I’ll stick with a U.S.-centric perspective for this weekâ€™s Perspectives question, since that is what I know best. My answer is made a lot easier thanks to the good work being done by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC). This organization has provided vision and drive for SDI strategies, while federal implementation has suffered some political setbacks.
NSGIC has worked for years to coordinate federal geospatial data policy, engaging the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others. This coordination effort arose due to federal agency dependency on state and local data, and the large number of conflicting or redundant requests that the states receive for their data.
Through NSGIC’s collaborative discussion between states and federal policy makers, this organization has provided vision for combining data collection resources with an emphasis on partner approaches. Among these visions are Imagery for the Nation and Transportation for the Nation. The idea for these large coordinated and standardized data sets has gained support, but has yet to win approval and funding.
The USGS has facilitated this groupâ€™s coordination, providing state liaisons to work with states and regions to aid in SDI efforts. The coordinated data collection approach is now a large part of the USGS strategy for the National Map, with an emphasis on map data that supports multi-disciplinary scientific analysis and discovery.
The current director of USGS, Mark Myers, spoke at NSGICâ€™s annual meeting in September with an update on the National Map. I was unable to attend, but have downloaded the PowerPoint from the conference website for the following observations.
The USGS emphasis on science is rooted in broad mandates to:
â€¢ Understand ecosystems and predict ecosystem change
â€¢ Assess the impact of climate variability and change
â€¢ Assess energy and mineral resources, safeguarding environmental health and economic vitality
â€¢ Assess national natural hazard risk and resilience
â€¢ Identify the role of environment and wildlife in human health
â€¢ Assess freshwater security and supply
As the role from data collector to integrator takes hold at USGS, there are plans to create a robust cyberinfrastructure to support programs in natural-science informatics and participate in global integrated science efforts.
Not neglecting its map-making roots, the USGS intends to set up Centers for Excellence in Geospatial Information Science. These centers will work to ensure standardized data sets, help create customizable map products and deliver maps on demand.
SDI within the United States has evolved from a centralized operation to a distributed network of stakeholders and partners. Working together with a standard of high-quality, the coordinated effort aims to provide trusted, scalable, continuously updated and historically preserved data.
The status of U.S. SDI efforts is one of promise and vision at this point, without significant funds and legislative support, but with momentum for an integrated and collaborative approach. Within the U.S. there are many states with outstanding SDI efforts with high-quality geospatial data that is regularly updated and standardized. Other states lack centralized coordination and have data of haphazard quality. A federal partnership approach ensures centralized quality control and distribution with efficient spending and winners at local, state and federal levels.
The focus on dynamic data to support scientific inquiry into Earth system science is of the utmost importance. I believe in the USGS vision and hope to see the hard work of state coordinators and federal partners bear fruit with federal funding.
- For Jeff Thurston’s European focus here.