Geographic and spatial information as a decision-making tool

Societies experience major demographic, economic, technical, political and social evolutions which are accompanied by rapid changes in land cover and use, in access to resources and in the mutual pressures between man and its environment. Indeed the environment evolves in response to external natural (climate, biological fluxes) and anthropic (land development, exploitation of resources, pollution) pressures and according to their own biophysical processes.

Understanding the causes of these changes, controlling their impacts on societies and their natural environment, and, at the same time anticipating the resulting evolutions are the main challenges for environmental assessment. This requires sharing geographic knowledge on the environment, its functioning and the processes which affect it, to understand societal dynamics and their drivers, and to conceive modes of management, policies of sustainable development and frameworks for regulation. In such an approach, the space-time dimension of the environment and of the territories is fundamental and needs to be taken into account. This, at the same time, implies developing careful approaches for handling geoinformation from its acquisition and processing to its use, through its analysis, diffusion and appropriation.

Societal impact and strategic research objectives

Much of the geoinformation being generated today are from Earth Observation Systems, geo-positioning and tracking devices, mobile sensor networks, outcomes of models, and many other sources. In particular, geoinformation is the foundation for the management of an effective research agenda and teaching environment that focuses on promoting transformative research on the integration of theory, models, and observation data, and setting up a priority research strategy that aims to respond to the issues on national and international environmental and societal policy. There is a strategic link between academic and applied research to develop new forms of spatial concepts that can guide the principles of sustainable development of green spaces.

Political and administrative frame

The geoinformation research issues can be linked to several international and European initiatives like GEOSS, GMES, INSPIRE, etc.
For instance, concerning the GEOSS initiative, the FP7 programs highlights that “the elaboration of data information systems that bring together data from all EO platforms, ground-based, airborne and space-based, is a first pragmatic objective of GEOSS. Operational data information systems will permit better exchange, dissemination and archiving of shared data, metadata and products. These systems are essential for the scientific assessment and modelling of environmental phenomena, and are the only instruments able to support prediction of events and their impact on the human activity. The research community will have to clearly specify the contents and functions of the data information systems they need.”

Main sub-fields and areas

The PEER geoinformation activities contribute to:

  • establishing a forum for a scientific network through FP7 projects, expert and virtual groups and teaching modules;
  • raising awareness about the need of scientific research for supporting the role of geoinformation in the new governance modes (e.g e-government; e-policy).

This activity is through the following research domains:

  1. Monitoring: geoinformation contribution to the development of (satellite, airborne and ground based) monitoring systems relating to the management of the environment; support to the production and delivery of GMES data and services.
  2. Modelling: geoinformation contribution to modelling links between economy/environment/society including market based instruments, externalities, thresholds and developing the knowledge base and methodologies for sustainability impact assessment on key issues such as land use; social and economic tensions related to climate change.
  3. Decision-making support: geoinformation contribution to engage environmental decision makers with researchers to develop and communicate processes and information that help solve or avoid problems associated with environmental decisions.


As a cross-cutting methodological research topic, a main objective of this research topic is to create permanent exchange between the research projects carried out in PEER institutes in order to enable the sharing of knowledge and the design of common approaches to progressively create synergies and critical mass, avoiding redundant work, thus contributing to the dynamic integration of the PEER institutes.