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5 Afterword T he transformations of science and daily life that have accompanied the shift to digital mapping and location-based services during the last 30 years are ongoing and profound. The growing use of tech- nologies related to maps and location, particularly those that have been enabled by GIS and GIScience, have stimulated the transformation of nu- merous government agencies at the federal, state, and municipal levels. Hundreds of new software and service firms have been started to meet (and create) the demand for services based on location. Even family life has been affected. Parents can now track and monitor their children's lo- cations using the offspring's GPS-capable telephones. It is becoming diffi- cult to think of a realm of economic, social, or political life that has not been affected by GIS and GPS digital technologies and the maps or map- ping processes upon which they are based. It is equally difficult to see any end to the demand for more accurate, more precise geographic data and for well-trained professionals to provide and process them. In digital tech- nologies generally, supply and innovation create new demand as much as they respond to existing demand. A great strength of GIS/GIScience today resides in the happy circum- stances that GIS and GIScience were largely innovated in North America and applied most vigorously in the United States, giving the country a head start and a leading role in the continued development of the bur- geoning technologies. That lead persists, but it is being challenged in Eu- rope and Asia. The Achilles heel of GIS/GIScience today is the country's continued inability to produce in adequate numbers the personnel needed to maintain the country's leadership in GIS/GIScience applications and 59
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60 BEYOND MAPPING research, a situation that recently led the U.S. Department of Labor to designate geotechnology (largely GIS/GIScience) one of the three most important emerging and evolving employment fields (with nanotechnol- ogy and biotechnology) in the country (Seitzen, 2004). The recent an- nouncement of such new user-friendly and inexpensive mapping services as Google Earth, Placepedia, Flickr, and others guarantee that the strong demand for geographically referenced data and for competent profession- als to manage it will continue indefinitely. The country is now at only the beginning of the democratization of map-based technologies. During the last 30 years, many government agencies and private-sec- tor firms have instituted major changes in their structures and organiza- tion in response to the opportunities GIS/GIScience offer and to the im- peratives its effective or profitable use impose. The sector the least altered in response to digital mapping is the academic world, a major concern owing to the academic sector's crucial role in producing the labor force needed to assure continued global leadership and domestic progress in GIS/GIScience. GIS/GIScience education and research resides in differ- ent academic departments or programs in the country's colleges and uni- versities, depending largely on which unit was home to an early adopter of GIS. Institutional inertia has too often left GIS and GIScience scattered in various locations on each campus, leading to variations in GIS/ GIScience curricula that depend on which program is offering a course, despite the existence of model curricula and of recent models of central- ized, coherent GIS/GIScience programs. Variations in approach and em- phasis raise concerns regarding the balance between training students to use propriety software without much idea of what the software is actually doing, versus the education needed to know when and how software should be employed, and more important, when it will not yield valid or useful results. Widespread variations in course and curriculum content also impede the design of acceptable and effective mechanisms for certi- fying the competence of GIS/GIScience professionals. GIS and GIScience offer the country's colleges and universities great opportunities now and for the foreseeable future. Responding quickly and innovatively to those opportunities will require institutional restructur- ing as well as the investment of scarce funds, but handsome returns await the institutions willing and able to make the necessary adjustments. The current and future demand for GIS/GIScience professionals seems un- limited, implying employment for all the well-trained students a college or university can produce. Institutional investments in faculty specializ- ing in GIScience will ensure that colleges and universities that make such investments will help shape the evolving GIS/GIScience research agenda in ways consistent with their home institutions' missions. Funds for GIS/ GIScience research are not abundant in relation to need, but they are less
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AFTERWORD 61 scarce than in other specialties, and faculty members pursuing GIS/ GIScience will have significantly better than average chances of capturing external research support. Owing to their pervasive and increasing use in many aspects of eco- nomic, political, and social life--as well as in environmental analysis-- institutions that develop strong programs in GIS/GIScience will serve society well by educating students who will increasingly need a basic un- derstanding of GIS/GIScience in order function effectively as citizens, by educating the teachers who will begin that process in elementary and sec- ondary schools, and by hiring faculty members who can address the sci- ence policy dilemmas arising from the growing use of GIS and GIScience.
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