GEO AQ CoP Governance

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)

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First outline by Terry Keating (20 November 2012) - please comment on the discussions page!


To date the GEO AQ CoP has been a flag under which a variety of efforts have taken place. However there has not been a clear sense of who the Community is and how the Community decides what to do (or at least what activities should take place under the Community banner). I think that this lack of a structure and sense of mission needs to be changed if the CoP is going to flourish.

The purpose of this post is to stimulate a discussion about what sort of governance structure is needed for the CoP to flourish and to propose a path forward. The hope is that through an on-line exchange of ideas we can develop a consensus approach for CoP governance.

A big challenge for governance of this community effort is that any concrete action to implement GEOSS concepts requires resources (time, money). Because we don't have a shared funding pool, ultimately, she who has the resources will decide what gets accomplished. Therefore, our governance structure should embrace this reality and focus on encouraging communication and cooperation, rather than decision making. Borrowing from the GEOSS mantra (What few things ...), the question I think that we need to ask is, "What is the least amount of structure needed to enable the community to flourish?"

Another challenge is that the success of the CoP and GEOSS in general is dependent on many people contributing to the effort. Any governance structure should foster a sense of involvement and common responsibility, as opposed to creating a sense that the CoP's activities are some other individual's responsibility and prerogative.

I propose that we need at least the following governance elements: 1) a broad mission statement, 2) a "steering forum" and 3) a secretariat. In addition, I suggest we consider designating co-chairs. These issues are described further below.

Mission Statement

I think that the mission statement should be something simple and short on details, such as

"To support coordinated action within the air quality management and research communities contributing to the realization of the GEOSS vision"

Ok, maybe this is not so simple. I think that it is important to mention both the management and research communities, so the CoP isn't seen as just one or the other. The last phrase tries to avoid being tied to the implementation of one piece of the GEOSS infrastructure and focus more on advancing the principles behind the GEOSS vision. Any suggestions on how to word this better?

Steering Forum

The "steering forum" would be a periodic meeting (in person, by phone or web) of community members in which members share information about planned, on-going, or completed activities contributing to the CoP's mission. The meeting might take place 2-4 times a year. Any activity can be conducted under the banner of the CoP as long as it has been presented at the steering forum and there is a consensus at that forum that the activity is in the community interest. I chose the label forum instead of committee or group because there would be no fixed membership. Individuals can be on a mailing list and show up when they can/want. Whoever shows up provides the consensus.


The secretariat is an organization or individual who would

  • Maintain the CoP website
  • Maintain the CoP mailing list
  • Set up the Steering Forum meetings/calls
  • (Facilitate the Steering Forum)
  • (Reach out to relevant efforts to engage them in the CoP)
  • (Organize reports to the GEO secretariat on relevant portions of the Work Plan)

A secretariat could be empowered to serve all of these functions. However, this runs the risk of the CoP being perceived as the secretariat's project, not a community effort. Alternatively, we could designate chairperson(s) who could serve the functions in ( ) above. This is discussed more below.

I would propose that the ESIP Federation Secretariat, in particular Erin Robinson, be asked to play the role of secretariat for the GEO AQ CoP. The CoP is already relying on Erin and ESIP for support of the web site. Erin comes from our community and is well placed to help keep the community organized and talking with one another. Carolyn and Erin have both expressed their willingness to take on this role.


If we have chairs, I would suggest having 2-3 co-chairs, rather than a single chair, to avoid the personalization of the effort. I would also suggest limiting the term of the co-chairs to 2 years to ensure that leadership is shared across the community. 2-3 chairs could be recruited intentionally from different regions or parts of the community. I worry that recruiting chairs will be difficult, but having a number of different people serve as chairs over time may build a greater sense of commitment across the community to the CoP’s mission. I would suggest that the co-chairs roles are limited to:

  • Facilitating/Leading the Steering Forum
  • Reaching out to relevant efforts to engage them in the CoP
  • With the help of the secretariat, organizing reports to the GEO secretariat on relevant portions of the GEO Work Plan

Currently the GEO Work Plan includes at least one component where the CoP’s progress should be tracked and reported: HE-01-C1: Air-borne Diseases, Air Quality and Aeroallergens. Phil Dickerson (USEPA) is the lead point of contact for this component and currently responsible for providing updates to the GEO secretariat on progress. The CoP could contribute to these reports and we could find additional “hooks” within the GEO work plan to make our contributions known.

Relationship to Other Groups Within the CoP

There are a variety of ongoing efforts within the CoP that have their own identities and objectives. Some are funded projects, including big efforts such as MACC and small efforts such as CyAir. Some are voluntary collaborations or community forums, such as GEIA or the ESIP AQ Working Group. All of these are useful and important elements of the GEO AQ CoP. The governance structure and activities of the CoP should not try to replace these elements, but should instead try to engage them, support them, and facilitate exchange between them. I believe that the CoP will flourish if folks believe that their own work is contributing to the larger good and the larger good will (eventually) benefit them.