FGDC Newsletter Summer 1999
SPECIAL GEODATA FORUM EDITION
1999 National GeoData Forum
MAKING LIVABLE COMMUNITIES A REALITY
The 1999 National GeoData Forum, "Making Livable Communities a Reality," was a great success. More than 460 participants made the forum a dynamic and forward-looking opportunity to explore critical issues in achieving more effective use of geographic information in our nation's communities. The forum, conducted in Washington, DC, June 7-9, began with keynote presentations by Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt; Morley Winograd, Director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government; Congressman Paul Kanjorski; and Dee Hock, founder and CEO Emeritus of Visa International. The afternoon session included presentations ranging from a video envisioning a digital earth to community leaders describing place and livability issues from their local perspectives. On the second day, seven concurrent breakout sessions, or "threads," provided venues for discussing specific issues. The results of these thread discussions were woven into an executive summary report that was provided to all forum participants on the third morning. The forum concluded with a policy roundtable, chaired by Congressman Kanjorski, where government, industry, tribal, and academic leaders expressed their perspectives and visions regarding the value and use of geographic information in communities.
- The hearing was one of the first congressional hearings to focus on GIS and spatial data.
During the forum, several other events supported the themes of livable communities and working together to ensure ready access to relevant geographic information. Demonstrations of GIS applications addressing community issues were conducted at the House Rayburn Building; the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) showcased university GIScience research, education, and policy programs at the National Geographic Society; and the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology held a hearing on "Geographical Information Systems Policies and Programs." This hearing was one of the first congressional hearings to focus on GIS and spatial data, and it provided an excellent finish to the forum's whirlwind three days.
All forum participants contributed to making the meeting a stimulating, thought provoking, and future-focused event. Participants' responses to the meeting were uniformly positive, and there was great enthusiasm for carrying forward the ideas and actions identified there. The forum summary graphic, presented and discussed on the final day of the meeting, captures the forum's flow and content. You are encouraged to use this graphic to help spread awareness and understanding of the forum and of the value of geographic information in addressing community issues. Although there are many more thoughts to consider, some of the major elements that emerged from the forum and the congressional hearing are listed here.
Bold Steps Identified in the Forum Summary
- Demonstrate interoperability and integration in testbeds.
- Develop open geoprocessing interfaces.
- Increase data discovery and sharing through metadata and data standards.
- Catalogue case studies.
- Increase investment in decision support systems.
- Add educational experiences about geodata at all school/grade levels.
- Increase commitment for GIScience training.
- Publish funding mechanisms and options.
- Review economic dynamics of federal and private sector interaction:
- Update and revise the NSDI strategic direction.
- Establish a data requirements registry.
- Pursue "ChaordicTM" organization discussed by Dee Hock.
* ChaordicTM is a trademark of The Chaordic Alliance.
Dee Hock Reinvents Organizational ModelsIn his keynote presentation, Dee Hock, founder and CEO Emeritus of Visa International, challenged forum participants to think differently about organizations. Today's organizations are increasingly unable to accomplish what they were created to do or to manage their affairs, yet they continue to expand and consume more resources, he said. If this situation continues, he warned, we can expect global institutional collapse. As a solution, he outlined his innovative ideas about "chaordic" organizations-self-organizing, adaptive, nonlinear organizations whose behavior harmoniously combines chaos and order.
Here are some of his many provocative thoughts about organizations and society:
Ideas That Emerged From the Congressional Hearing
- Establish the NSDI as a national objective through legislation.
- Consider the need for a broader coalition of organizations that can guide the implementation of the NSDI.
- Establish a means for sharing best practices in geographic information and technology as a component of the NSDI.
- Promote locally-independent, regionally-coordinated geographic information processes as means of achieving national consistency.
- Support local and state initiatives and provide incentives through activities such as the Community/Federal Information Partnership.
Detailed information on the forum will be provided through the FGDC (www.fgdc.gov) and other mechanisms. The challenge in front of us now is to continue to move forward in addressing and implementing the many ideas and steps identified in the forum. To further communities' access to geoprocessing tools and geographic information, we will begin the following efforts:
- Work with Congress on possible legislation to establish the NSDI as a national objective. Legislation would include:
- national goals and NSDI definition,
- federal roles and compliance requirements,
- non-federal and non-governmental roles and expectations for NSDI participation, and
- methods for partnerships and new types of organizational relationships that will facilitate NSDI implementation.
- Continue to build on the extensive involvement of the geoprocessing and technology sector and work with additional private sector organizations to broaden participation in the NSDI. This effort will include exploring opportunities to establish mechanisms to encourage businesses to engage in public/private partnerships to promote technology interoperability and make it easier to use geographic information for decision-making within communities.
- Request that the forum steering committee and policy roundtable membership guide a consensus-based implementation strategy for the steps identified in the forum summary graphic.
- Create a national coalition representing current and potential future stakeholders that will explore the potential for an adaptive, self-governing organizational and governance process to guide NSDI implementation.
We must move forward with "BOLD ACTIONS" to implement the "BOLD STEPS" and capture the "BIG IDEAS" from the forum. The FGDC, along with the forum steering committee and roundtable members, will engage all interested stakeholders in taking the next actions. This effort will require leadership, commitment, and resources from all sectors. If we truly are to create an NSDI that is a geographic information resource for the 21st century, then all of us must contribute to its implementation so that all communities can benefit from its results.
Interior Secretary Babbitt urged the forum participants to dream big dreams. This figure is the graphic summary of his presentation.
Tuesday was devoted to the forum threads. The full summaries of the thread activities and outcomes are being posted at the FGDC website.
Thread 1. Geospatial Decision Support Systems
What do decision makers need?
What is the state of the art?
Geospatial decision support systems (GDSS) can help decision makers solve complex spatial problems by adding analytical and interpretive capabilities to geospatial data. But do they adequately address the needs of decision makers? Participants in this thread explored this question by discussing the barriers to more effective use of GDSS, how communities can help develop GDSS capabilities, and important messages that should be sent to Congress or others concerning GDSS.
A wide variety of ideas emerged, focusing on technological, organizational, and design components:
- Technology. Technology advances, significantly reduced prices, the Internet, and widely available GIS software are increasing the viability of GIS and GDSS for many communities. Data, however, can remain costly or unavailable. More important, acquiring and maintaining the necessary expertise may be prohibitively expensive. In addition, technology, particularly decision support systems, is changing rapidly. These factors mean that many communities face substantial barriers in creating GDSS. Meeting the goal of developing a common, distributed, and widely available set of tools will require an environment incorporating modular approaches to software design, interoperable modules, and extensible systems. Such an environment would enable a community to build a GDSS gradually, assured that increased capability could be built over time and initial investments would not become obsolete with subsequent advances.
- Organization. More collaboration and coordination are needed. At the local level, increased citizen participation and better support for collaborative decision-making processes are primary needs. The implications for GDSS include requirements for facilitators that can use technology, science and technology translators that can inform decision making, and software to help participants visualize current condition and future scenarios. A conference on GDSS facilitators and translators could further the development of solutions. At the federal level, the major concerns are coordination among agencies and the development of modules or systems to support decision making.
- Design. The design philosophy of most current GISs and GDSSs does not support the types of problems that users face: Current systems are designed to handle data and problems that are clearly defined and isolated, whereas most real problems are fuzzy and integrated. Current systems are designed for experts, whereas collaborative groups of stakeholders with mixed levels of expertise represent the growing user base. And current systems do not provide the required support for the creative design aspect of community development that is central to the concept of livable communities.
Thread 2. Finance and Commercial Aspects of the NSDI
How can we finance and implement the NSDI?
Commercially viable data-sharing standards, procedures, and interoperable specifications make geospatial data developed for one application increasingly valuable to others. This thread explored new ways to finance and commercialize geospatial data creation and maintenance. Participants considered a number of questions, including: How can investments in these data be pooled? What is the role of data licensing? What legal constraints must be considered? How can public access to information be achieved at moderate cost? How can the NSDI use capital planning and finance techniques as well as venture capital? Do public-private partnerships work, and how?
Participants made the following recommendations:
- Research and test structures that make available five cross-cutting capacities for regional and local data consortia: 1) Internet portals of functional spatial information systems, incorporating public access to basic spatial data and systems, revenue options that are broader than data unit pricing, and quality branding; 2) financing options and optimization, including a Spatial Information Development Bank to serve regional data consortia; 3) bulk procurement strategies and purchasing expertise, including best practices guidelines; 4) system quality strategies that move beyond standards to address design elements for enhancing privacy, limits for liability, best practices guidelines, and techniques to address copyright and security issues; and 5) legal strategies to research and promulgate spatial data licensing, craft model privacy and security policies and guidelines for geospatial Internet portals, and review copyright and database protection issues.
- Emphasize private sector innovation and entrepreneurship in organizing and driving the five capacities. Key activities include clarifying copyright protection for spatial data developed or shared by the private sector, reviewing government and private data pricing and licensing patterns across the country for similar data, and broadening and adapting Cooperative Research and Development Agreement and other procedures for increasing the private sector's role.
- Organize appropriate public sector support. Issues include clarifying the Internal Revenue Code regarding the "public purpose" and tax-exempt status of obligations issued by regional data consortia, reexamining minimal spatial data standards and interoperability specifications required as "underwriting criteria" sufficient to align public and private investments, reestablishing a Geographer for Congress (as existed in the 1830s) to help Congress effectively use spatial data and systems to assess the impact of legislation, issuing bonds for regional or local data consortia, hosting federal revolving loan funds for spatial data and systems development, and facilitating institutional and private sector participation in regional data consortia through subscriptions and one-call laws.
Thread 3. "No Limits" Information Technology for Livable Communities
How do we want to use geodata?
What technical and policy issues are implied?
Imagine that there were no limitations imposed by technology. How would we use geodata in our communities? What would we want the technology to do for us if anything were possible? How would these capabilities affect practice and policy? This thread called on the expertise of representatives of the OpenGIS Consortium to help answer these questions and discuss the various converging technologies and markets that will support "no limits" technology for livable communities. Topics included network resources, open interfaces, Internet-based computing, database software, commercial geodata sources, and image processing. Thread participants discussed the issues that these emerging technologies raise.
Several major ideas arose:
- We need to think in terms of services, not data. Traditionally, GIS practitioners have put much of their effort into building databases. The new paradigm is that there will be myriad data and systems, all accessible through queries from users' software. This approach is a service, not just data; it is answering questions, not just providing information.
- Interoperability is key. It will free users from constant data conversion. Key steps to help achieve widespread interoperability include demonstrating interoperability and integration in testbeds and developing open geoprocessing interfaces.
- Metadata and standards help make data a commodity. Metadata make data discoverable; standards make them usable. Both components are key to making data a viable commodity.
- Technology is not the limiting factor. Technological capabilities will continue to increase. To make effective use of technology, however, we must figure out what we want to do and design for it. Doing so will require cooperation and consensus. We need to overcome the legacy of noncooperation and work through the institutional and legal issues.
Thread 4. Geodata Challenges for Research and Education in the 21st Century
How can researchers and educators work with communities?
Within the next 5 years, citizens, students, business executives, elected officials, educators, and others will have access to terabytes of geodata. How can the research community meet the challenge of removing the technical and institutional barriers to widespread use of such data? Participants in this thread examined the technical problems and discussed how resolving issues of access, equity, and information technology's influence on society will promote the dissemination of geodata for educational purposes. They also considered how researchers can best collaborate with academic, federal, and private partners to address these challenges.
Major points arising from the discussion included the following:
- Universities are communities. Like federal, state, local, and private sector communities, they have both intra- and intercommunity relationships. Universities can foster NSDI development through research, teaching, and outreach. However, universities' outreach approaches to local communities and the private sector must be improved. The Community-Federal Information Partnerships program provides an ideal opportunity for developing new partnerships between universities and colleges and local community and private partners.
- The United States leads the world in both GIS research and development and higher education. University research in geospatial information has led to vital GIS innovation and progress. If we want to maintain our global lead, continued and increased funding for basic research is required. Universities can do a better job of informing federal agencies about why their work is important, and federal agencies can do a better job of communicating with universities about research they need conducted. The University Consortium for Geographic Information Science can provide a channel for this interaction.
- There is a desperate shortage of skilled GIScience workers. Existing educational programs are not providing the necessary graduates, and there is no organized effort to change this situation. Graduates lack major technical skills in GIScience and in critical supporting areas such as computer science. These deficiencies hinder the full use of existing GIScience technology, the development of further technology, and the identification of crucial spatial aspects of government and business problems. Potential remedies include developing a unified GIScience curriculum, developing in-career training and education approaches, tackling problems surrounding GIS certification, and ensuring that the Office of Personnel Management creates an appropriate GIS Specialist or Analyst position description.
- Examples of best practices in research and education must be developed. Universities can contribute to understanding of NSDI and GIScience through well-illustrated, interactive, Web-accessible projects relating to their research and education projects.
Thread 5. Accessing Data
How can we make data sharing easier?
Barriers to data sharing slow our progress in many endeavors, and, ultimately, in building livable communities. This thread brought together people with immediate concerns about impediments to data sharing and people interested in conceptualizing the data-sharing environment of the future. They considered policy concerns, including finding data in archives, in legacy systems, and on the Internet; assessing suitability of data for use; accessing and retrieving data; opening data for analysis, visualization, and decision-making applications; and contributing and describing data for use by others.
Three major ideas emerged from this discussion:
- A community needs to be well-informed about itself, through ready access to accurate, up-to-date data. In addition to data, it needs shared methods, principles, and models-things that are part of working with geospatial data but are difficult to describe and catalog using today's technology. Sharing also relies on the availability of metadata that is tightly integrated with data and recognized by intelligent software.
- Access to data must be equitable. The Internet is creating a world of haves and have-nots, but livable communities must make information available to every member in affordable, usable form.
- We usually think of communities as geographically defined-neighborhoods, cities, and counties. But increasingly, people interact within communities that are very widely scattered, using the Internet and other methods of communication over long distances. For example, the community of people concerned about loss of tropical rain forest is widely dispersed but has important needs for information.
Thread 6. Geodata Organizational Issues
How are geodata communities best coordinated to help create livable communities?
Geodata form the information base underlying livable communities. But organizational issues such as determining data content and characteristics, establishing data creation and maintenance responsibilities, and coordinating people complicate the development of this geodata foundation. This thread provided an opportunity to explore effective ways to address these issues through the organizational perspectives Dee Hock raised in his plenary presentation. The session was structured as an exercise in experiential learning. Led by a facilitator and working in small groups, participants were urged to think about and articulate their visions of the future, in which spatial data are being effectively used. Next, they were asked to determine what principles would be required to create an organization they could trust to realize this vision. Finally, they shared their thoughts and feelings about the ideas that had been raised.
Several interesting ideas emerged from this discussion:
- Vision. In the future, geodata will be ubiquitous, transparent, and "frictionless." The days of data that "just lay there" will be gone. Data will be part of transactional systems; users will receive up-to-the-minute data, along with related information such as uncertainty. Applets will come together to provide answers, not data. It will be possible to look at the local and global perspectives at the same time. This environment will move us from geodata to geowisdom.
- Principles. Although the group found it harder to come up with principles than they expected, several useful components of principles emerged. They included trust, equality, respect, voluntary participation, democratic operation, diversity, open communication, commitment, decentralized decision making, ethics, and values.
- Getting there. Most participants favored exploring the development of a "chaordic" organization to support NSDI development. This enthusiasm was tempered by discussion of the resources-money and people's time-required to embark on such an effort. Recognizing these requirements and constraints, however, the group still had a strong sense that the community should take some of these steps and explore some of these ideas.
Thread 7. Pillars of the Community: Framework Data and Product Development
How can the current investment in framework data be leveraged to maximize benefits and minimize costs?
The framework is a crucial component of the NSDI. It is a collaborative effort to create a widely available source of basic geospatial data. The framework consists of data, technology, and procedures, as well as institutional relationships and business practices. This thread examined how well the purpose and goals of the framework are being met. Participants reviewed the recent Framework Data Survey and three case studies incorporating framework data and participated in a lively discussion focusing on increasing private sector participation, involving the user community in framework development, promoting the value of the framework, and ensuring framework reliability and availability. They recognized that a great deal has been accomplished but that a less federally focused approach must be pursued if the framework effort is to realize its potential and value to communities.
Participants answered several questions:
- Are the framework data meeting community needs? Response: 4.5 on a scale of 0 to 10. Much work remains, but the framework is a critical national resource to support community livability.
- What are the barriers to achieving the vision to develop, maintain, and integrate framework data within a geographic area? Response: inadequate private sector involvement; lack of knowledge about NSDI and its benefits; need for definition of the NSDI program in user-related terms; need for an indicator of what data are "under construction" -- perhaps a national data collection registry; slow production of federal data themes; inaccessibility of data; lack of an effective framework marketing approach that includes channels of distribution; need to connect framework data to community needs.
- How can the private sector contribute to and benefit from the NSDI effort? Response: The FGDC could create a mechanism for private sector participation in the national policy process. The National Spatial Data Council concept presented in the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) study was suggested as an approach.
- Is the goal of a widely used and useful framework being realized? Response: 4.5 on a scale of 0 to 10.
- What, if anything, must be done to achieve the framework data vision? Response: Create an NSDI portal for national coverage of framework data; redefine what the framework is-there are too many different ideas; implement NAPA recommendations; include input from local agencies, citizens, and private industry; make sure the framework supports community and regional needs; develop a business plan; provide incentives and mechanisms for developing larger-scale data; market the NSDI initiative to users; create a data requirements registry.
Don't Duck Metadata
1999 NSDI CAP Awards Announced
The 1999 National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Cooperative Agreements Program (CAP) awards were announced at the National GeoData Forum in June. This year's program, "Don't Duck Metadata," is devoted to projects that will further framework data documentation and clearinghouse development. It builds on the expertise that has been developed in the community. It represents a new level of participation-participants and communities helping themselves and others. Participants in this program will develop metadata for existing framework data, collect framework metadata, serve metadata through new or existing clearinghouse nodes, or provide or coordinate training or technical assistance. The 1999 program will fund 95 projects for a total of approximately $1,800,000. These projects will involve over 240 federal, state, and local governments, and private and academic organizations nationwide. The list of awardees is arranged by the state in which their offices are located. Contact information can be found at the FGDC website at www.fgdc.gov.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Municipality of Anchorage-Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility
Geological Survey of Alabama
University of Arkansas-Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies
Hualapai Tribe-Department of Natural Resources
Western Riverside Council of Governments
City of Calabasas
California Resources Agency Program (CERES)
Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments
County of Ventura
California State University, San Bernardino-Department of Geography GIS Center
The San Luis Valley GIS/GPS Authority
Bureau of Indian Affairs-Geographic Data Service Center
Bureau of Land Management-National IRM Center
Southwestern Colorado Data Center, Inc.
U.S. National Park Service-Denver
University of Connecticut-Center for Geographic Information & Analysis
University of Delaware-Department of Geography
GeoComm International Corporation
Florida Geographic Information Board-Department of Management Services
Georgia Office of Information Technology Policy Council
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Honolulu Engineer District
Iowa Geographic Information Council
University of Idaho Library
Coeur d'Alene Tribe-Tribal GIS
Chicago Horticultural Society-Chicago Botanic Garden
Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission
Kansas GIS Policy Board-Kansas Water Office
U.S. Geological Survey-National Wetlands Research Center
University of Southwestern Louisiana-Center for Advanced Computer Studies
City of Northampton
Salisbury State University-Mapping Science Group
Towson University-Center for Geographic Information Services
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Maine Office of GIS
Eastern Maine Development Corporation
Land Information Access Association
Great Lakes Commission
Improving Michigan's Access to Geographic Networks (IMAGIN)
Arrowhead Regional Development Commission
U.S. Geological Survey-Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Ravalli County Planning Office
Natural Resource Information System-Montana State Library
North Carolina Center for Geographic Information & Analysis (NCGIA)
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Monmouth County-Information Services/ GIS Division
University of New Mexico-Earth Data Analysis Center
New Mexico Environment Department-Information Technologies
Regional Transportation Commission
University of Nevada, Reno-De LaMare Library
University of Nevada, Reno-Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology
Monroe County-Department of Planning & Development
Tompkins County-Information Technologies Services
Genesee County-Real Property Tax Services Office
Westchester County GIS-County Executive's Office
Oklahoma Conservation Commission
Cherokee Nation-Office of Environmental Services
Conservation Biology Institute
Intertribal GIS Council
Mifflin County Mapping Department
Pennsylvania State University-Environmental Resources Research Institute
Union County GIS Department
Wilkes University GIS Consortium
Richland County Government-Department of Information Technology
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration-Coastal Service Center
State of South Dakota-Game, Fish & Parks
U.S. Geological Survey-EROS Data Center
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
Tennessee Valley Authority
Science Applications International Corporation
Alamo Area Council of Governments-Regional Data Center
Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation
U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Cartography & Geospatial Center
Texas Department of Information Resources
Southern Utah University-Physical Science Department, GIS/GPS Lab
Northern Neck Planning District Commission
Virginia Department of Transportation
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
The Nature Conservancy
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Water Resources Support Center, Navigation Data Center
U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division
U.S. Geological Survey-National Mapping Division
Vermont Center for Geographic Information, Inc.
State of Washington-Department of Ecology
Washington State Department of Information Services
U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division, University of Washington Field Station
Wisconsin Department of Administration-Office of Land Information Services
West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection
West Virginia State GIS Technical Center
Hancock County Assessor's Office
County of Natrona
New FGDC Staff
The FGDC secretariat has added two new staff members Julie Binder Maitra is the new standards coordinator. She comes to the FGDC from USGS National Mapping Division headquarters, where she acquired an extensive background in geospatial data standards development. Julie was instrumental in developing the Geospatial Positioning Accuracy Standards endorsed by the FGDC in June 1998. In addition, she has been active in standards development through ISO/Technical Committee 211, Geographic Information/Geomatics; National Committee for Information Technology Standards (NCITS) Technical Committee L1, Geographic Information Systems; and the OpenGIS Consortium.
Julie began her federal career at the Defense Mapping Agency field office in San Antonio, Texas. She also worked at the USGS Mapping Center in Rolla, Missouri. In 1993, she relocated to USGS headquarters in Reston, Virginia, where she had a leadership role in developing product standards for the USGS National Mapping Program. Julie holds a B.S. degree from Washington University in Saint Louis and an M.S. degree from the University of Missouri-Rolla.
Mark Reichardt joins the staff as the international activities coordinator. He is responsible for the coordination of international programs related to spatial data infrastructure. To ensure that spatial issues can be adequately addressed at the local, national, and global levels, Mark works with various countries and organizations to assist in the development of national, regional, and global spatial data infrastructures that accommodate data exchange and interoperability. His areas of focus include the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure, the International Steering Group for Global Mapping, Digital Earth, and a number of nation-to-nation cooperative programs.
Mark is on rotational assignment from the Department of Defense. He began his federal government career in 1980 with the Defense Mapping Agency. The bulk of his career has been devoted to mapping and information technology initiatives. Recently, he has been involved in several communitywide programs, including an assignment to the Vice President's National Partnership for Reinventing Government to establish a series of community demonstrations highlighting the benefits of GIS and SDI in local decision-making. He was also a key member of a DoD Geospatial Information Integrated Product Team that successfully reshaped the strategic direction of geospatial data production to support national security. Mark holds a B.S. degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland and has completed additional undergraduate work in computer science. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in telecommunications management from the University of Maryland University College.