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4 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Over the years, research at the National Mapping Division of the USGS has been directed toward development of map products and for good reasons. However, as the committee found in its earlier report, NMD's role has changed; it now needs to emphasize coordination and management of spatial data in addi- tion to production of maps. Further, new national programs that deal extensively with spatial data (e.g., the Global Change Research Program and the EOS) add new urgency to an expanded NMD mission and its future roles. These new demands, coupled with recent developments in producing digital spatial data, call for a change in NMD's R&D programs. It is imperative that NMD research activities be given greater priority and higher visibility and that they be signif~- cantly expanded. NMD research should span the spectrum from applied to fundamental; from improved methods for determining user data product require- ments to advanced visualization and spatial temporal modeling of land-cover changes; from advanced hardware and software for acquiring, extracting, storing, managing, processing, analyzing, and displaying spatially referenced data to standards for the electronic transfer of spatially referenced data. There is much to be done. NMD needs to maintain production and processing of spatially referenced digital data in the face of ever changing user needs and changing technology. Numerous precedents exist for federal agencies with essentially operational mandates to carry out important research missions. An immediate example is the USGS in general, and NMD in particular. Indeed, within the DOI, the USGS is often considered the principal R&D agency. Unless NMD maintains 38 l ·;
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39 a leadership role and establishes a strong research presence within the national mapping infrastructure, the nation as a whole will suffer. Accurate and up-to-date cartographic products must form the basis for future management · — c ,easlons. RECOMMENDATIONS 1. The committee recommends that the National Mapping Division develop a multipolar research agenda and commit the necessary resources to undertake the priority research. NMD's recent organization of its R&D activi- ties into initiatives is a positive step in developing a research agenda. However, the agenda and its implementation need to be more broadly balanced among the various plans and activities presented ~ Chapter 2. In developing this agenda, NMD is encouraged to use the expertise of other agencies, academia, and industry and to be more responsive to the overall needs of the spatial data user community. Periodic review of the research agenda to measure progress and direction is critical to a sustainable effort. Productive research themes identified in this document encompass digital cartography, geographic information systems, remote sensing, and image pro- cessing and analysis. They include digital spatial data modeling, hardware and software development, land-use and land-cover analysis, monitoring of global change, and management of global change data. Although research in these areas is not mutually exclusive, they present a context for structuring an applied and fundamental research program. The committees analysis of the current NMD research plans and activities relative to its mission expanded spatial data (as recommended in the committee's earlier report)) and some needs of the user communities are given in Table 10. This table is an example of how priori- ties can be presented; however, further refinements of these priorities should be made and updated by NMD with inputs from the spatial data community. 2. The committee recommends that the National Mapping Division estab- lish an external grants program to use the expertise of the academic and indus- trial sectors in addressing portions of its research agenda. This program could help advance spatial data handling and analysis and strengthen the nation's spatial data infrastructure by bringing in new concepts, technological break- throughs, and operational approaches. Similar external grants programs have ! i
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40 TABLE 10 Relative Importance of NMD's R&D to Its Current Mission, the Research Agendas of URISA and NCGIA, and the Recommended Expanded Role for NMD Overlap with Relative to Relative to Relative to Other NMD Relative to Expanded URISA NCGIA NMD's R&D Plans and Current Role for Research Research Activity Activities Mission NMD Agenda Agenda L Modernization: 3,4,6,7, A B C Mark-II System 8,9 Modernization: 4,7,8,9 C C C D Product Generation Standards 1,4,5,6,9, A A A A 4. Rules 5. Technology Transfer t2,3,5, B B 6,8,9,10 10 D C B C 6. Theoretical 1,3j4,7 C B C A Spatial Data Handling 7. Techniques L2,10,11 C C C B Development 9,10,12 8. Remote Sensing 1,2,5,7, C B D B and Image Processing 9. Thematic 1,2,3,4, C B B B Mapping 5,6,7,8, 10,11~12 10. Data Applications 11. Global Change 12. Data Collection, Management, and Dissemination s 8,9,12 1~7,8, 9,10 D D C D A D B A B C A = Very important; B = Moderately important; C = Important; D = Related
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41 benefited other divisions of the USGS, both in addressing USGS research needs and in establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the user community. These programs (e.g., the external grants program for earthquake research in the Geologic Division) could serve as models for an NMD grants program. Other agencies use similar programs to strengthen their internal research activities. A spinoff of such a program would be a strengthened educational base needed for a robust national spatial data infrastructure. The need for balance between fundamental inquiry and operationally oriented applied research is probably best achieved when all elements of the national mapping infrastructure—government, private sector, and universities- are healthy and focused on common problems. The committee appreciates the fact that resources are always a problem in establishing such arrangements. The benefits to the national spatial data infra- structure could be significant if these relations were to be expanded. We encour- age NMD's aggressively pursuing a stronger resource base to carry out the neces- sary research and to give such arrangements higher priority. 3. The committee recommends that the National Mapping Division maintain technological and institutional flexibility in meeting its operational needs to ensure that current development efforts berg., Mark-II) can accommo- date changing user needs and technological capabilities. Any major modern- ization effort carries the risk of locking itself into technology that may not be flexible enough to meet future needs. The committee senses, based on discus- sions with NMD staff, that the USGS is aware of this risk in Mark-II devel- opment. Mark-II was designed and has evolved to meet the demand for revision and maintenance of existing products. Changing user needs indicate that other data products will be desired; therefore, the technological capability of NMD will need to be flexible enough to satisfy these needs. 4. The committee recommends that the USGS, and the National Mapping Division in particular, continue to pursue and expand the development of standards, procedures, and specifications for spatially referenced digital data. Although the USGS has led national efforts on standards development in digital cartography, much remains to be done. Further effort includes the extension and generalization of the spatial data transfer standard to accommodate data ele- ments desired by the data users. It is increasingly important to the spatial data user community to be able to communicate among various vendors' systems, and this interchange is possible only with sophisticated and complete data transfer
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42 standards. The leadership and participation of NMD in assisting the Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee on Digital Cartography will continue to be important in establishing and implementing standards throughout the federal government and will increase sharing and integration of digital data to meet national needs. 5. The committee recommends that the National Mapping Division develop programs to produce and facilitate a wider Varied of "non-standard spatial data products in support of diverse user requirements for data and information within and beyond federal agencies. The users have needs for such non-standard spatial data products (e.g., land-use, land-cover, and image maps). In addition, other non-standard products wid probably need to evolve to meet the needs of programs such as the Global Change Research Program. NMD needs to be more responsive to these changing user requirements. CONCLUSIONS As can be seen from the material presented above, the research tasks that could be undertaken are many and diverse. This need is particularly applicable in improving our understanding of the Earth as an integrated system. Just as the USGS helped to improve knowledge of national territory and its potential for development, it must now rise to the challenge of providing the basic spatially referenced information upon which management decisions can be made in this rapidly changing, advanced technological society. To achieve sustained develop- ment on a global scale, accurate, timely, and reliable information on the state of our national and global environments is of critical importance. A robust national mapping infrastructure is vital to achieving this goal, and essential to it is an expanded NMD research commitment—one that includes both fundamental and applied research. Further, the commitment should be well coordinated and include not only other federal and state agencies but academia and the private sector as well.
Representative terms from entire chapter: