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In parallel to increased availability and access to information, we also are understanding more about interdependencies of environmental and social phenomena on a global scale. Major natural disasters like the Indonesian tsunami (2004), Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the Sichuan earthquake (2008) have contributed to this raised awareness. Also influential on changing public opinion is mounting evidence (emerging from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency and other climate science research organisations) of profound changes occurring to our ecosystem. The International Society for Digital Earth has written a new vision to clarify what can be achieved towards this complex international project over the next five to 10 years. These are some proposals from senior research leaders assembled by the Vespucci Initiative for the Advancement of Geographic Information Science and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Many views from one globally federated Digital Earth data resource. Various connected globes and infrastructures are needed to supply the information needs of different audiences: citizens, communities, policy–makers, scientists and educationalists. Each audience has a distinct set of needs for information about Earth and its future, so each could be accommodated by a specially designed Digital Earth. One might encourage members of the public to contribute their own observations, while another would present only the most rigorously obtained scientific results. Each would be a view enabled by a single, distributed yet federated, data resource. A problem and solutions–oriented project. While it is important that specific problems are addressed in focused ways, Digital Earth should still clarify interactions between problemsandobjectives—egthedifficultiesof achievingoneobjective,suchasreducingthe costsofenergy,withotherssuchasimpactson theenvironmentandfoodproduction. Allowing search through time and space to find comparable situations. Beyond existing GIS technologies, and different from adding analytical functions to a virtual globe, users desire capabilities to explore and cross– check different yet potentially comparable situations, for example, finding and comparing different areas around the world that are all vulnerable to tsunamis. Asking questions about change, identifying anomalies. One of the most compelling benefits of global Earth observation systems is the ability to display information in correct geographic positions. The next generation of Digital Earth should allow rapid search for geographic anomalies— situations that are inconsistent with their geographic context, such as outbreaks of disease, biodiversity hotspots, or unexpected levels of air pollution. Enabling access to data, information, services and models as well as scenarios and forecasts. One of the challenging issues today is to combine environmental modelling and forecasting with socio– economic impacts. Traditional flood forecasting or mapping of natural hazard risk zones lose their value if their social impacts are not assessed. Such models have immediate economic consequences (eg property price reductions in risk–identified areas) so reliable models and accurate visualisation are required. Useful visualisations of abstract concepts and data types. Advances in dynamic visualisation environments (eg Professor Hans Rosling’s gapminder.org) show strong potential for decision support and increased understanding of global, complex and abstract phenomena. Bringing these capabilities into the next generation Digital Earth will turn these into important tools for education, awareness–raising and informed decision–making. Different perspectives on phenomena like poverty or health and their indicators can now be made explicitly through ontologies. Mappings between them have become possible. Open access and participation across multiple technological platforms and media. The geoinformation community has a great deal to learn from the wider multimedia community. For this to happen, the emphasis on maps (fixed geometry plus labels) must shift and dynamic elements must be incorporated. There is promising work already underway that integrates georeferenced video with static geographic data sets. An engaging, interactive, exploratory laboratory for learning and multi– disciplinary education. The notion of virtual collaboratories is a key feature of eScience (accessgrid.org) to support exchanges of multidisciplinary knowledge across teams dispersed in multiple locations. In other fields, interactive learning tools, distance learning and location–based serious games offer platforms and lessons that could help develop teaching, learning and sharing environments for diverse audiences. Next research priorities Information integration. Despite substantial progress, our ability to integrate geographic information from dynamic sources (heterogeneous, multidisciplinary, multitemporal, multiresolution, multimedia and multilingual) is still limited. We need a better understanding of the statistical problems of integration across scales, the linguistic problems of integrating across languages and the semantic problems of integrating across disciplines. This will require a substantial effort by a number of collaborating disciplines: computer science, information science and the domain disciplines. Space–time analysis and modelling. The next generation DE should provide a powerful platform for simulating the human and physical processes that operate on and near the Earth’s surface. While such models have been developed in many domains (eg oceanography and meteorology), they use diverse approaches that are impossible to couple or integrate. Fundamental research is needed to develop a comprehensive language for simulation and the software components needed to make simulations easily interoperable (likely to involve 106 home RESEARCH THEMES PLANETARY SYSTEMS MODELLING