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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus
evolved out of necessity, innovation, or political motivation without the existence of the FGDC.
The MSC has always viewed the NSDI in the broadest possible context. It suggested that “The infrastructure includes the material, technology, and the people necessary to acquire, store, and distribute…geographic information that describes the arrangement and attributes of features and phenomena on the Earth” (NRC, 1993; p. 2). In its workshop report, The Future of Spatial Data and Society (NRC, 1997; p. 42), the MSC concluded that “The NSDI is comprised of consortia in which all stakeholders in the spatial data community play important roles, whether as federal, state, or local governments; corporations; academic institutions; or individuals.” This broad definition makes it extremely difficult to assess the status of the NSDI in its entirety; therefore, this study only focuses on the specific role of the FGDC as a catalyst in the process.
When the FGDC was given the explicit mission of coordinating federal spatial data development activities, it identified the need to establish a more formal mechanism for developing partnerships. This chapter presents a review of the FGDC partnership programs that have promoted various aspects of the NSDI over the past seven years. As a consequence of the MSC’s charge to provide external advice to federal agencies, the primary focus of this study is to review these specific FGDC-sponsored programs rather than to assess all the other formal and less formal programs sponsored or coordinated by non-federal groups and institutions that have also helped to promote the development of the NSDI. This review includes a brief discussion of each program and its objective, together with an assessment of the program’s effectiveness in addressing the goals of the NSDI. These assessments rely on: views the committee gathered through presentations made at its September 1, 1999, meeting; on past assessments the sponsors of partnership programs conducted and made available to the committee; on views participants expressed in a forum the committee convened at the August 1999, NSGIC meeting in New Orleans; on responses to a questionnaire the committee distributed to participants in federally sponsored partnership programs; and on the committee members’ experience and expertise. While it is impossible for the committee to conduct in-depth surveys, its members have extensive firsthand knowledge of the development of the NSDI, the programs of the FGDC,