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A Publication of the Federal Geographic Data Committee March 1996


The 1996 Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program

Partnerships needed...

Application materials for the 1996 Program Announcement for the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program (CCAP) are now available. Although the program was announced in December 1995, the Federal budget debate delayed the official release of the application materials.

The CCAP program is a means by which the FGDC facilitates formation of partnerships with and among non-Federal organizations to assist in the evolution of the NSDI. The 1996 program objective is to build on the current efforts to develop and implement the National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, and FGDC- endorsed standards including the metadata standard.

In addition, the program has been expanded to include proposals to develop and implement the National Geospatial Data Framework and educational outreach programs to increase the awareness of NSDI activities in the geospatial data community.

The framework task includes conducting feasibility projects for implementing technical or institutional aspects of the framework and for expanding non-Federal programs to incorporate framework institutional, data content, technical, operational, and business characteristics. The educational outreach task includes establishing activities to provide programs to educate and train constituents of the geospatial data community, to increase user comprehension and adoption of FGDC Metadata and Spatial Data Transfer Standards, and to develop training programs, information guides and explanatory materials.

Additional information describing the 1996 CCAP announcement can be found on the FGDC Homepage under The Cooperative Competitive Agreements Program

National Geospatial Data Framework

CCAP Framework Funding Opportunities

The 1996 Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program (CCAP) has been expanded to include projects to further the implementation of the framework. The framework proposal as described in the report: Development of a National Geospatial Data Framework, is data most significant to a broad variety of users within any geographic area or nationwide. Suggested projects include conducting feasibility projects which implement technical or institutional aspects of the framework or to expand programs that incorporate institutional, data content, technical, operational, and business characteristics of the framework.

Examples of possible projects are:

  • conducting projects to exchange features among different organizations or data holdings, utilizing unique feature identifiers to apply different attribute sets to a common set of spatial data, or to generalize detailed framework data from one organization to produce a more generalized set for application by another organization.
  • applying framework principles to a project resulting in a demonstrable increase in framework data for a geographic area. See the CCAP article for more information on proposal submission.

Framework Practitioners Workshop

The second in a series of four National Geospatial Data Framework workshops is planned for early this spring. The goal of the workshop is to answer the question of how to move the framework concept forward. What practical strategies are needed for its implementation? The workshop participants represent consortia from across the nation that are engaged in framework-like cooperative efforts in geospatial data collection, sharing and coordination. Consortia consist of members from local, State, and Federal government, utilities and academia as well as commercial software developers. Watch this space for workshop results...

If your organization is building framework-like datasets or functions as an area integrator and wish to become engaged in framework discussions please contact the FGDC Secretariat.

New FGDC Framework Homepage

A new homepage has been established for FGDC framework activities. The homepage provides updates on framework concept overview, reports, and meeting results.

FGDC/State Council Partnerships

New FGDC Cooperating Group Partners Announced

On January 23, 1996, the FGDC Coordination Group unanimously approved recognition for the Alaska Geographic Data Committee, the Arizona Geographic Information Council, and the Minnesota Governors Council as partners in building the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The Alaska Geographic Data Committee was profiled in the November 1995 issue of this newsletter.

Arizona Geographic Information Council

The Arizona Geographic Information Council (AGIC) was established by Executive Order in 1989. AGIC is governed by an Executive Management Board of Federal, State, regional, and local government officials, and representatives from academia and the private sector. AGIC developed a comprehensive Strategic Plan and Data Survey in 1992, publishes a newsletter and sponsors an annual statewide GIS conference. AGIC is active in all NSDI initiatives. For more information point your World Wide Web browser to AGIC.

Minnesota Governors Council on Geographic Information

The Governor s Council on Geographic Information was created in 1991 by Governor Arne H. Carlson to help coordinate the use and development of geographic information among all levels of government in Minnesota and to provide policy-level support to Minnesota s GIS users. Membership is drawn from State agencies, Federal and local governments, higher education and the private sector. The Council is active in all NSDI initiatives. Council members individually, and the Council as a body, collaborate with the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium to publish a newsletter, and hold an annual statewide GIS conference. For more information point your World Wide Web browser here or contact Laura Muessig (612) 296-1208, or via E-mail at

Spotlight on FGDC Subcommittees

Each subcommittee of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is responsible for coordinating the activities related to a specific theme of geospatial data. These activities include establishing and implementing standards for data content and data exchange, encouraging data sharing, and organizing data collection to minimize duplication. The subcommittees are composed primarily of Federal agency representatives. The following are highlights of current subcommittee plans and activities.

Bathymetric Subcommittee

Millington Lockwood, Point of Contact (POC) Commerce - NOAA (301) 713-2777

The Bathymetric Subcommittee held an Open Forum meeting on October 30th, 1995, in conjunction with the Federal Waterways Management R&D Conference. During this meeting there was extensive discussion regarding the need for the Bathymetric Subcommittee to expand its scope of work to include all digital information associated with NOAA and DMA Nautical Charts and related products. There are a number of agencies, e.g., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that have a strong interest in the navigational aspects of the marine environment, but whose interests are not adequately represented under the current Subcommittee charter. The proposed expansion of Bathymetric Subcommittee responsibilities would enable the FGDC to accommodate the emerging standards for sea floor surveying, electronic charts, and marine geographic information systems. This modification would also facilitate the transfer of data among other federal agencies, state and local governments and the private sector, thus eliminating duplicate efforts and decreasing the time required to keep charts up-to-date.

Major efforts of the committee during the upcoming year will be to work with the NSDI clearinghouse to improve access to and dissemination of coastal information, and to work with the International Hydrographic Office (IHO) and the FGDC Standards Working Group to finalize the Standards for Hydrographic Surveys. In addition, an effort is underway to develop a Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS/FIPS-173) profile for the exchange of nautical charting data by developing an SDTS profile for DX-90, the IHO exchange format for digital nautical charting information.

For more information contact Millington Lockwood, Committee Secretary, email:

Cadastral Subcommittee

Bob Ader, POC Interior - Bureau of Land Management (303) 236-3587

Daniel Webb and Robert Ader have been assigned by the Bureau of Land Management to assume the functions of the Cadastral Subcommittee and its Technical Working Group that were performed by John Moeller and Gary Speight.

Membership on the subcommittee and working group will be reestablished to confirm participation and add expertise from the Bureau of Land Management and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The draft content standard for cadastral data is being revised based on public review. A draft document containing responses to public comment is being prepared. This document should be completed in March. Issues related to metadata are being coordinated with the Standards Working Group. The Technical Working Group has decided to address metadata issues that are specific to cadastral data within the FGDC Cadastral Standard.

A draft plan for verification and testing of the Cadastral Standard has been written and initiated using local applications. This activity will be followed by a federal level equivalent which will validate the federal domain of values. The Cadastral Subcommittee expects the verification process to contribute to the applicability of the standard across various levels of government.

Soils Subcommittee

Jim Fortner, Chair Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) (402) 437-5353

During the past year, the Soils Subcommittee has submitted to FGDC a proposed standard for the transfer of tabular soil attribute data associated with detailed soil survey maps. The Standards Working Group has made an initial evaluation of the standard and provided comments to the subcommittee.

The subcommittee is currently evaluating these comments and will be addressing them prior to submitting the standard for further processing. We plan to have the standard back to FGDC by June 1, 1996.

Future activities of the subcommittee will be to develop a standard to be used in transferring soil data associated with a particular site, such as laboratory data and soil profile descriptions. The chair responsibilities for the Soils Subcommittee have been transferred from Tommy Calhoun (NRCS) to Jim Fortner (NRCS).

For further information , please contact Jim Fortner, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 100 Centennial Mall North, Rm. 152, Lincoln, NE 68508; fax (402) 437-5336; e-mail

Cultural and Demographic Data Subcommittee

Fred Broome, Chair Commerce - Bureau of the Census (301) 457-1086

The Subcommittee on Cultural and Demographic Data (SCDD) continues to update its homepage, which provides a status report of the SCDD's standards activities, an opportunity to peruse the draft Content Standards for Cultural and Demographic Data Metadata, and the minutes of subcommittee meetings. In addition, the homepage offers links to member agency sites that have interesting cultural and demographic data. Visit us soon at SCDD

The SCDD has an ambitious schedule for 1996 and will focus on completing in-progress work items. Most notable are the SCDD's efforts to identify key cultural and demographic thematic data sets that meet national planning and management needs and to identify classification schemes for cultural and demographic data. This is part of defining the terms cultural and demographic and is helping member agencies determine commonality within their data areas of interest. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to be the first member agency to participate in the process by hosting a data search and definition session open to all interested subcommittee members. The information gathering process will evolve as each member agency participates in and adds to a cultural and demographic data matrix. Other agencies are being scheduled for interviews at a rate of one or two per month.

The initial version of the SCDD's Content Standards for Cultural and Demographic Data Metadata is currently under review by the Standards Working Group. This standard is a proposed extension or implementation guideline of the FGDC Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata.

New Homepage for the Subcommittee for Base Cartographic Data

... A new homepage has been established for the Base Cartographic Subcommittee. This homepage contains information on organization, activities, and meeting schedules and results.

New FGDC Publication

FGDC Wetlands Subcommittee Issues Progress Report

The FGDC published Technical Report 2: Coordination and Integration of Wetland Data for Status and Trends and Inventory Estimates. The report presents the results of the FGDC Wetlands Subcommittee Wetland Data Coordination Working Group investigation tasks: to integrate wetland terminology, definitions, and classification systems; to coordinate data collection processes, and reports; and to evaluate the consistency of wetland data collected by various government agencies.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Geological Survey have agreed to use the Cowardin wetland classification system or those systems compatible with Cowardin. These agencies will develop crosswalks explaining the relationships among datasets described in their respective reports.

Wetland data series of the FWS, NRCS, NOAA and the State of Maryland s Water Resource Administration were investigated for consistency in the Wicomico County, Maryland pilot study. The study conducted data comparisons and field tests and concluded, that there was significant disagreement in wetland delineation and that there is substantial differences in the types of error found between different government agency s data. The implication of the last finding is that users may be able to choose wetland data best suited for their applications based on a particular agency s data strength and weaknesses.

Future plans outlined in the report include conducting additional site studies across the nation. To receive a free copy of the 140 page, five-color progress report send a request to the FGDC Secretariat.

National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse

What does it mean to be an FGDC Clearinghouse Node? The Clearinghouse is a distributed, electronically connected network of geospatial data producers, managers, and users. The FGDC Clearinghouse Working Group has issued a draft position paper titled: What does it mean to be an FGDC Clearinghouse Node? This document attempts to define explicitly what the requirements are for a Clearinghouse Node in the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

Included is a matrix illustrating the classes of existing Clearinghouse services with focus on those required for search interoperability: the ability to support a consistent query interface across multiple servers on a local or wide-area network. Without explicit agreement on what Internet protocols, attributes, metadata formats, and data delivery formats can be expected, the goal of providing search capability across many NSDI nodes cannot be fulfilled. As increasing numbers of spatial data services appear on the Net, the ability to discover and exploit them decreases accordingly. The Web offers a high level of flexibility and creativity in serving spatial and non-spatial information but present challenges in indexing and consistency of presentation. The serving of spatial information requires both a browse capability, as provided by the Web, and a search capability as provided through the Z39.50 protocol.

The FGDC will encourage search interoperability through the use of Z39.50 Version 3 compliant software and the GEO profile as a robust set of the FGDC metadata elements that can be presented or accessed by the client. At the same time, the FGDC should encourage the development of Web servers by organizations to provide organizational information and context to on-line geographic resources. Where possible, hits or documents that are found via Z39.50 should provide linkages to related or similar data sets available at the site in order to promote search first, and then support browse capability. Support of only a Web server at a site would not constitute a full NSDI Clearinghouse Node.

Enhancements to Z39.50-based software during 1996 by the FGDC include support for the FGDC metadata standard elements within a registered profile of Z39.50 and implementation using two freely-available server software packages. Implementation of the FGDC metadata using relational databases coupled with Z39.50 server software is also being conducted. Finally, a standalone Z39.50 applet for use in Java-enabled Web browsers is being pursued by the FGDC to provide widespread access to Z39.50 servers.

This document was discussed by the Clearinghouse Working Group and has been forwarded to the FGDC Coordination Group for comment and policy implementation.


Z39.50 Protocol

    An ANSI/ISO standard protocol that specifies search and retrieval of documents within the Open Systems Interoperability (OSI) suite. The 1992 and 1995 versions of the standard provide for field-level query of attributes and delivery of multimedia documents across a wide- area network.

GEO Profile

    The GEO profile is a draft specification for Z39.50 programmers that formalizes the data elements within the FGDC Metadata Standard as registered or well-known attributes in a Z39.50 server. Through the GEO profile, Z39.50 implementors will know exactly how to encode and access the FGDC metadata elements in a consistent way to provide search interoperability among sites.

Java Applets

    Java is an interpreted (not compiled), platform independent programming language. One application of Java is to develop, serve, and automatically download Web browser extensions from the Internet. An applet is a self-contained program, usually written in Java, which performs a special task to extend the capabilities of a Web browser or other application.

New FGDC Clearinghouse Homepage

The complete document "What does it mean to be an FGDC Clearinghouse Node? ", discussed above can be accessed at the new FGDC Clearinghouse Homepage The Clearinghouse Homepage provides information and documentation on the Clearinghouse Working Group Activities, meetings and an on-line metadata design forum.

Standards Working Group Update

The Standards Working Group (SWG) homepage is now up on the World Wide Web. The home page contains the SWG charter, membership list, 1996 work plan, meeting schedules, and meeting minutes. A list and status of FGDC standards are also posted with links to other subcommittee and working group homepages and standards documents. The SWG home page is accessed through the FGDC homepage by locating the section on Standards or directly to The Standards Working Group (SWG) homepage.

The FGDC Subcommittee and Working Group Status Summary Report is completed and is posted on the SWG home page. This report presents a status of the FGDC standards that are in development, identifies overlapping interests of the subcommittees and working groups, and recommends actions for handling specific standards issues.

The FGDC Standards Reference Model is under review by the SWG and Coordination Group and will soon be posted on the SWG homepage. The reference model provides guidance on the development of FGDC standards.

The SWG has completed the review of the Soil Geographic Data Standard, and the Soils Subcommittee is now in the process of preparing the standard for public review. The Vegetation Classification Standard is now under review by the SWG prior to its release for public comment.

Digital Geospatial Metadata

The Search for a Metadata Core On June 8, 1994, the FGDC approved the Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata. Metadata, are data about data. The FGDC Metadata Standard contains elements that address three major uses of metadata: to organize and maintain an organization s investment in their data, to provide information to data catalogs and clearinghouses, and to provide information to aid in data transfer.

The Standard contains 199 elements used to contain the metadata about the geospatial data set. Since some of the elements are repeated, (e.g. the elements for a contact point for specifics about the data set can appear multiple times), a metadata file can contain a great deal of information.

Recently, interest has grown in the concept of a core set of metadata elements. This core would be a list of the most essential metadata elements from the Standard. For some this core set could be the first step in implementing the Standard, with other elements to be added later. For others, this core would be the set of elements that would be searchable in an index of data sets. The concept of a core is not restricted to geospatial metadata. Data curators in several areas of data management have worked on their own sets of core elements. Since the Metadata Standard has been a guideline for other metadata standardization activities in several states and foreign countries, they are, or are in the process of defining their core metadata elements. Those involved with the Metadata Standard are now joining the search.

One of the tasks of a FGDC contract with the MITRE corporation is to identify a core set of searchable elements from the Metadata Standard. Metadata and library systems such as the Government Information Locator Service (GILS), an activity of the Digital Library Initiative (DLI), and the Library of Congress Machine Readable Catalog (USMARC) are being consulted. The results of Spatial Data Clearinghouse organizational activities will also be a part of the process. The result will be a core set of metadata elements that is in harmony with other geospatial, metadata, and library-related information management systems.

International Standards and Metadata

The first formal meeting of the International Standards Organization Technical Committee 211 (ISO/TC 211) was held during December 1995 in Drammen, Norway. This technical committee has been given the task to create an international standard for geographic information and is divided into 5 working groups. Working Group 3 (WG3) of the committee has the task to develop the portion of the standard concerning geospatial data administration. Under this working group, a project team has been assembled to work in the metadata portion of the standard.

In the international standards process, reference documents are submitted to the working group for consideration and input into the standard development process. During the meetings of Working Group 3, several documents were submitted to assist the working group in the production of their standards. Ten documents (transfer standards and national metadata standards) were submitted for reference to the metadata project group. Of these, several were based on the FGDC Metadata Standard, which was also submitted.

The working group participants have continued to work on their project tasks after the end of the Norway meeting. The international metadata standard development effort has continued with a goal of the delivery of a working draft submitted to the ISO/TC 211 in late March. The final international standard for metadata should be completed in late 1998. The U.S. members of the metadata project team include: David Danko, DMA (Project Leader); Joel Morrison and Leslie Godwin, Census; Norman Anderson, Lockheed Martin; Mark DeMulder, USGS; Susan Scott, SEI Technology Group; and Billy Tolar, FGDC. The next meeting of ISO/TC 211 and its working groups will be held in Seoul during May 1996.

URISA 96 Update

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) and the FGDC will sponsor a NSDI Geospatial Partnerships Forum on Wednesday, July 31, 1996. GeoData Partnerships Forum is a part of the upcoming URISA Conference scheduled for July 27- August 1 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Local, state, regional and Federal representatives will share their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities encountered in forming geodata partnerships. Fifteen sessions, including panels, interactive discussion, and paper presentations will feature these topics: a critique of partnership models, the technical and institutional aspects of establishing a Clearinghouse node, the latest strategies in building the national geospatial data framework, community based environmental protection programs, a description of the FGDC standards development process, and how to partner with Federal agencies to produce digital geospatial data.

FGDC Contact Information

The FGDC Newsletter describes activities of the geospatial data community and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. Subscriptions are free of charge. Correspondence or contributions may be directed to the FGDC Secretariat as indicated below:

    FGDC Secretariat
      590 National Center
      Reston, VA 22092
      Voice (703) 648-5514
      Fax (703) 648-5755

FGDC Information and Documents

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          Upcoming Conferences

              FGDC sessions & workshops indicated thus:
            • NSDI - general
            • Ch - Clearinghouse
            • Md - Metadata
          FGDC sessions are subject to change. For more information please contact the FGDC Secretariat.

          Mar 18-21 - GIS 96 - Vancouver, BC

          Mar 24-27 - AM/FM International Conference - Seattle, WA

          Apr 1-3 - Montana GIS Conference - Missoula, MT

          Apr 10-12 - GIS Research UK - 4th Nat l Conference - Canterbury, UK

          Apr 11 - LIS For Local Govts Satellite Conference - Madison, WI

          Apr 11-12 - IMAGIN 96 - Lansing, MI Md, Ch

          Apr 13-17 - American Planning Assoc. National Conf. - Orlando, FL

          Apr 17-19 - Federal Planning Div (APA) Workshop - Orlando, FL

          Apr 22-25 - ASPRS/ACSM Annual Convention - Baltimore, MD

          Apr 28-May 1 - MidAmerica GIS Symposium - Kansas City, MO Md

          Apr 30-May 2 - 1996 Pennsylvania GIS Conference - Harrisburg, PA - (NSDI)

          May 19-24 - USGS 8th Nat l Computer Technology Mtg - Rancho Mirage, CA

          May 20-24 - 16th Annual ESRI Users Conference - Palm Springs, CA - (NSDI)

          May 28-31 - Business Geographics 96 - Chicago, IL

          June 4-7 - Towson State University GIS Conference - Baltimore, MD

          June 16-18 - 1996 Kentucky GIS Conference - Louisville, KY - (NSDI)

          June 23-29 - GPS/GIS 96 Conference - Billings, MT

          Jul 10-12 - Wetlands 96 - Washington, DC

          Jul 27-Aug 1 - URISA 96 - Salt Lake City, UT - (NSDI, Md, Ch)

          Aug 24-29 - American Public Works Assoc. Conference - Washington, DC

          Sep 14-18 - National States Geographic Information Council - Tucson, AZ

          Oct 6-8 - Int l City/County Management Assoc. - Washington, DC

          Nov 16-22 - GIS/LIS 96 - Denver, CO

          Last Updated: Jan 17, 2006 12:45 PM
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