Earth Observations' Impacts to Society

Earth science information plays an integral role in society today by supporting the policies and decisions that plan our cities, protect our environment, and support a healthy planet and healthy people.

The Applied Sciences Program’s Socioeconomic Assessments initiative works across disciplines and sectors to build a collaborative, capable community to assess the societal and economic benefits of using Earth science information for decision making. These benefits can include reducing the loss of life and property due to disasters, understanding environmental factors that affect human health, improving energy resources management, and protecting and sustainably managing ecosystems.

Earth science information plays an integral role in society today, but there is still enormous potential to improve our understanding of how this information is used to effect change across our global and interconnected society and environment. The Socioeconomic Assessments initiative is exploring this potential through collaborative projects, community and capacity development, and international and interagency community-led working groups. NASA is cosponsoring this effort with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Earth observations from a variety of sources – including satellites, remote sensors, and on-the-ground measurements – can help inform decisions made across all sectors of human life. Credits: NASA/Shanna McClain

VALUABLES Consortium

VALUABLES is a cooperative agreement between NASA and Resources for the Future to measure and communicate how Earth observations benefit people and the environment when they are used to make decisions. VALUABLES produces microeconomic studies called impact assessments that quantify the value of using satellite information across a range of applications. The consortium is also building and partnering with a growing interdisciplinary community of Earth and social scientists, decisionmakers, and data providers and users who are committed to valuing and communicating the socioeconomic benefits derived from using Earth observations in decisions.

VALUABLES Impact Assessments

VALUABLES researchers and community members are conducting rigorous, quantitative studies that investigate how people use improved Earth science information to make decisions and how these decisions improve outcomes that matter to people and the environment. These studies span a range of applications, including endangered species, wildfires, health and air quality, water quality, agriculture, and disaster response.

In 2020, VALUABLES announced the recipients of three Grants for Assessing the Benefits of Satellites (GABS) for impact assessments to quantify the societal benefits of using Earth observations in health, ecosystem, and water quality applications. Awardees’ interdisciplinary research teams span 14 organizations. VALUABLES is also supporting projects from the community on the value of using satellite information for migratory elk conservation, polio vaccination, mangrove management, and humanitarian decision-making.

VALUABLES Community Resources

VALUABLES develops accessible educational materials and inclusive activities to build capacity within the Earth science community to quantify the value of its own work. This includes the consortium’s Value of Science explainer series, which introduce key terms, concepts, and methods that community members can use to measure the socioeconomic benefits of their own work, as well as the VALUABLES Impact Assessment Framework developed and used by the consortium and members of the VALUABLES community.

To receive updates about new resources and upcoming events, register for the VALUABLES community newsletter.


GEOValue is an international community of interdisciplinary scientists focused on elevating the understanding of the benefits and impacts of Earth observations, along with the various methods used to understand and measure these benefits. GEOValue participates under the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which is a global coordinating body that aims to enhance the use of Earth observations in environmental decision-making across sectors and borders. Activities include fostering collaboration across specialties and building communication and trust across social, economic, and natural sciences; compiling a structured inventory and repository of use cases and analysis methodologies; and organizing international events, conference sessions, and webinars to address methodologies, use cases, and applications.