Day 4

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Paper title Sextans, Telescopes, Satellites & Python: foregrounding political-technical trade-offs to develop ‘trust-worthy’ Digital Twins of Earth’s ecosystems for effective European policy-making.
Authors
  1. Fionagh Thomson Durham University Speaker
  2. Matt Townson Durham University
Form of presentation Poster
Topics
  • C2. Digital Twins
    • C2.01 Towards a Digital Twin of the Earth - advances and challenges ahead
Abstract text Sextans, Telescopes, Satellites & Python: foregrounding political-technical trade-offs to develop ‘trust-worthy’ Digital Twins of Earth’s ecosystems for effective European policy-making.

Over the next 7-10 years. ESA's DestinE project aims to create Digital Twins (DTs) of the Earth’s ecosystems, developed by the scientific and engineering communities, for European policy makers to aid decision-making. Designing DT’s for Earth’s ecosystems are exceptionally challenging, as the Blue Planet is a complex set of overlapping dynamic systems that are not (yet) clearly understood. For example, the cause of polar amplification remains unknown (where Arctic temperatures are rising two to three times faster than in the Tropics). Hence, the concept of duplicating the ‘inner workings’ of the Earth’s ecosystems is, arguably, unrealistic. Instead, a series of trade-offs, and known unknowns, evolve throughout the development process and guide the building, commissioning, validating and end applications of these complex dynamic technologies. Trade-off examples include:
o Multiple sources of data are required to build the model from (near) real-time data via sentinel satellites to in situ sensors (ground to UAVs and airborne) that range from ‘trust-worthy/good-enough’ data from simulations and observations to more circumspect extrapolated data. The assimilation of these data result in a series of trade-offs between the type and quality of the data wanted and the data available.
o Effective dynamic models require multiple sources of ‘good enough data’ for the purpose at hand – and also a time-efficient model that will take too long to run and, therefore, becomes too expensive to use. The trade-off is between the simplification of complex processes that keeps the core processes of a dynamic model that guides not misleads the user.
This paper will set out a case that replicating the Earth’s ecosystems is, arguably, unrealistic, due to significant levels of uncertainty in current knowledge. But identifying, and foregrounding, the political-technical trade-offs within the development process, from the onset of the project (low technology readiness level), can lead to trustworthy DT’s of the Earth ecosystems to effectively guide politically sensitive decision-making.

These political-technical trade-offs and discussions are not new and have underpinned global map-making for centuries. For example, in the mid 1600s, when explorers set out to map the far reaches of the ‘unknown’ globe, intense disagreement arose on the most trustworthy sources of ‘data’ between experienced mariners who sailed the high seas and drew on every day knowledge and Investors who drew on theoretical knowledge. The final maps developed proved useful for some nations and less for others. DTs are a form of contemporary dynamic maps that have moved from paper to the cyber-physical but, importantly, the real-world political situations still remain in the everyday world.