I recently interviewed Jerry Johnston, the Geospatial Information Officer at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about the agency’s new transparency initiative that aims to improve the way it reports its findings to the public. GIS plays a large role at the agency, and Johnston spoke a great deal about how more transparent modeling could greatly help the agency’s efforts.
“Scientists have been using GIS to do environmental modeling since GIS has existed. What I don’t think we’ve done very well as a community yet — and I think it’s because the technology hasn’t been mature enough — is to take modeling away from being in the domain of just one scientist at their desk. I think there’s an opportunity to open that process up a little bit so the modeling process is owned by communities of interest and groups that can work together in a collaborative fashion. I’d eventually like for EPA to be able to invite the public into some of those discussions.
If we have a group that’s doing a new regulation for say water quality, maybe the process could ultimately be carried out in a collaborative workspace. I think we can invite the public into a discussion and expose the steps that we took — the data services, our model, the analytical tools that we used to arrive at a conclusion, our results, how we visualize the results, how we interpret them — and open it up for comment to get a discussion going that let’s other people weigh in on the choices that we made. I think that future is pretty exciting for any organization like ours.”
Read the full interview here.