The ESA STSE Changing Earth Science Network 2008-2013: Supporting the Next Generation of European Scientists
Fernández-Prieto, Diego; Sabia, Roberto

Understanding Earth changes, their impacts on human lives and how anthropogenic activities affect the Earth system and its climate represents a major scientific endeavour where Earth Observation (EO) technology is playing a key role.
Within this context, the European Space Agency (ESA) published in 2006 the document "The Changing Earth: New Scientific Challenges for ESA's Living Planet Programme" as the main driver of ESA's new EO science strategy. The document outlines 25 major scientific challenges faced today, covering all the various aspects of the Earth System and climate (Oceans, Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Land Surface, Solid Earth), where EO technology and ESA missions may provide a major contribution.
To reinforce this strategy, in 2008 it was established the Support to Science Ele-ment - STSE ( It provides scientific support for both future and on-going missions, by taking a pro-active role in the formulation of new mission concepts and products, by offering support to the scientific use of ESA EO multi-mission data and by promoting the achieved results.
As one of the main programmatic components of the STSE, ESA launched in 2008 a new initiative - the Changing Earth Science Network - to support young scientists to undertake leading-edge research activities contributing to achieve the 25 scientific challenges of the Living Planet Programme by maximising the use of ESA data.
The initiative is implemented through a number of research projects proposed and led by early-stage scientists at post-doctoral level for a period of two years. Pro-jects undertake innovative research activities furthering into the most pressing is-sues of the Earth system, while exploiting ESA missions data with special atten-tion to the ESA data archives and the new Earth Explorer missions.

Specifically, the initiative aims at:

  • Contributing to the scientific advancement in Member States towards the achievement of the new 25 strategic challenges of the Living Planet Pro-gramme;
  • Fostering the use of ESA EO data by the Earth Science community maximis-ing the scientific return (in terms of scientific results and publications) of ESA EO missions;
  • Contributing to consolidate a critical mass of young scientists in Europe with a good scientific and operative knowledge of ESA EO missions, assets and programmes;
  • Promoting the development of a dynamic research network in ESA Member States addressing key areas of relevance for ESA missions and the ESA sci-ence strategy;
  • Enhancing interactions, exchanging know-how and allowing cross fertilisation between ESA and Earth science laboratories, research centres and univer-sities.

    The first call for proposals, issued in 2008 and implemented in 2009, resulted in the selection of 11 post-doctoral scientists from the Agency’s Member States based on the scientific merit of the individual projects. A second call for proposals was issued in early 2010 and being implemented between 2011 and 2013, result-ing in a further selection of 10 leading-edge research activities, which are currently on-going. A third call was issued in mid-2012 and 9 new projects have been se-lected and are just about to start, raising to 30 the number of total projects co-funded under this framework.
    In overall, these projects describe research activities exploiting data coming from several remote sensors on-board a wide suite of ESA (ERS-1/2, Envisat, GOCE, SMOS, CryoSat), EUMETSAT, NASA and JAXA satellites (among others), whilst remarking the envisaged capabilities that will be offered in the near future with the launch of the Sentinel satellites of the GMES programme.
    This paper describes the main Programme characteristics, provides relevant info and statistics, and highlights some of the major findings and insights in the use of ESA EO data to address some of the key current Earth science open points.