Open Sessions

Aimed at those with scientific, management and operational responsibilities including decision-making, the Open Sessions will move from general discussion, cross-issue and sector awareness raising, issue identification and ratification to challenging discourse, solution conversations and exchange of ideas.

The Open Sessions will be presented as four parallel tracks on Monday 12th December.

Policy, Governance and Institutional Networking

This track will give attendees a chance to appreciate the wealth of networks in existence today at global, regional, national and sub-national levels and how their efforts to strengthen sustainable development are improved through sharing resources and harmonizing policy making through collaboration. The role of technology in sharpening environmental assessments will be highlighted, and the introduction of new technologies that empower individuals and organizations to collaborate towards a common objective will be contrasted with our evolving understanding of relevant and appropriate governance structures that encourage collaboration. The track will include interactive sessions and an exciting series of debates where both sides of complex issues such as pricing of information, barriers to access and leadership of collaborative entities will be presented in dynamic, contrasting styles.

Content and User Needs

This track highlights key issues in fuelling the information needs of all stakeholders and looks at some future issues which might assist in improving the content of Environmental Information to further meet the needs of users.  Needs of users in all strata of society are considered as is the content and the quality of that content required to meet those needs. This track will also look at improving decision making with better information.

Technical Infrastructure

This track presents a framework for understanding and engaging technical infrastructure challenges and opportunities related to designing global interoperable environmental information networks. Presenters describe ways of surfing the waves of change—in political, economic, social, technical, and legal contexts—to tap into a multitude of existing and emerging infrastructures and systems. Topics include environmental knowledge networks, crowd sourcing, telecommunication technologies, and cloud computing—with location and time as important organizing principles.  The intent is to ensure access to the world's expanding pool of environmental and societal data to support environmental science, policy, legislation, program management, evidence-based decision making, and action at local to global levels.


This track will help attendees realize the promise of global environmental information networks. Experts will describe how increasing the demand for environmental and related information through expanded access, use and understanding for all sectors of society will help insure project funding and systems sustainability. The five featured issues are: (1) increasing institutional/government capacity; (2) ensuring access to information for all sectors of society; (3) expanding the environmental knowledge base; (4) expanding the environmental component of educational curricula and expanding educational opportunities; (5) sustaining environmental networks. Presentations will focus on specific examples of achieving these goals while considering the policy context of the upcoming Rio +20 Conference and the Millennium Development Goals to add timeliness and relevance. New forms of IT and the role of citizen science, distance learning, and crowd sourcing will also be discussed.

These sessions will see policy makers, scientists, technologists, educators and donors collaborating to achieve consensus on ways forward. From next-steps to project identification, memorandums of understanding to donor pledges, commitments to action will only be limited by those involved.