Over the past seven years, since the 1994 Executive Order and the MSC’s report, Promoting the National Spatial Data Infrastructure through Partnerships (NRC, 1994), the NSDI has matured considerably. The FGDC has made significant efforts to reach local and state governments, both in funding initiatives and in developing policy. Much excellent work has been done in promoting the NSDI’s core ideas, developing consistent standards for the representation of spatial data, and raising awareness of its objectives among the broader geospatial data-user community. Such awareness is essential if the NSDI is to succeed, because NSDI is, by definition, a community effort.
Seven years after the Executive Order, the NSDI is moving into the next phase of its institutional development. Only through a concerted effort will the NSDI succeed in its goal of reforming the production, dissemination, and use of geospatial data. Growth to date has been sustained largely by belief in the principles of NSDI, rather than by any hard evidence of success, and the concept of partnerships expounded by the MSC in its 1994 report remains largely an unrealized construct. As we enter the new millennium, the National Research Council considered that it would be valuable for the MSC to assess the success and potential of the various FGDC-sponsored geospatial-data partnership programs, and to assess how these programs and future programs based on them contribute to the goals of the broader NSDI. Specifically, the committee was tasked to assess the success of the partnership programs in: (1) reducing redundancy in geospatial data creation and maintenance; (2) reducing the costs of geospatial data creation and maintenance; (3) improving access to geospatial data; and (4) improving the accuracy of geospatial data used by the broader community (Box 1). In its 1994 report, the committee had argued that all four of these effects would follow from the implementation of partnerships under the umbrella of the NSDI. In a sense this report provides a barometer of whether the FGDC programs are fostering these outcomes.