We sat down with Barbara Ryan, who joined the START Board in October 2019, to learn more about her perspectives on START and her vision for the organization’s future direction.
START: What motivated you to join START?
BR: I feel very strongly about the role that Earth observations and geospatial data, in general, can play in society, and with open data initiatives, we are getting more and more data. While this data is absolutely essential, it is not sufficient. More attention needs to be paid in the middle – between data and decisions – and I think that START is a wonderful organization that plays in this middle ground. Whether we talk about training, capacity building, or transdisciplinary research, START is an enabling organization operating along the spectrum from data to decisions.
START: Where do you see START making a difference in capacity development more generally and Earth observations science more specifically?
BR: There is so much potential for working in the middle area between data and decisions. We just don’t have enough people who live in both worlds, who are aware of both the assets that are available, and also the decisions that need to be made. So, START can really make a difference in helping bridge these two worlds. I would like to see START become the “go-to” organization for knitting together expertise in transdisciplinary research, training, education and capacity development. In this regard, other institutions wanting to work on science issues and capacity development would turn to START, because they would know that START has the requisite knowledge and expertise in these particular areas.
START: In what direction would you like to see START go over the next several years?
BR: In my opinion, one of our biggest challenges, at least in the short term, is one of focus, and being clear about our highest priorities, and then deliver on those priorities. By all indications we have delivered on our commitments for a long time, but the landscape of capacity building is changing with other organizations appearing on the landscape. I think that it is really important to partner with other institutions – so that each partner brings their strengths and shores up the others’ weaknesses. Partnering in this global venture is really important.