The US National Geospatial Advisory Committee recently released The Changing Geospatial Landscape: A Second Look. The report follows the first report from 2009. This committee consists of 28 experts from academia, the private sector and all levels of government: Federal, Tribal, State, regional, and municipal. The committee’s stated goals of the new report are “to contribute its perceptions of incipient technologies that we expect will guide, define or determine the development of this industry in the near and medium term. Of even greater importance, the report highlights those aspects of innovation that bear directly on public policy and on individual privacy and security. The NGAC has also prepared this report to help inform the development of the next iteration of the strategic plan for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).”
In the first section, several near and medium term trends are noted and briefly described, including satellite imagery, including small platforms of which we have written about in this blog, advances in GNSS, UAVs, 4G mobile telephone technology, indoor positioning, platform evolution, cloud storage, crowdsourced data, and communications. Next, social, economic, and policy issues are noted, such as the rural-urban dichotomy in the availability of internet services, workforce development in the geospatial industry, data analytics, standards, privacy and health issues, and data access.
I believe that skimming the report would be useful for anyone wanting to know what the main geospatial issues are of concern to this committee and for the geospatial industry in general, although I admit that after the seven years following the first report, I would have hoped for some clearer recommendations. The report seems rather disorganized, but does point to the one constant in the geospatial industry: Change.
GIS analyst Nathan Lowry has written a paper on geospatial information coordination and consolidation options for the US Federal government. The paper examines recent reports by the US Government Accountability Office that criticize federal departments and agencies for their lack of progress on supporting, managing, and coordinating geospatial information, and analyzes these criticisms and the effectiveness of these and other proposed solutions.
Mr. Lowry begins the paper by providing an extensive background of US federal government involvement in mapping, through the formation of the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, with each section of the paper, provides thorough references. As such, this section is an excellent supplement to Chapter 5 of our book, where we discuss national and state data portals and metadata standards.
Mr. Lowry cuts right to the heart of the matter in statements such as “centralization never seems to work out the way it’s planned” and the focus by the GAO on three large government data producing agencies “may indicate some systematic issues, but will never redirect the redundant efforts of the federal government as a whole because the scope is too small”. He recommends that “If the problem is that the US federal government wastes money by duplicating expenditure for geospatial data(and hardware, software and personnel) required across many agencies and underfunds activities that could most effectively and efficiently meet those needs (my assertion), then more time needs to be spent understanding the problem culturally, procedurally, organizationally and comprehensively in order to craft the right solution”.
One of the most interesting sections of the paper is an analysis of several models for geospatial portfolio management, beginning with the concept of the Geographic Information Officer for the state of California, and other states, federal agencies, and local governments, continuing with a consideration of how the US intelligence community funds and staffs its geointelligence activities, and discussion of principles of intergovernmental relations as a way to implement the NSDI.
As a fellow resident of the same state in which Mr. Lowry resides, I can attest that he is a strong proponent of geospatial technology and a valued member of our GIS community, and his comments and reflections about the problems surrounding geospatial data coordination are thoughtful and insightful. In other words, he knows what he is talking about, he cares deeply about the value that geospatial technologies brings to decision making, and he’s not afraid to make strong recommendations. I hope that many decision makers read his paper… and act upon his recommendations.
A new article entitled “Facilitating open exchange of data and information” published in the January 2015 issue of Springer’s Earth Science Informatics journal has strong ties to the discussions we have had on this blog and in our book, namely to developments in and implications of open data. In the article, authors James Gallagher, John Orcutt, Pauline Simpson, Dawn Wright, Jay Pearlman, and Lisa Raymond are clear that while open data offers great value, there are “a number of complex, and sometimes contentious, issues that the science community must address.”
In the article, the authors examine the current state of the core issues of Open Data, including interoperability; discovery and access; quality and fitness for purpose; and sustainability. The authors also address topics of governance and data publication. I very much like the approach that the authors take–they don’t sugar coat these issues, but acknowledge that “each of the areas covered are, by themselves, complex and the approaches to the issues under consideration are often at odds with each other.” Indeed, “any comprehensive policy on Open Data will require compromises that are best resolved by broad community input.”
The authors’ research stemmed from the activities of an Open Data Working Group as part of the NSF-funded OceanObs Research Coordination Network, and hence has an ocean and atmosphere focus. On a related note, in this blog, we recently wrote about crowd sourcing coastal water navigational data. However, the open data implications that the authors describe span all disciplines that care about location.
The authors cover many topics germane to the purpose of our book and blog, and cover it so well, from their treatment of copyright and creative commons to their down-to-earth realistic recommendations that the community must do to move forward, that I consider this article “required reading” for anyone interested in open geospatial data.