While the availability of soil data and information is dealt with in Pillar 4, it needs to be emphasized that information about soils must first be gathered in a harmonized way; otherwise, experiences cannot be shared and combined.
This is of utmost importance, for example, to utilize soil information for policy development and the building of observation systems. Harmonization and establishing guidelines and standards should not be a goal per se of the GSP. Standardization always implies a cost for the various stakeholders and therefore a clear cost/benefit analysis needs to be provided to justify any standardization activity. Many standards for soil measurements, observations, data collection and data management exist. The GSP will act to federate and facilitate a partnership among various actors to develop synergies and cost savings for all partners.
Pillar 5 provides the mechanisms for developing and exchanging globally consistent and comparable harmonized soil information. This refers to soil profile observation and description data, laboratory and field analytical data, and also derived products such as digital soil maps and soil property estimations, and interpreted information based on agreed and representative indicator sets. Thus, Pillar 5 is a basic foundation of Pillar 4, and an enabling mechanism for all GSP pillars providing and using global soil information.
Pillar five plan of action was developed by an international working group composed of experts in data collection, processing, exchange and interpretation. A draft plan was discussed during a workshop in Rome (18-19th February 2014), revised and then provided to a broad community of global experts for review (March 2014).
The Working Group worked very hard to produce a final draft plan of action that was submitted to the Second ITPS working session (7-11 April 2014) for its review and endorsement. After a very dynamic process in which ITPS recommendations were included, the plan of action was endorsed by ITPS. This plan of action will then be submitted to the upcoming GSP Plenary Assembly (22-24 July 2014) for its final endorsement. Once endorsed, implementation plans at regional level will be developed for moving into needed actions.