Frequently Asked Questions

What is GAIA?

GAIA (Global Assimilation of Information for Action) is a research initiative founded by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL). GAIA will develop information tools that will bridge the gap between the scientific knowledge of climate change and actionable information needed by decision-makers. Through a series of technical and collaborative workshops, GAIA users will exchange needs, tools, and information sources that will address a range of problems caused by climate change.

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What’s different about GAIA?

GAIA is an interdisciplinary collaboration of scientific and technical professionals from disparate fields. Because such professionals may not typically interact except with others within their fields, GAIA provides an opportunity to share different perspectives on and insights into the effects of climate disruption, a phenomenon that affects everyone. Another focus of GAIA is on the development of visualization tools so that research results from disparate fields may be communicated more effectively both among the participants and to those who make policies and decisions.

What challenges are you trying to address, and how?

GAIA will bridge the gap between the research community and the decision-makers and practitioners who must deal with the risks and impacts of climate disruption. There are plenty of data available on climate change, but the real questions are not yet fully addressed: who will it affect, how can we mitigate the impacts, and how can we adapt to the new reality? GAIA will build those bridges through a series of cyber-enabled workshops that will rest upon and sustain a community of practice.

What is the GAIA Collaboratory?

In a disparate community, a key challenge is communication. Sharing tools, techniques, and information, as well as establishing credibility, will be addressed in the GAIA Collaboratory, which is the laboratory of experimentation by the GAIA user community. In a collaboratory, participation and the sharing of ideas, information, and resources is encouraged, thereby optimizing the output.

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Why should I become a part of GAIA?

A goal of GAIA is to bring together people from disparate professional fields so that a broader and more understandable picture of the results of action or inaction may be effectively communicated to those who make policies and decisions. GAIA events will include background talks by subject matter experts and more focused contributed presentations. GAIA will utilize recent advances in networking and social interaction to hold cyber-enabled, interactive workshops. You will be able to participate in the active and ongoing development of “point papers” from the science community, including published proceedings, and help develop tools for the visualization of data and information that can help communicate the significance of your results to those who make policies and decisions.

What is a GAIA workshop?

GAIA workshops are interactive, exploratory, and interdisciplinary. More often than not, it will be your opinion, knowledge, and feedback that are sought, rather than those of an individual speaker.

The first GAIA workshop will be on Climate, Climate Change, and Public Health. The workshop will be held on April 12–14, 2011, at The Johns Hopkins University’s Mt. Washington Conference Center in Baltimore, MD.

Why attend a GAIA workshop?

GAIA participants become a community of problem-solvers. In a GAIA workshop, users participate in a limited number of plenary lectures and then convene in small groups to address specific issues. Each participant will have a computer at his or her desk (or will be able to run the software on our website from their own computer), which will enable them to comment on plenary lectures as well as the more focused talks of their breakout sessions. Our trained facilitators will push polls and questions out to the breakout session participants to ensure that all opinions are heard.

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What makes GAIA workshops different from other workshops?

As a workshop participant, you will be able to create your own virtual user area where you can post your work and choose to allow other participants to see that work. The workshop will be cyber-enabled, using recent advances in networking and social interaction. You will be able to help develop tools for the visualization of your results so that the significance of your climate change work can be communicated to those who make policies and decisions.

Is there a difference between a workshop and a symposium?

Yes. The GAIA workshops are cyber-enabled to capture all user feedback, thoughts, interactions, and comments. A symposium is a more traditional conference format that is usually centered around a single set of talks by individual speakers with limited audience participation.

Two GAIA workshops are anticipated. The first will cover Climate, Climate Change, and Public Health and will be held on April 12–14, 2011, at The Johns Hopkins University’s Mt. Washington Conference Center in Baltimore, MD. Later this year, a workshop on Climate Disruption and Security is planned.

What tools are under development?

GAIA consists of three parts that are currently under development:

  • e-GAIA (the GAIA Collaboratory): an environment that enables virtual collaborations and supports face-to-face interactions
  • GAIA VxO: a virtual observatory that provides the means for accessing data and model output through a common interface
  • GAIA ACTION: a visualization toolbox and workflow repository

Who sponsors GAIA?

The GAIA initiative was founded at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), with support from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Other participating institutions include the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Office of the Chief Knowledge Architect of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, among others. We are open to expanding the collaboration to your institution and encourage you to contact us if you are interested.

What comes next? What data are you providing?

That depends on you, the user community! The best way to find out is to come to a GAIA workshop. However, if you can’t come to a workshop but have data needs on climate change impacts, you should join the virtual community. Submit needs, suggestions, and ideas through your GAIA user profile.

If I am (or am not) attending a GAIA workshop, why should I create a log-in account on the GAIA web portal?

By creating a log-in account on the GAIA web portal, you can create your own virtual user area. In addition to posting your own work, you may view the work of others. You can display charts, data, reports, etc., from your computer to support discussions. GAIA provides the capability to support both traditional face-to-face interactions and web-mediated interactions occurring among remote participants even after the workshop.

How do I participate?

  • Register and attend a workshop


  • Join the GAIA Collaboratory and be part of the GAIA user community. Establish a login account and create your own virtual user area in which you and others may share information.

What is The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory?

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) is a not-for-profit University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) that is part of The Johns Hopkins University. As a UARC, JHU/APL is considered a trusted agent by the U.S. government and serves as a technical resource for agencies and departments in strategic research, development, testing, and evaluation. JHU/APL solves complex research, engineering, and analytical problems that present critical challenges. JHU/APL’s expertise encompasses basic and applied research, systems integration and engineering, rapid prototype development, and comprehensive testing and evaluation of products and programs developed for the U.S. government and other government entities.