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NASA UNBOUND: ESIP Hosts Air Quality Data Workshops

NASA UNBOUND: ESIP Hosts Air Quality Data Workshops

During the Spring 2023, Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) brought together data users from 14 organizations to discuss barriers to and new applications of NASA’s air quality data. The report on the three-part workshop series is now available.

Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 16 (GOES-16). The satellite is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); NASA helps develop and launch the GOES series of satellites.

Understanding Needs to Broaden Outside Use of NASA Data for Air Quality (UNBOUND-AQ) seeks to make NASA tools and resources more usable and accessible to a wider audience. Air quality is one of several high-priority domains identified by NASA’s Earth Science Division.  The three UNBOUND-AQ workshops took place between March and April 2023 and now the ESIP recommendation report is available. 

“Everyone cares about clean air,” said Susan Shingledecker, ESIP Executive Director. “Many organizations and different missions in NASA feel a sense of urgency to address air quality. But the nature of air quality problems is that they are complex and can be both high-level or hyper-local, so different teams often need different data formats and resolutions. Our workshops offer insights into removing barriers that will improve data access and use.”

UNBOUND-AQ: Air Quality Data Discovery, Exploration and Use

The ESIP report documents participant feedback and top recommendations. From 76 applications, 14 organizations stepped into the workshop exercises, bringing a variety of perspectives as academic research labs, small and locally focused community-based organizations (CBOs), larger non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and state agencies. All of the participants had high levels of technical skills that spanned several programming and geospatial domains. 

The biggest challenge they identified was data accessibility.

“This workshop has highlighted the vast amount of data that NASA makes available to the public, and also the challenges in making that data truly accessible to diverse potential users,” said workshop participant Allison Patton from the Health Effects Institute. “It is important to know that pain points are being addressed to continuously improve data resources.”

Many of the organizations in the UNBOUND-AQ workshops focus on connecting communities to data. Most participants – even if they are personally tech-savvy – consider whether or not a neighbor, family member, coworker or political leader would grasp the information offered.

UNBOUND Aims to Broaden the Use of NASA Earth Data

UNBOUND for Air Quality

Breseman, Kelsey; Shingledecker, Susan; Haley, Charley; Mills, Allison (2023). Recommendation Report: Understanding Needs to Broaden Outside Use of NASA Data for Air Quality (UNBOUND-AQ). ESIP. Report. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.23261810.v1 

NASA Grant 80NSSC21K0365

Read the NASA News Brief: UNBOUND-AQ Report and learn more about the UNBOUND program.

Access was an important theme in the UNBOUND-AQ participant feedback. The process of simply finding data is a challenge, as workshop participant Alisha Saley from the Thriving Earth Exchange learned, but the possibilities offer hope.

That it probably exists and you just haven't looked there yet,” said Saley, who is a graduate student at the University of California Davis' College of Agriculture and Environmental Science. “Also, everyone we talked with from the NASA team was eager to follow up on anything we had questions about, which shows their desire to have everyone gain access.”

Through the three workshops, which covered data discovery, data exploration and data use, every participant reported that they found new and applicable NASA Earth data for their work. Plus, 93% said they are more likely to use NASA data with 7% planning to use about the same amount of NASA data.  

“NASA has an enormous amount of amazingly useful data that communities concerned about air quality can use in myriad ways,” said workshop participant Daniel Fleischer from Hyphae Design Laboratory. “But being aware of, locating, obtaining and analyzing this data is still challenging for most people, even for those with advanced technical backgrounds in remote sensing. Workshops like this can both help users understand the scope of NASA's data offering, and help NASA address the complex challenges of providing such a large and diverse collection of data to a large and diverse set of users.”

NASA’s Earth Science Division offers more than 76 petabytes of Earth data for free that are available to all users that can help communities understand and solve some of the most pressing environmental issues, including air quality and environmental justice.

ESIP Air Quality Cluster

Every month a diverse group of air quality data scientists gather in the ESIP Air Quality Cluster. Join through the ESIP Community Calendar: esipfed.org/community-calendar

Learn more about all of ESIP’s 30+ Collaboration Areas: esipfed.org/collaborate


This blog post was written by Allison Mills with edits by Susan Shingledecker. The UNBOUND participants volunteered to provide additional quotes for the story as well as anonymized quotes for the recommendation report. Participants were paid for their workshop contributions. NASA’s Earth Science Division communications staff assisted with sharing the story and built the NASA UNBOUND webpage

The UNBOUND participating organizations included: Achieving Community Tasks Successfully, Brown University, Concerned Citizens of Cook County, Earthjustice, Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, Environmental Defense Fund, FracTracker Alliance, Health Effects Institute, Hyphae Design Laboratory, IQAir North America, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, TCEQ, Thriving Earth Exchange of the American Geophysical Union and Virginia Tech

ESIP stands for Earth Science Information Partners and is a community of partner organizations and volunteers. We work together to meet environmental data challenges and look for opportunities to expand, improve, and innovate across Earth science disciplines.

Learn more esipfed.org/get-involved and sign up for the weekly ESIP Update for #EarthScienceData events, funding, webinars and ESIP announcements.