Ongoing Development

What the community is doing to implement the framework.

The spatial data community has been working for several years to develop a nationwide network for sharing geographic information. These activities resulted in the creation of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The framework is a key element of the NSDI. The development of both the NSDI and the framework continue to be collaborative efforts involving all sectors of the geospatial data community.


Success Criteria

Different segments of the community have different needs, and the framework must be responsive to these interests to be successful. Participants' different perspectives derive from the different market segments they represent as well as their GIS and functions.

Critical elements for facilitating framework understanding and participation include the following:


  • clear definition of the framework components,
  • clear communication of the framework components within the community,
  • clear procedures for participation, and
  • education.
Some of the most important framework success criteria include the following:
  • standards,
  • incentives for participation,
  • metadata,
  • data quality and reliability,
  • data integration,
  • data accessibility,
  • cooperation and coordination among participants,
  • data and framework management,
  • software tools, and
  • solutions to technical constraints.
The framework will be built through community effort, and all will benefit by working together to achieve common goals.


Development of the Framework

Framework development will take a number of years to be realized. Near-term needs, however, necessitate a phased implementation that will put useful pieces in place as soon as possible. This implementation strategy provides progress in basic framework development while more advanced capabilities are being examined and institutional arrangements are being explored.

The process of framework development is evolutionary. Even when the identified phases are "complete," the framework will continue to develop and evolve. Some framework plans depend on technology, standards, and institutional arrangements that are not yet developed. As these elements develop, so will the framework.

Within this evolutionary development strategy, three major phases of development are progressing.


Phase 1: Identification of Existing Data

The goal of the first phase is to identify existing resources that may contribute to the framework. Specifically, the existence, location, and quality of potential frame-work data must be made known and be accessible. There are three main tasks of this phase:

Framework Implementation

Framework Implementation Figure6.1


  • Encourage metadata development. The FGDC initiated work on metadata standards in 1992 and released the Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata in June 1994.
  • Encourage clearinghouse participation. The National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse provides a means for geographic data producers to provide metadata and geographic data to the community. Many organizations throughout the community are participating in the clearinghouse. Since January 1995, federal agencies that produce geospatial data have been required to document newly-created data using the Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata and to make the metadata available through the clearinghouse.
  • Conduct surveys of data producers and users. One of these surveys is the Framework Data Survey, developed by the National States Geographic Information Council and the FGDC. This 1997-98 survey provides a snapshot of available data and guidelines for maintaining ongoing inventories of data.

Phase 2: Framework Initiation

The goal of the second phase, 1995 to 1998, is to test and refine framework concepts and to begin implementation. Specific goals are to


  • investigate and begin to implement the institutional arrangements required for the framework;
  • develop data models for framework themes;
  • investigate and develop the initial specifications for information content and procedures for data certification and intratheme (horizontal) integration;
  • conduct prototype and pilot projects to test the proposed institutional and technical plans;
  • support investigations of the more advanced technical aspects of the proposed framework characteristics, such as vertical integration, data update strategies, and data generalization; and
  • begin to reorient federal agency and other program activities to support the framework.


Many activities have occurred in these areas. A few of the highlights of 1996-97 are discussed in the following section.


Community Expertise

More than 40 individuals from government and industry participated in a series of meetings sponsored by the FGDC in 1996. The group made progress in important areas of framework development, such as organizational approaches, technology needs, business plan guidance, methods for further data modeling, and incentives. (See appendix F for a list of meeting participants.)


Framework Project Support

In 1996, the FGDC began to support GIS consortia from across the nation to identify projects that can test and refine the framework concept. The FGDC competitively awarded support to a number of these framework-related projects. The Framework Demonstration Project Program (FDPP) funded projects that are demonstrating the sustained ability to develop the framework from locally produced data sources. The NSDI Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program (CCAP) and other projects are testing different aspects of the framework. Results will guide policies and practices for establishing operational framework sites. The projects also serve as examples of how the framework is applied and provide starting points for research and development. (See appendix H for a summary of some of the projects funded in 1996.)


Research and Studies

The FGDC supports various research and studies designed to further framework development. In addition to the Framework Data Survey, another 1996 research project resulted in the contact information for GIS groups in every state. (See appendix C for contact information.)

1996 Projects | 1997 Projects | 1998 Projects


Standards and Guidelines

Framework standards and guidelines are cooperatively developed, drawing on the expertise and experience of the geospatial data community. They are derived from meetings and communications with framework participants and from the results of their projects. For example, the Cadastral Data Content Standard for the NSDI supports the cadastral framework data theme. Other standards are being developed for orthoimagery and elevation data.

The framework data model is another guideline that is being developed. The FGDC is facilitating a process to develop minimum standards for framework data models. These standards can be used by framework efforts to develop consistency in data definition. The basic steps of the process involve organizing representatives to participate, creating a logical model for each framework data theme, creating beta versions for the themes, conducting a community review, and defining a change management process. This initiative grew out of the workshops in 1996.


Framework Introduction and Guide

The FGDC commissioned this guide to summarize information about the framework and to provide a guide to framework ideas, content, and development.


Phase 3: Framework Growth

The goal of the third phase, beginning in 1998, is to spread framework participation and bring the framework to maturity. The goals and activities of this phase are based on the experience gained and progress made in earlier phases. Specific goals are to


  • extend the responsibilities for framework operations, particularly for the functions of integration, data production, and data distribution;
  • increase framework coverage, currency, and responsiveness by seeking additional data contributors;
  • implement, evaluate, and improve the long-term arrangements necessary to sustain the framework; and
  • continue to collect and maintain framework data.
The framework continues to grow and evolve, as results develop and further projects and activities are planned. To stay abreast of framework activities, refer to the information sources in the appendixes.


Converging on Framework

There are different paths to developing the framework. Current thinking about how to create nationwide framework data coverage provides two examples.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses geographic base data to support locally led conservation planning, rural development, and agricultural assistance programs. The department requires several framework data categories, as well as thematic data such as soils, to carry out these programs, and seeks to create and share these data with county governments and local municipalities. To do so, the department supports the development of a digital geographic base that would support its needs and those of its partners. This base would be composed of orthoimage data, hydrography and transportation data collected from these images, and cadastral and boundary information registered to these data. Federal, state, local, and private sector organizations are collaborating through the National Digital Orthophoto Program to develop orthoimage data, and several county governments are using these data as a starting point for their data collection operations.

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency sponsor the National Hydrography Dataset. This geographic base includes streams, lakes, and other surface water features for the nation and Reach codes that uniquely identify these features. Many organizations use the Reach code to locate water quality and quantity data and other information on this surface water network. The initial data were collected from small-scale maps, and the sponsoring organizations seek a means to update and improve these data and make the investment available to others.

Through the framework, these two approaches converge. In the case of hydrographic data, more current, complete, and positionally accurate data collected from the orthoimages can be used to improve a data set through which extensive attribute information has been spatially referenced. The result is a maintained, continually improved geographic base that is useful to many organizations, and through which attribute information can be shared.