April 9, 1996 FGDC Coordination Meeting Summary


Bruce Ambacher (Historical); Gerry Barton (NOAA) Fred Broome, Leslie Godwin, Carolyn Davis (Cultural and Demographic); Dave Catlin (EPA); Craig Faanes (Wetlands); Rob Haar (DOE); Richard Hogan (Standards); Millington Lockwood (Bathymetric); Gyde Lund (Vegetation); M.K. Miles, Penny Capps, Ed Riegelmann, Paul Nagele (Defense); Joel Segal (HUD); Tim Smith (Water); Bruce Spear (Ground Transportation); John Spencer (Geodetic); Brad Thomas (International Boundaries); Dan Webb (Cadastral); Kathryn Wortman (Base Cartographic); Nancy Tosta, John Moeller, Mickey Kilpatrick, Mike Domaratz, Doug Nebert (FGDC Secretariat)


    Dr. Hiroyuki Kohsaka

Professor of Nihon University, Chairman of NSDI-GISA (academic organization)

    Dr. Hiromichi Fukui

Senior Researcher of STBRI (Japanese think-tank), project leader of NSDI Research for the National Land Agency were visiting to learn more about the United States' efforts to develop an NSDI and to establish a working relationship with us.

Information Items

The report of the March Coordination Group meeting was accepted.

Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program

Ms. Kilpatrick reported that more than fifty Competitive Cooperative Agreement Program proposals were received. Bruce McKenzie will be distributing packets to the reviewers in mid-April. Ms. Tosta noted that the number of proposals received this year was greater than the number received last year, but that the percentage of those who responded after requesting the proposal information package was lower. Consideration was being given to polling those who did not submit a proposal after requesting the materials to determine why they did not respond, e.g., are the awards too small, or the topics not of interest, etc. This information would be used to plan strategy for future programs.

Interrelated Data Activities

Ms. Tosta commented that spatial data activities in support of ecosystems, global change, environmental monitoring, etc., have resulted in a proliferation of groups that appear to be pursuing similar objectives and that involve many of the same people. A few months ago, Gerry Barton suggested that the Coordination Group try to gain an understanding of the scope of these activities by asking for member input and compiling a list of known interagency spatial data activities. Only a few agencies responded, and the list in your packet represents only a fragment of these activities. Mr. Smith noted that the Council on Environmental Quality published a list in their annual report that contained some of this information. He also noted that many of the groups involved in these activities are from different disciplines, and their interests relate to their particular science. There is overlap among groups, but their missions are somewhat different. Mr. Smith further noted that it would be useful to gain an understanding of what activities are going on and to communicate with our colleagues about these activities. Discussion resulted in a consensus that the FGDC renew efforts to gather this information as a first step in understanding the extent and objectives of interagency spatial data activities.


    Coordination Group members are asked to review the table that was distributed at the meeting (04/09), and to solicit input from others in their organizations for details of interagency spatial data activities that are not included in the table. The original scope has been broadened to include all types of spatial data activities.

    Note In addition to the categories on the table, please provide information about the types of activities and on whose behalf, a point of contact in the lead agency, if known, and the names of FGDC participants in the activity. Please provide the information to Gerry Barton at E-mail gbarton@esdim.noaa.gov by May 3 so the list may be updated before the next Coordination Group meeting.

Revised headings for the table

Activity Name - Name of group or committee
Primary Focus/Objective - Purpose of the group
Sample Activities - How the group will accomplish its objectives and who will benefit
Lead Organization and Point-of-Contact - Include phone number
Time Frame - Group life expectancy
Geographic Extent - General definition, e.g., national, Pacific northwest, global, Idaho
Authorization - Legislation or other sponsorship
FGDC Participants - Name and phone number

Ms. Tosta noted that the information we collect might indicate a need for a dialog among the groups to determine where linkages could be made.

CENR Draft Report

Ms. Tosta highlighted an activity that may have an impact on FGDC Subcommittees and Working Groups. The Office of Science and Technology Policy, through its Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, assembled a team of representatives from several agencies with concerns in ecosystems monitoring on a long term basis. Access control disabled, clients can connect from any host w!: Command not found. Framework, which contains recommendations that may affect the FGDC if the recommendations are adopted. Nearly all FGDC subcommittees and working groups have data that are relevant for environmental monitoring; several of the FGDC groups are already working on standards for collecting these types of data.

Mr. Smith commented that the Environmental Monitoring Team wants input from groups like the FGDC and is looking to agencies for assistance in implementing its recommendations.

Ms. Tosta stated that workshops are being held by the team to explore possibilities for implementation, both regionally and nationally. She noted that an executive summary of the working draft of this report is provided in the handout materials. A copy of the full report will be provided to those who indicated an interest.

Mr. Lockwood suggested that we ask the Environmental Monitoring Team to brief the Coordination Group on their proposal. Ms. Tosta noted that we might first want to familiarize ourselves with their recommendations.


    Secretariat to provide copies of the full draft report to those who expressed an interest. (Vegetation, Facilities, Geodetic, Soils, Standards, Base Carto and Earth Cover).

    Note A revised draft will be provided when it becomes available (May).

Historical Data Working Group

Mr. Ambacher called attention to the draft charter and 1996 work plan for the Historical Data Working Group. This group is revitalizing its membership; letters are being sent to former members to determine their intent to continue on the working group, and to agencies not currently represented to solicit representation. Approval was given to the group to remove the ad hoc designation and consider it established as a regular working group. A focus for 1996 will be to provide guidelines and assist agencies in establishing vital records programs for spatial data, particularly framework data sets. The next meeting is scheduled for May 7. Contact Mr. Ambacher for more information (301) 713-6630 x229.

Land Cover/Earth Cover Working Group

Ms. Wortman reported that she and Gale TeSelle (USDA/NRCS) are co-chairing the ad hoc Land Cover/Earth Cover Working Group, which is still in the formative stage. Subgroups being formed will focus on classification issues and coordination activities related to requirements and clearinghouse. Membership is being sought from agencies who are not yet represented but who might have common interests. Jim Getter (DOI/OIRM, telephone 202-208-5434), executive secretary for the working group, is establishing a web site and will post the draft charter when it is available, along with membership and other information. Meetings will be held the first Tuesday of each month at 1:30 p.m. in the NBS conference room at Main Interior.

Ms. Tosta commented that this working group is different from most working groups in that it will be looking at program activities that carry out specific data gathering and mapping programs. Subcommittees that deal with earth features, such as wetlands, geologic, soils, vegetation, transportation, and bathymetry, need to be involveed since integration of the various classification systems is a goal of this working group.

Mr. Spear asked for guidance on deciding where to use limited resources when involvement with a subcommittee or working group is peripheral to agency/subcommittee interests. Ms. Tosta noted that subcommittee and working group chairs should be ready to reach out to those not represented if there is a reason to do so. Ms. Wortman stated that the working group had already been briefed by the Vegetation Subcommittee, and would be calling on others for similar briefings as they try to determine where the areas of conflict and voids might be.

FGDC Steering Committee Meeting April 30

Ms. Tosta noted that representatives from the nine State councils that have been recognized as cooperating partners by the FGDC will be attending the April 30 meeting to participate in a discussion. The objective of the discussion will be to begin a dialog and to define a process of long term interaction with the State councils. An opportunity to identify issues for the discussion was provided to the State councils and to the FGDC.

Discussion Items

A-16 Exhibits (Subcommittee Charter Template)

Mr. Thorley, Mr. Broome, Mr. Miles, and Ms. Kilpatrick met on April 3 to resolve remaining comments on the charter template. The main issue was to make sure that the roles of the lead agency and subcommittees were understood and reflected accurately in the charter template. Ms. Kilpatrick summarized the discussion/recommendations of the group:

Reference to Circular A-16 established that:

    Responsibility for coordinating themes of data is assigned to lead departments by A-16.

    Lead agencies are directly responsible to the FGDC for carrying out their responsibilities.

    The subcommittee structure was created by the FGDC to provide advice and coordination to the lead agency, and to ensure that views of the whole interested community are heard.

    Subcommittee chairs wear 2 hats, one for their agency responsibilities and one for interagency theme coordination; however, as subcommittee chair they need to remove their agency hat.

    The group observed that agencies with lead responsibility cannot be required to do something they are not funded to do.

    The lead agency has the responsibility for coordination of a theme; however, if there is a perception that adequate or effective coordination is not taking place, other agencies may choose to apply pressure through joint action of their agencies at the FGDC Steering Committee level.

    The theme coordination responsibility includes development of FGDC standards. A lead agency is expected to support development of basic standards that are generic and widely applicable, but that could nest within the agency's product standard.

    National standards become national' only when they are adjudicated nationally; this will be part of the Standards Working Group process.

Ms. Kilpatrick reported that the ad hoc group recommends adjusting the language of the charters to reflect that the responsibility for coordination of a data theme belongs to the lead agency; the subcommittee responsibility is to provide advice, support, representation, and assistance in carrying out the coordination activity and providing a forum for issues.

The recommended changes are shown on the revised draft template dated 04-03-96.

Ms. Tosta noted that in Section V the wording called for subcommittees to assist the lead agency in coordinating Federal and non-Federal interests, but under membership, non-Federal representation was allowed only on an ad hoc or invited basis, which is not the same as membership. Our charter documents should reflect the fact that we are trying to reach out to the broader community. Mr. Smith noted that under the National Performance Review we are not merely permitted to work with partners and customers, we are required to do so. Mr. Spear suggested that subcommittees may choose how to implement their outreach activities, but that it be clearly understood that it is a subcommittee responsibility to involve the broader community in whatever ways seem appropriate; national forums, subcommittee meetings, etc.

The Coordination Group agreed to adopt two changes to Section VI:

  1. delete the word "Federal" from the second to the last line of the first paragraph, so that the paragraph will read:

      "The Subcommittee shall consist of representatives designated by the Federal agencies that collect, or finance the collection of, your category data as part of their mission or have direct application of these data through legislated mandate. Each member agency of the Subcommittee shall designate its representative, an alternate if necessary, and changes thereto, to the Subcommittee Chairperson. Other organizations may be added with the concurrence of the Subcommittee Chairperson."

  2. delete the last paragraph ("The Subcommittee also may invite non-Federal participation, on an ad hoc basis, to provide information and briefings as determined by the needs of the Subcommittee.")

These deletions will permit more non-Federal participation in subcommittee activities.


    Subcommittees are asked to review the new version of the template (dated 04-03-96), add above changes, and consider how it would fold into their own charter. Coordination Group members are asked to be prepared to resolve any final questions and approve the charter template at the May 14 Coordination Group meeting.

Ms. Wortman asked if working groups were to follow the template for their charters. Ms. Tosta responded that there is no other template; working groups normally use those parts that apply in developing their charters. A significant difference between subcommittees and working groups is that working groups do not have a lead agency, so not all sections of the template are applicable.

Global Spatial Data Infrastructure

Ms. Tosta stated that Secretary Babbitt is about to send letters to international contacts who have expressed an interest in forming national spatial data infrastructures in their own countries. The Secretary is asking each of these contacts to name someone who could participate in a discussion to conceptualize how we might share information, what issues are of mutual concern, and whether there would be some advantage in thinking globally.

Another organization, the Atlantic Institute, is promoting a global spatial data infrastructure independently. This nonprofit group, with particular interests in German cadastral efforts, is planning to hold an international meeting in September to address global spatial data infrastructure issues, and has invited participation of the European Organization for Geographic Information (EUROGI), the FGDC, and the Open GIS Consortium. The purpose of this meeting would be to determine how the interested nations could assist each other and to conceptualize how our national spatial data infrastructures might contribute to a global infrastructure. The President of EUROGI contacted the FGDC to discuss cosponsoring the meeting; Ms. Tosta noted that during this conversation the parties agreed that it might be appropriate for our two organizations to be cosponsors, with the assistance of the Open GIS Consortium (OGC) and the Atlantic Institute. The meeting will be more concerned with policy issues than with technical issues. Ms. Tosta solicited guidance from Coordination Group members.

Mr. Lockwood commented that this type of international coordination activity is very slow to accomplish anything; he questioned whether FGDC has the charter or the resources to commit to this activity.

Mr. Spencer suggested that we consider sending a representative rather than cosponsor the meeting; cosponsorship usually requires funding support. Ms. Tosta noted there had not yet been discussions on funding, but that if the FGDC does participate as a sponsor, there would be a greater opportunity to influence the agenda. She also stated that Secretary Babbitt is interested in providing some leadership in this activity, because the NSDI efforts are more advanced here than in other countries. Mr. Spear noted that if leadership does not come from the FGDC, it will by default be provided from other sources such as the OGC.

Coordination Group members agreed to recommend to the FGDC Steering Committee that we cosponsor this meeting as a step toward sharing information and experiences, identifying issues of mutual concern, exploring the benefits of communication and methods of resolving differences, promoting standards, and laying the foundation for a future global spatial data infrastructure.

State Council

Florida Request

Ms. Tosta reported that the FGDC Secretariat has reviewed the Florida State council's request for FGDC recognition and recommends that it be approved. This council is still evolving legislation is pending that will change the name of the council to the Geographic Information Board and expand the membership but the council is in place and encompasses many GIS interests in the State. The council has carried out several creative activities, such as contracting for a user needs survey and data inventory, and holding State "summits" to plan for coordinating spatial data integration.

Coordination Group members approved the Florida council's request for FGDC recognition as a cooperating group. The FGDC will encourage the Florida council, as it has other councils, to include the broadest possible representation of GIS interests in its membership.

Clearinghouse Briefing

Doug Nebert, FGDC Secretariat staff member responsible for ongoing Clearinghouse (CH) development, presented an update on CH activities. Mr. Nebert noted that participation in the CH has been broadened through electronic mail to a list of 150 persons, who can communicate with each other and receive technical notes and information about CH issues and developments. Meetings are held only as needed to deal with CH issues. Information about available software and power point presentations can be accessed on the CH homepage through the FGDC web site. Mr. Nebert encouraged Coordination Group members to browse the homepage to get a view of current CH activity.

Mr. Nebert reported that 20 implementors of metadata and clearinghouse attended a design review session in February. Proposed changes to the metadata content standard were examined and the process for adjudicating suggested changes to the standard through the Standards Working Group was reviewed. The metadata content standard defines what elements need to be present in documenting data; it does not define compliance criteria or data exchange format. The CH requires that we articulate the data exchange format and how it is presented, so that data from many different sites can be made to look the same.

SGML is a markup language for encoding metadata entries. Z39.50 is the primary tool for search, query, and retrieval directly to web client servers. The goal of the interface is to make data available many different ways. A map query tool is being built under contract to allow the user to specify an area of interest in when searching for data.

Training on how to implement Clearinghouse is being provided at various conferences and meetings; other training sessions can be scheduled as needed.

Framework Briefing

Mike Domaratz, FGDC Secretariat staff member who leads Framework development activities, reported on framework development efforts being led by the Secretariat and on the results of the survey of framework-like data held by Federal agencies.

Mr. Domaratz summarized the main events in development of the Framework:

    Executive Order 12906 (1994) included a requirement for a report on how we might build Framework-like data;

    The Framework Working Group ormed in 1993 with broad representation from FGDC subcommittees and working groups, Federal agencies not otherwise represented, and State, regional, and local government developed the framework concept (approved by the FGDC in March 1995 for submission to OMB) as outlined in the April 1995, "Development of a National Digital Geospatial Data Framework;"

    In February 1995, the Mapping Science Committee published their recommendations for building the NSDI in the NRC publication "A Data foundation for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure;"

    In August 1995, representatives from various projects around the country who were building framework-like data sets, met in Atlanta to share ideas and experiences (meeting report distributed in September);

    In June 1995, an inventory was conducted in response to an OMB request that we identify framework-like data holdings of Federal agencies; Efforts also are underway to conduct an inventory of non-Federal data holdings; Training/education on the Framework concept is an ongoing activity.

Mr. Domaratz noted that the 1996 Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program invited proposals for framework-like activities and, among the proposals received, several were for framework type projects.

The FGDC has commissioned development of a handbook for groups who want to participate in building the framework, but don't know how to start. Input to the handbook is being collected from current participants in the framework pilots and from discussions at framework meetings.

Many of the current framework-like efforts are following the spirit of the framework concept, but are not actually doing the more advanced technical practices. Some funding may be provided to demonstration projects to increase their technical effectiveness and also to gain some understanding of what it costs to bring people together, build data sets, and then establish the operational structure to maintain those data sets.

Mr. Domaratz commented that there are research issues associated with framework that need to be addressed, such as generalization of data collected at 1:480 to a data set at 1:100,000, so that data can meet the needs for very high resolution data at the local level and for broad coverage at the regional level. There are also technical and institutional issues that have not yet been resolved.

During 1996, additional meetings are planned to bring together practitioners to develop strategies for framework implementation. Mr. Domaratz observed that practitioners who are trying to do framework seem to agree that the framework concept is sound, but that implementation is difficult, particularly in defining the roles, responsibilities, and interactions of the various parties involved in framework efforts. FGDC subcommittees are asked to provide input and direction as we work toward implementing the framework.

Mr. Spear asked if the organization that was described in the Framework report was being put on the back burner while building data inventories and sharing practitioner experiences. Mr. Domaratz commented that there was some discomfort on the part of practitioners about the workability of the structure that had been suggested (which included an overall policy setting, framework management, area integrators, data producers and data distributors, and a theme activity) and how they fit into it. He noted that efforts were being directed to other tasks that seem to have higher priority at present.

Mr. Lockwood suggested that we enlist the profit motive to build framework data. It is possible to buy a data set for the entire national shoreline at 1:24,000 scale for $10,000; that could be declared the framework data set. Ms. Tosta noted that, although it is an idealistic approach, a fundamental precept of the framework concept is that data are essentially free and downloadable from a web site.

Data call

Mr. Domaratz summarized results of the survey begun last summer to inventory Federal agency digital framework-like data. Coordination Group members were asked to note the caveats on the first three pages of the handout preceding the graphics. One set of colored graphics was provided for each subcommittee chair and agency representative. Feedback was requested on whether these maps faithfully represent the input provided on the existence of better-than-100K data. Currentness of the data is not known, only the coverage.


Those with colored versions of the maps were asked to circulate them to the appropriate persons on their subcommittees and in their agencies for review, and report to Mike Domaratz at telephone (703) 648-4533 (1) any errors in representing the input that was provided to us; (2) if you need slides or more maps; and (3) if you feel strongly that the images should be made available on the FTP site. Due date for response is April 25.

Mr. Domaratz noted that there seems to be under reporting in many of the categories, but that for this survey exercise, if what was reported for your agency is accurately represented, the exercise will be considered finished; the graphics are available to your subcommittees as a resource for planning activities.

Standards Working Group

Mr. Hogan noted that three major topics are on the SWG agenda for this afternoon's meeting: (1) discuss the outcome of contractor efforts to identify subcommittee/working group interfaces; (2) review/approve completed sections of the Standards Reference Model; and (3) plan strategy for making more measurable progress toward useful national standards.