summarized as the conversion of what today are data into distilled information and knowledge. Yet analysis methods have not evolved to integrate multiple sources of data rapidly to create actionable intelligence. Nor do today’s means of information dissemination, indexing, and preservation suit this new agenda or future needs. NGA will play a major role for the entire intelligence community in creating the next-generation National System for Geospatial Intelligence and has set forth a consistent vision of what this next-generation GEOINT should be. This vision is intended to see NGA through the transition into a new era. NGA also plays a leading role in supporting fundamental research for the next generation of GEOINT, termed GEOINT2 in this report.
It is within this context that the National Academies was asked by NGA to identify research priorities and strategic directions in geospatial science for the NGA’s Basic and Applied Research Program. The goal of the study was to examine both “hard problems” in geospatial science that must be addressed to improve geospatial intelligence, and promising methods and tools in geospatial science and related disciplines to pursue in order to resolve these problems. The results of this study are intended to help NGA’s chief scientist to anticipate and prioritize geospatial science research directions and, by doing so, to enhance NGA’s mix of research as it addresses these priorities.
NGA has defined its “top 10 challenges” for GEOINT. Using these as a base, along with knowledge of the current state of the art in geospatial information science, the hard research problems associated with each of the GEOINT challenges were identified, leading to a total of 12 recommendations. The hard problems are summarized in Table S.1. Several promising methods and techniques for approaching each of these hard problems are addressed in the body of this report.
While it is useful to associate the hard research problems with the GEOINT challenges, it is also instructive to look at them in the context of the GEOINT process. This study puts forth a framework that describes the GEOINT2 process information flow. The key stages in this geospatial information flow are to acquire, identify, integrate, analyze, disseminate, and preserve. Consequently the hard problems are linked to one or more steps in the process flow that they impact. Looking at the hard problems, both in terms of an overall GEOINT challenge and in terms of the GEOINT process itself, is useful for prioritization of research goals.
The success of the research program in creating new technologies and techniques to address NGA’s GEOINT vision is dependent not only on the focus of the research, but also on the research process itself. NGA-led research is conducted through a wide variety of programs inside and outside NGA, including academic research grants, broad area announcements, contracts, and funding to various agencies and organizations. The