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New Research Directions for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: Workshop Report –OVERVIEW – PURPOSE OF THE WORKSHOP The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) within the Department of Defense has the primary mission of providing timely, relevant, and accurate imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information—collectively known as geospatial intelligence (GEOINT)—in support of national security. In support of its mission, NGA sponsors research that builds the scientific foundation for geospatial intelligence and that reinforces the academic base, thus training the next generation of NGA analysts while developing new approaches to analytical problems. Historically, NGA has supported research in five core areas: (1) photogrammetry and geomatics, (2) remote sensing and imagery science, (3) geodesy and geophysics, (4) cartographic science, and (5) geographic information systems (GIS) and geospatial analysis. Positioning NGA for the future is the responsibility of the InnoVision Directorate, which analyzes intelligence trends, technological advances, and emerging customer and partner concepts to provide cutting-edge technology and process solutions. At the request of InnoVision, the National Research Council (NRC) held a 3-day workshop to explore the evolution of the five core research areas and to identify emerging disciplines that may improve the quality of geospatial intelligence over the next 15 years. This workshop report offers a potential research agenda that would expand NGA’s capabilities and improve its effectiveness in providing geospatial intelligence. WORKSHOP PLANNING An NRC committee was established to organize the workshop, which was held in Washington, D.C., on May 17-19, 2010. The committee was asked to look ahead fifteen years without regard to NGA’s immediate research needs, which are partially classified. In addition to the five core areas identified by NGA, the committee selected five cross-cutting themes that likely will become increasingly important to NGA: (1) beyond fusion; (2) forecasting; (3) human terrain; (4) participatory sensing; and (5) visual analytics. These themes were chosen based on their linkages with the core areas, their utility in addressing the problems in geospatial science identified in a previous NRC study (NRC, 2006), and on the general needs of the intelligence
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New Research Directions for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: Workshop Report community, as understood by the committee. The research areas discussed at the workshop are defined in Box S.1. BOX S.1 Description of Research Areas Discussed at the Workshop Core Areas Cartographic science—the discipline dealing with the conception, production, dissemination, and study of maps as both tangible and digital objects Geodesy and geophysics Geodesy—the study and precise measurement of the size and shape of the Earth, its orientation in space, and its gravitational field in three-dimensional time-varying space Geophysics—the study of Earth physics, including the fields of meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, seismology, volcanology, magnetism, radioactivity, and geodesy Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and geospatial analysis Geographic Information System—any system that captures, stores, analyzes, manages, and visualizes data that are linked to location Geospatial analysis—the process of applying analytical techniques to geographically-referenced data sets to extract or generate new geographical information or insight Photogrammetry and geomatics Photogrammetry—the making of precise measurements from photographs, and the use of the measurements to reconstruct the two- and three-dimensional reference frame of the photograph and objects within it Geomatics—the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering geographic or spatially-referenced information Remote sensing and imagery science Remote sensing—the science of acquiring information using instruments that are remote to the object, such as from aerial or spaceborne platforms Imagery science—the science of devising and using computational techniques for analyzing, enhancing, compressing, and reconstructing images Cross-Cutting Themes Beyond fusion—aggregation, integration and conflation of geospatial data across time and space with the goal of removing the effects of data measurement systems and facilitating spatial analysis and synthesis across information sources Forecasting—an operational research technique used to anticipate outcomes, trends, or expected future behavior of a system using statistics and modeling. It is used as a basis for management planning and decision making and is stated in less certain terms than a prediction Human terrain—the creation of operational technologies that allow modeling, representation, simulation, and anticipation of behaviors and activities of both individuals and the social networks to which they belong, based on societal, cultural, religious, tribal, historical, and linguistic knowledge; local economy and infrastructure; and knowledge about evolving threats Participatory sensing—tasks everyday mobile devices, such as cellular phones, to form interactive, scalable sensor networks that enable the public and professionals to gather, analyze, share, and visualize
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New Research Directions for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: Workshop Report local knowledge and observations. Related terms include volunteered geographic information and community remote sensing Visual analytics—the science of analytic reasoning, facilitated by interactive visual interfaces. The techniques are used to synthesize information and derive insight from massive, dynamic, ambiguous, and often conflicting data Workshop participants included twenty-nine researchers drawn from a wide range of disciplines, with special emphasis on the core areas and cross-cutting issues. In addition, five observers from NGA and other parts of the intelligence community participated in the discussions. Altogether, forty-eight participants attended the workshop, including NRC staff. On the first day of the workshop, participants focused on the NGA’s five core areas, as well as new opportunities and challenges in these areas. On the second day, workshop participants discussed the five cross-cutting themes, focusing on the usefulness of these themes for geospatial intelligence. On the third day, participants reduced the results of the earlier discussions into a short list of promising research directions for the NGA. Participants also identified potential implications of implementing these research directions for the future workforce and other aspects of the scientific infrastructure. None of the material discussed or presented at the workshop was classified. SUMMARY OF WORKSHOP DISCUSSIONS This document summarizes the major points and ideas expressed during the workshop as documented by the committee. As such, the summary reflects the specific topics emphasized by the workshop presentations and discussions and may not be a comprehensive summary of all relevant topics and issues. Viewpoints in this summary do not necessarily represent the views of the committee or the NRC, nor does the summary contain conclusions and recommendations. Future Research Themes Workshop participants examined NGA’s five core areas and highlighted topics for new research in these fields. Subsequent discussions on the second and third days indicated that these core areas are in evolutionary flux and that emerging fields will need to be tracked and monitored. On the third day, workshop participants focused their discussion on ten future research directions that they thought would have relevance and value for the NGA. These research themes are: Visual analytics. Areas within the field of visual analytics thought worthy of pursuit in the short to medium term included research on the computational modeling of large data sets and their organization for visual processing; models for integrating human intelligence and decision-making into GEOINT systems; building the scientific basis (e.g., theoretical frameworks) for visual analytics; and the integration into visual analytics of concepts from time-space analysis, multi-level data, uncertainty analysis, and human-computer interaction.
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New Research Directions for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: Workshop Report Integrating sensors. Workshop participants indicated that new sensors (e.g., hyperspectral and LiDAR [Light Detection and Ranging]), platforms (e.g., UAV drones, sensor networks and sensor webs, and “small satellites”), and modalities will require new paradigms and significant research in sensor modeling, sensor calibration, and sensor data fusion, as well as new methods to address the complexities of mission planning and adaptation of dynamic tasking. Workshop participants expressed the concern that the vast quantities of data collected will require the development of “smarter” real-time processing and georeferencing methods, perhaps coupled with and on-board sensor platforms. Concomitantly, significant research will be required in automated feature extraction. Human terrain/behavior. Workshop participants identified the following key research areas within the human terrain domain: geospatial data collection techniques for observing human behavior; geospatial integration of social, behavioral and cultural data; and the use of participatory data. This raises policy issues for acquiring data, influencing participation, dealing with security and privacy issues, mixing participatory data with traditional data, assessing reliability or credibility, and understanding cultural and social constraints on participatory data. Participatory sensing. Workshop participants identified the following key elements of a research agenda that will enable effective use of participatory sensing in GEOINT: developing methods for planning and optimizing sensing and for creating incentivizes for participants; addressing quality, uncertainty, and trustworthiness of participant-contributed data; and responsibly involving human participants, including addressing privacy and security concerns; integrating unplanned, unstructured participatory sensing data into GEOINT; and, incorporating prior information. Improved models of space-time. The integration of time and space in GIS and geospatial analysis was seen by workshop participants as key to furthering the representation and understanding of complex dynamic physical and socio-behavioral processes. This will require the development of new and improved models that integrate the time structure of events, as well as their aggregates and narratives, with the spatial structure. Crucial in this is a theory of scale dependence to handle multiple resolution data bases and the integration of social, cultural, and behavioral factors. Development of new paradigms for conveying certainty. Almost all aspects of the working group discussions touched on uncertainty as a long-term issue that cuts across all NGA core areas and that will require more robust treatment. Workshop participants felt that the following areas should be emphasized: the development of tools for establishing data and information quality at all stages of the information chain, from collection to decision making; the creation of methods to establish reliability of participatory sensing data; the development of methods to detect manipulation in participatory data; and means to convey reliability in visual data. Improved geodetic, photogrammetric, and remote sensing positioning. Workshop participants noted that remote sensing, geodetic, and photogrammetry data will require improved positioning to be used effectively in geospatial intelligence. When satellite positioning data is not available, such as in buildings, underground or underwater, inertial navigation systems will need to be developed to achieve high accuracy. In addition, participants stated that improved gravity models are necessary to determine precise orbits and to reduce orbit errors associated with satellites. Geospatial information retrieval and extraction from text. Workshop participants stressed the importance of developing methods to use geospatial information to interpret
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New Research Directions for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: Workshop Report unstructured and semi-structured textual information, as well as content analysis and semantic interpretation. More challenging is integrating information from a wide range of sources by anchoring them geospatially and understanding and characterizing the geographic variation of language. Database technology and spatial data infrastructures. Participants stated that research is needed to develop database technology and spatial data infrastructures that are capable of handling data that are multi-dimensional, spatially and temporally multi-scale, and multi-source, ranging from authoritative to participatory and public. Database requirements for extremely high spectral and spatial resolution, multimedia imagery, and free form text will continue to challenge most existing data schema and models. Geospatial narrative. Many geospatial phenomena can be represented as narratives or stories—for example boats leaving and entering ports, or truck convoys moving from camp to airstrip—and differences from a known narrative become a mechanism by which the normal can be discriminated from the abnormal. A research track in geospatial narrative would focus on how to develop computational narratives within a spatio-temporal database, allowing narrative objects of any type to be automatically recognized and created, then manipulated for visualization and analysis. IMPLICATIONS FOR THE SCIENTIFIC INFRASTRUCTURE Participants devoted some of their attention to the implications of these research topics for the scientific infrastructure. In particular, some felt that existing academic programs will need to respond strategically to these research challenges, which in turn will require new centers, resources, faculty, and students. At the same time, some participants noted the need to protect existing research programs in core areas. The greatest challenge, however, will be dealing with the increasing need for interdisciplinary research and education.
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