STEREO III nearing the end. Long live STEREO IV.

#STEREO, #Belgium

Published on 15 April 2022

Officially, the STEREO III programme was to end in 2021. But then COVID-19 came and threw a spanner in the works. With both field work and collaboration opportunities between partners affected, several of the projects still ongoing at the time had no choice but to ask for an extension. This meant that the closure of the programme had to be shifted as well to the end of 2022.

However, this did not stop the STEREO team from preparing the next phase of the STEREO programme, STEREO IV.

First step: making an inventory of the activities carried out during the lifespan of the STEREO III programme. Combing through hundreds of files, webpages and data bases resulted in lots of interesting facts and figures.

A selection of the outcome:

  • 57 research projects and 38 dissemination and support projects were funded;
  • As of today, 396 peer reviewed papers were published besides 34 open access software codes and 17 datasets;
  • 133 Belgian promotors from 58 research laboratories were involved, of which 94 were new to STEREO and 15 even first-time users of remote sensing data;
  • In addition, 56 foreign promotors from 16 countries contributed to the STEREO III projects;
  • The projects (co)-financed 41 PhD students and a further 275 researchers participated;
  • Project results were orally presented 275 times at conferences.
The STEREO projects covered a wide array of themes as illustrated in the figure below:

The STEREO team was also very active in communication and promotion during STEREO III : a brand new comprehensive and trilingual website saw the light in 2018, twice monthly newsletter sent out to 1000+ subscribers, a twitter account reached over 1000 followers in 2 years’ time and 18 conferences were (co)-organised or sponsored of which IGARSS 2021, one of the most important international meetings in the field of remote sensing, was most notable.

Next came an external evaluation of the programme to see what had worked well and where there was room for improvement. STEREO III emerged from the evaluation as a successful research programme that had largely achieved its objectives. The evaluators concluded that STEREO III:

  • is a successful and varied scientific programme with high-quality and innovative Earth Observation (EO) research;
  • provides an important contribution to the European EO science and the creation of innovative EO applications;
  • has been successful in putting Belgium on the map as a country with high quality EO research in various domains;
  • links Belgian EO-research to international knowledge networks and top researchers in EO;
  • plays a key role in attracting and training Belgian EO researchers;
  • readies scientists to attract additional funding;
  • is a precursor to real open science research;
  • has excellent dissemination activities and communicates in varied ways to a growing community of professionals as well as the wider public.

Improving the wider industrial and societal impact of STEREO projects and actions has, however, been identified as a major area for attention for the future programme.

Armed with this knowledge and in order to ensure continuity of research funding, the STEREO managers drafted the broad guidelines of a new programme and these were approved by the State Secretary for Science Policy last month.

While the finer details are still being elaborated, this much is clear, the structure of the programme will remain unchanged and will hinge on 3 pillars as follows:

  1. Scientific research support : funding of projects
  2. Support of Research community
    • Data acquisition for the needs of BELSPO funded projects
    • Further development of the Belgian calibration/validation test sites
    • Development of the Stereo toolbox (software/ spectral libraries) to offer everyone free and easy access to software and spectral libraries developed by the STEREO researchers
  3. Communication and Valorisation: information offer to both the scientific community and the general public via dedicated tools:
    • Website
    • Twitter
    • Newsletter
    • Events

The thematic priorities are:

  1. Impact of climate change on terrestrial/marine environments (data exploitation, monitoring, modelling, mitigation strategies);
  2. Advanced Monitoring and Assessment of Hazards (including pandemics);
  3. Monitoring environment for improved environmental health and biodiversity;
  4. Geo-information for Sustainable and Green Cities

Methodologically, the programme will focus on (but will not be limited to) artificial intelligence and deep learning, big data exploitation and the use of multi-mission and multi-scale data: from space over airborne to close sensing.

More information can be found in the information file of the first call for proposals, which was launched last week.

The STEREO team warmly invites you to discover this call and is looking forward to your participation in its new programme!

More information

STEREO IV programme