wider interest in teaching and knowledge transfer, are ideally placed to act as catalyst for capacity building. In this letter, we make a novel investigation into the extent to which the EO academic research community is engaged in capacity development. Using the Web of Knowledge publication database (, we examined the geographical distribution of published EO related research (a) by country as object of research and (b) by authors' country of affiliation. Our results show that, while a significant proportion of EO research (44%) has developing countries as their object of research, less than 3% of publications have authors working in, or affiliated to, a developing country (excluding China, India and Brazil, which not only are countries in transition, but also have well established EO capacity). These patterns appear consistent over the past 20 years. Despite the wide awareness of the importance of CD, we show that significant progress on this front is required. We therefore propose a number of recommendations and best practices to ease collaboration and open access.

Original languageEnglish
Article number044002
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • capacity development
  • Earth observation
  • best practice
  • ASIA


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