BOX 4.1

Institut Géographique National COGIT Laboratory

The COGIT Laboratory is the research unit of France’s Institut Géographique National (IGN). Over the past 15 years, the laboratory has tackled some of the thorniest problems in GIScience including automated generalization—a topic in which it is viewed as the international leader. Its research, although basic in nature, also supports the IGN production units. Its reputation throughout the European research community is one of excellence.

COGIT is supervised by IGN and funded directly from France’s Ministry of Research. It has a staff of approximately 20, including the director, 7 Ph.D.-level scientists, 7 Ph.D. students, and several engineers who mostly come from the IGN school. The laboratory also can sponsor visiting faculty members and has brought in international researchers to work on key projects, often for periods of one to three weeks. Some of COGIT’s research projects are developed in collaboration with other European agencies and the private sector.

Every five years the laboratory creates a research plan that is approved by the IGN through a series of consultative meetings. Research teams of two to five people focus on problems identified in the plan. Currently, five such research teams are in place, working on research issues including (1) helping access to geographic information; (2) colors and legends; (3) automation of generalization; (4) integration and multiple representation; and (5) spatial analysis. Increasingly, COGIT researchers are presenting their work at international conferences such as the International Cartographic Association, and they are evaluated, in part, on the quality of their publications.


BOX 4.2

Research at the United Kingdom Ordnance Survey

The research facility at the U.K. Ordnance Survey (OS) provides an engine of innovation and insights. It is a knowledge store for the organization and positions the OS as a thought leader. The facility functions as a radar screen for new technologies that will impact the organization and its partners. Its research is internally focused on the needs of the organization, which generates all of its operating revenue from licensing its information products and services.

The research unit comprises 30 researchers and support staff. The majority of staff consists of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. A shift toward a higher percentage of postdoctoral fellows over graduate students is under consideration because of the likelihood of a tighter research focus and speedier return on investment in the case of postdoctoral scientists.

The annual budget of the research unit is approximately $4 million (approximately 2 percent of OS’s revenue), of which one-quarter goes to research contracts with universities that are primarily located in the United Kingdom. The unit collaborates on research with other U.K. government agencies and with other European mapping agencies. In addition, it has joint industry research projects.

Having previously followed a product development approach to managing its research needs, the facility has, in the last two years, adopted a “portfolio” approach. This approach includes short-, medium-, and long-term goals that are generated internally within the research unit and taken to the OS governing council, which weighs their value to the OS business. The approved goals then define a series of research priorities, and the balance of investment on each topic is influenced by the likely level of success.

As part of its goal development process and to cement its role as a thought leader, the research unit hosts “Terrafuture”—an annual conference that focuses on societal challenges over the next 10 to 15 years and how they could affect research. The current foci of research within the unit are on data capture, data modeling, and semantic technologies.

SOURCE: Duncan Shiell and Ed Parsons, U.K. Ordnance Survey.

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