March 12, 1996 FGDC Coordination Meeting Summary


Bob Ader (Cadastral, by teleconference); Bruce Ambacher (Historical); Andy Battin (EPA); Fred Broome (Cultural and Demographic); Andre Coisman (Base Cartographic); Craig Faanes (Wetlands); M.K. Miles, Harold Smith, Paul Nagele (Defense); Tim Smith (Water); Bruce Spear (Ground Transportation); John Spencer (Geodetic); Gale TeSelle (Soils); Brad Thomas (International Boundaries); Gene Thorley, Chair; Nancy Tosta, John Moeller, Mickey Kilpatrick, Billy Tolar (FGDC Secretariat).

Information Items

The report of the February Coordination Group meeting was approved. Action items from that meeting are on the current agenda for further discussion.

CCAP Proposal Reviewers

Mr. Moeller reported that several hundred proposal packets had been requested. Depending on the number of proposals actually received, additional proposal reviewers may be needed in the review process. Names of backup reviewers may be called in to the FGDC Secretariat, or to Bruce McKenzie at (703)648-5740.

Historical Data Working Group

Mr. Ambacher reported that the ad hoc group has met twice and is making progress on a draft charter to define its objectives and work plan.

Land Cover/Earth Cover Working Group

Mr. Moeller reported that an initial meeting was held, but that representation from appropriate agencies and subcommittees is not yet complete.

Census Request

Ms. Tosta reported that a small ad hoc group met to discuss the Census request for FGDC assistance in improving the quality of the TIGER data base to make it more useful for the broad applications for which TIGER data are used. Ms. Tosta noted that those who attended the meeting advocated bringing together a group to strategize without constraints on how such development might be carried out; the strategy group should include thinkers who were involved in creation of TIGER, as well as those currently working on data base technologies and those working in local governments familiar with the issues of trying to relate TIGER data to high quality local or regional data bases. The ad hoc group suggested that the FGDC might sponsor a pilot to examine issues related to accepting/sharing/exchanging data; these efforts would call upon Census expertise, but would run in a parallel track with preparations for Census 2000.

Mr. Broome suggested that the strategy group conduct a 5-day meeting consisting of 3 days for working level personnel (academicians, Federal, State, and local) to develop a recommendation, 1 day for briefing senior policy/management officials and facilitating their input to the plan, and a final day for charting a course of action.

Mr. TeSelle commented that many agencies with mission requirements similar to Census need framework, have practical applications, and would benefit from continued development of NSDI and framework. Ms. Tosta noted that Census 2000 might be a good target on which to mobilize efforts because it is a little more concrete and familiar than framework is to most people. Mr. Ader commented that it would be advantageous also to have a natural resource type application as a barometer for measuring broader applications support.

Mr. Spear stated that an advantage of improving the TIGER data base would be that it would provide leverage for building partnerships with State and local governments, if base data they submit could be returned to them populated with Census data. Mr. Spear noted that a possible drawback might be a tendency for the public to see TIGER as the framework, because for many people the framework concept is still quite nebulous. Mr. Spear suggested that initially the framework and TIGER be decoupled, with the understanding that by Census 2010, the framework would be developed and able to provide good data. Mr. Broome noted that decoupling would be acceptable provided the core elements needed to tie Census data to the framework were included. Ms. Tosta did not agree with decoupling; she stated that because of the need to be able to integrate fundamental framework data sets, TIGER and framework need to be at least lightly coupled. Mr. Broome clarified his use of the term "decoupling" as applying to the strict structure of TIGER--such as unique identifiers--not from framework itself.

Ms. Tosta noted that several pilot projects were being carried out to test the framework concept, and that the intention was to develop more robust framework pilots to continue this process. It would be beneficial to have natural resource applications run in parallel with those being conducted and planned for Census type applications; and to work together to combine the lessons being learned on both tracks to improve framework.

Mr. TeSelle commented that, from these discussions and others, such as the April Mapping Science Committee discussions, we might hope to begin to develop a rallying program for digital data and framework similar to the program in the 40's for analog data and 7«" maps.

Mr. Thorley suggested that expanded discussions on framework could be part of larger forums with States, or could follow framework pilot workshops, or could be assigned to a new framework working group that would include representation from those subcommittees with identified framework responsibilities. Ms. Tosta noted that there is an intention to reconvene the original Framework Working Group to evaluate the framework concept based on the lessons being learned as the various pilot projects evolve. Other suggested approaches included the use of a contractor who could devote full time to the framework effort, and the development of a straw document to serve as a precursor to technical and relationships workshops.

Mr. Broome commented that the subcommittees have not come to grips with implementing the framework. Mr. TeSelle noted that the framework concept fairly well established the categories and content, but left open the minimum level of resolution, which is a source of confusion. Ms. Tosta commented that in developing the framework concept of "best data available," there was lengthy discussion on this question; the idea was to build a framework of the best data available, and a uniform data set could be derived from that data, if needed. There was not total agreement among those present that this is a correct interpretation of the framework concept. Ms. Tosta suggested that the concept be revisited after it has been tested through pilot projects and workshops.

Chairman Thorley stated that apparently the Coordination Group needs to revisit the framework concept, talk through these various interpretations, and also develop a continuous process of strategic thinking on framework. Those subcommittees with framework responsibilities need to know what they should do on a daily basis to implement framework. Ms. Tosta noted that this would be put on a future Coordination Group agenda.

Mr. Broome asked that a decision be made regarding the ad hoc group's request for FGDC sponsorship of an "anchored blue sky discussion" on data exchange issues. He asked that some focus be placed on Census' needs to be able to accept data from widely variant sources; for Census purposes the best data available' may be complete coverage (all roads, not just primary roads), but at lower accuracy than required by quality standards being set by subcommittees responsible for themes. Mr. Spear commented that any discussion should be coupled to the broader issues of framework. Mr. TeSelle noted that efforts should be made to identify the compelling missions that will drive framework, particularly where the funding might be that will make framework happen; these factors should be part of the discussion.

Mr. Thorley stated that the general consensus seemed to be to pursue further discussion through the ad hoc group, with the current driving force being the need to improve the Census data base for the many applications for which it is used. The Coordination Group is aware of many additional Federal missions that require framework data, but the ad hoc group should begin the process with Census data. Additional representation to the ad hoc group should be complete by March 21, after which a meeting will be scheduled to decide how to proceed.

Discussion Items

Exhibit Template/Subcommittee Charters

Ms. Tosta noted that additional comments had been received on the draft template presented at the last meeting, and further discussion is required. A handout summarized the comments and provided an outline for the discussion.

Agreement was reached by Coordination Group members that the exhibit includes both lead agency and subcommittee responsibilities. The lead agency is the permanent chair of the subcommittee and as facilitator uses the subcommittee to ensure broad participation in the coordination of the data category.

OMB Circular A-16 defined lead agency responsibilities for data coordination and standards development and established the FGDC as the coordinating mechanism. Subcommittee charters that serve as exhibits to the circular appear to assign many of the same responsibilities for standards and coordination to subcommittees. Subcommittees were formed by the FGDC to assist the lead agency to carry out their coordination function--does ultimate responsibility rest with the lead agency or with the subcommittee? Subcommittees have broader interests than the lead agency; how can subcommittees motivate lead agencies to extend their coordination efforts beyond the mission of the lead agency? What happens if the lead agency, who has the funding, decides to do something that the subcommittee does not agree with? Is there any recourse (appeals process)? How are decisions reached and carried out?

Insufficient time for full discussion resulted in a call for volunteers to revisit the charter template and make recommendations to the Coordination Group in response to the unresolved comments.


    Volunteers Fred Broome, M.K. Miles, and Gene Thorley will meet with the FGDC Secretariat to work these and remaining unresolved issues and make recommendations to the Coordination Group. The Secretariat will schedule the meeting.

APA Proposal for Revising Land Use Coding Manual

At the February Coordination Group meeting, Sanjay Jeer and Bill Kline of the American Planning Association explained their proposal for a land use classification system that would include information on land ownership and land rights. The APA requested that the FGDC fund the remaining $175,000 of the $600,000 needed.

Ms. Tosta noted that the APA process for establishing a land use classification standard would consist of surveying the land use community to determine what standards exist and then attempting to build consensus for a common classification standard. The Coordination Group perceives the need for an updated land use coding schema, but considers that land ownership standards are currently being addressed by the Cadastral Subcommittee, and that land rights information is not within the purview of the FGDC. The perception of several members of the Coordination Group was that the proposal was very ambitious and that it would be difficult to ensure that any funding approved by the FGDC would be applied to those tasks in which we were interested.

Mr. Battin suggested that APA pursue funding through a CCAP proposal. The maximum amount for 1996 awards is $35,000. Consensus was reached that this would be an appropriate approach.


    Mr. Moeller will contact APA immediately and provide the information and materials needed to submit a CCAP proposal; the deadline for submission of proposals is March 29.

State Councils

Wyoming request:

Ms. Tosta stated that a request for FGDC recognition was received from the Wyoming Geographic Information Advisory Council. The council's request included information about the Governor's Executive Order, council membership, strategic plan, and other activities that demonstrate the Wyoming council's commitment to the FGDC principles of data sharing, standards, and participating in the clearinghouse. The Coordination Group approved recognition of the Wyoming council.

Survey of State issues

At the next FGDC meeting, representatives of recognized State councils will be invited to participate in a discussion intended to promote development of data sharing partnerships. States have been given an opportunity to help set the agenda for the meeting; Federal agencies also are being asked to participate. Coordination Group members were given an opportunity to comment on the draft survey form. Ms. Tosta noted that item 2 requested information about cooperative projects; most of this information is already collected from earlier interactions. Consensus of members was that it be deleted from this survey. The one-page form is to be circulated by the Coordination Group members to their agencies--with cover information to be provided by the Secretariat.


    Secretariat to delete item 2 and provide introductory material to accompany the revised survey form. (Note: This information was provided by Fax and e-mail on March 13.)


    Coordination Group members are asked to circulate the survey to appropriate personnel within their agency--especially those who deal with States or other cooperators. Responses are due to the Secretariat by April 10 for consideration in establishing the agenda for the FGDC meeting. (Fax 703-648-5755; e-mail


Contractor study findings and recommendations

Mr. Moeller noted that the open Standards Working Group meeting to discuss the study results, originally scheduled in November, has been rescheduled for April 9. Coordination Group members were asked to review the handout in preparation for the discussion at that meeting. Members were asked to verify that the correct boxes are shaded in "Table 5--Related Interests," to reflect subcommittee activities and shared interests. If additional boxes should be shaded, a brief notation should explain the shared interest. The "Table of Subcommittee and Working Group Activities in Interest Areas" should be referenced to verify that the shared interest is the same as reflected in Table 5, and all relevant activities have been identified. If no corrections are necessary, please respond to that effect.


    Coordination Group members are asked to provide additions or corrections to Table 5 to Denise Perreca at e-mail or fax 703-648-5755 by March 29. Please call Denise at 703-648-4573 if you have questions.

Metadata Standard status report

Mr. Tolar, FGDC Secretariat (Metadata standard coordinator) reviewed the status of the metadata standard, and emphasized that it is a content standard only that specifies what should be collected; it does not specify transfer format, user interface, database model, query mechanism, or implementation plan. The content standard currently contains 199 elements divided into three categories: mandatory, mandatory if applicable, and optional. It is a closed system and does not allow additional elements.

Mr. Tolar noted that some users believe there are too many elements and some believe that needed elements are missing. He reported that he had been asked to form a group to look at the need for revision of the metadata content standard and make recommendations to the Standards Working Group. He has collected input from many in the user community who participate in training and workshop sessions and who are implementing metadata. Revisions to the metadata content standard that have been suggested are to identify a smaller set of core elements than the current mandatory set to meet minimum documentation requirements, and to allow addition of elements for further describing data sets.

Three of the major reasons to create metadata are (1) to document your data for your own agency's use, (2) to contribute to a clearinghouse in a standardized way so that data can be searched, and (3) to use for transferring data. Because the uses of metadata are varied (data discovery, management, production, transfer, and maintenance), the desired content also varies. Identification of the core set of elements will be based on what the user community considers basic to all users. The revisions to the metadata content standard will not invalidate any previous implementation of the standard.

Many of the guidelines and procedures related to metadata implementation will be addressed through the Clearinghouse. For example, when a user locates needed data and requests a copy of the data, both the data and the metadata should be copied or the result is undocumented data.

Mr. Tolar commented that he and Mr. Nebert (Clearinghouse coordinator) are in full agreement that as far as metadata and clearinghouse purposes are concerned, efforts to standardize apply only to interface areas--where one data base has to interact with another. Individuals who build and maintain data bases may organize and define their data bases as they choose; the key is to standardize content and to enable a mechanism to exchange the data, such as standard tags for the elements of the standard that can be tied to the elements in your data base.

Mr. Tolar noted that a contractor was evaluating eight software tools that have been developed for creating metadata; those results and the evaluation criteria will be made available electronically. Mr. Tolar agreed to report back on the feasibility of developing a software tool that incorporates all the best features of the currently available tools.

Mr. Moeller commented that the FGDC provides both trainers and materials to assist agencies with metadata training. Mr. Tolar also noted that the FGDC is planning to use the services of a contractor to develop training materials that will be available with digital tutorials through the web site and on CD-ROM. Copies of slides from metadata standard training presentations are currently available on the web site.

International Standards Organization metadata activities: Mr. Tolar noted that the ISO is progressing toward a metadata standard that is based on a scheme of core data elements, other standard elements, and optional elements very much like the model we are considering. The intention is to coordinate our efforts to obtain compatible results.

Mr. Moeller noted that a presentation on clearinghouse would be scheduled for the next Coordination Group meeting, if possible.