The 8th International Symposium on Digital Earth

From August 26 to 29, 2013, the 8thInternational Symposium on Digital Earth, themed “Transforming Knowledge intoSustainable Practice”, was held at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching, Sarawak,Malaysia. It was jointly organized by the International Society for DigitalEarth (ISDE), Technological University of Malaysia (UTM) and UniversityMalaysia Sarawak. This was the first time of the symposium being held in a SoutheastAsian country in the past 14 years since its launch.

On August 26, the Opening Ceremonyattracted participation of over 360 experts and scholars in the field ofdigital earth from 35 countries and regions. Prof. Mazlan Hashim, SymposiumChairman and Director of UTM Institute of Geospatial Science & Technology,ISDE President Prof. John Richards, and Mr. Lo Khere Ching, Chairman of KuchingBada Vaughan Council were on the stage and gave their respective speech.

Prof. Mazlan Hashim recognized thesupportive role of digital earth technology in ecological environmentalmonitoring, disaster emergency response, and human health and well-beings.According to him, with global warming and frequent natural disasters, we willface more challenges and have greater responsibilities to update and improvethe digital earth concept. Prof. John Richards pointed out that in the pastdecade, the digital earth technologies had been developed rapidly and they arenow gradually maturing. By integrating and applying multi-disciplinaryknowledge and mobilizing public participation, we would be able to make theglobal digital model based on the digital earth technology more scientificallyin identifying and describing the natural, social and economic phenomenonclosely related to human sustainability, in order to better conserve andimprove our living environment.

Dr. Barbara Ryan, Secretariat Directorof Group on Earth Observations (GEO), Dr. Alessandro Annoni, European CommissionJoint Research Centre (JRC), Dr. Mustafa Din Subari, Deputy Director General ofMalaysian National Space Agency, and Guo Huadong, Director General of CASInstitute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI) were invited to givekeynote speeches, entitled “Building a Global Earth Observation System ofSystems”, “Next-generation Digital Earth: Earth Observation today”, “NationalEarth Observation Program for Digital Earth”, and “Big Data and Digital Earth”,respectively. Guo elucidated in his speech the characteristics of digital earthin the big data era and the close relation between big data and digital earth.He believed that digital earth meant the practical application of big data inearth observation and earth science, brought more opportunities and challengesfor the development of digital earth and showed a new direction for moreinnovative and higher-level development of digital earth.

During the four-day meeting,participants exchanged ideas on 12 topics including the digital earth conceptand innovation, earth observation technology, natural resources management, anddigital heritage. The meeting included 18 specially-invited keynotes, 38parallel sessions and over 200 presentations, in addition to topic-specificseminars on each afternoon, providing an excellent platform for scientificexchange by scientists, entrepreneurs, and administrators in digital earthfield.

On August 25, the 8th ISDE ExecutiveMeeting (i.e. first Council Meeting) was held. The council was debriefed on thepreparations for the 8th International Symposium on Digital Earth and 5thDigital Earth Summit to be held in Nagoya of Japan in 2014, the biddingpresentation for hosting the 9th ISDE in Canada and the summary report of the 4thNew Zealand Summit. Council members also discussed the establishment of theDigital Heritage Committee and the Awarding Committee, the development of theYoung Scientists Committee, membership management and development, promotion ofdigital earth programs, the way to improve the organizational structure ofISDE, and how to promote the development of ISDE. The plan to form long-termpartnership between ISDE and IOP was approved.

During the meeting, the 5thInternational Editorial Board Meeting of the International Journal on DigitalEarth (IJDE) was also convened. The board was   given the workingreport of the journal by the editorial office and the statistics report on thepublication of the journal by Taylor & Francis, selected the best IJDEpaper in 2012 for award at the symposium, and thoroughly discussed how toimprove the influence and citation rate of the journal and how to attract morehigh-level articles in the field of Digital Earth.

At the ISDE8, exhibitions presented bythe Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI) of the Chinese Academyof Sciences and the International Society for Digital Earth attractingdelegates from around the globe, which have enhanced the internationalinfluence of both organizations and promoted academic exchange andinternational cooperation.

The meeting wrapped up on theafternoon of August 29. At the Closing Ceremony, ISDE expressed fullacknowledgement to the organizing committee, and ISDE Secretary General GuoHuadong presented the commemorative plate to Chairman Prof. Mazlan Hashim, andISDE Chairman Prof. John Richards made a summary for the symposium andannounced that the 9th International Symposium on Digital Earth would be heldin Halifax, Canada, in 2015.

The International Symposium on DigitalEarth was initiated in Beijing in 1999, and was then held biennially in Canada,Czech, Japan, USA, China, Australia and Malaysia. This is an important event ofthe International Society for Digital Earth, headquartered in Beijing and itssecretariat is hosted by the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth,Chinese Academy of Sciences.