groups, journals or special issues of journals, workshops, conferences, websites, and blogs—is still in its infancy (see Chapter 3). Although such support systems will come as the fields develop in academia, NGA may be able to encourage their growth by increasing awareness of the emerging areas and their interest to NGA. Possible actions include the following:
• Funding a university scientist to edit a special issue on an emerging topic in a journal by soliciting articles from colleagues.
• Creating a blog (classified or unclassified).
• Soliciting articles by leading academics on the emerging areas for NGA’s Pathfinder Magazine.
• Funding individuals to write wikis or maintain a clearinghouse of executable software used in research.
• Sponsoring sessions on emerging themes at key conferences.
Success could be measured by the emergence of formal academic infrastructures (e.g., journals, society interest groups) that are self-supporting or by the number of articles in the emerging areas and their citation counts.
NGA trains its employees and contractors primarily through the Vector Study Program and the NGA College. Actions NGA can take to strengthen training offered by these programs and other opportunities to train current employees are described below.
Vector Study Program
The Vector Study Program has produced a relatively large number of NGA employees with advanced skills and training, particularly in photogrammetry and geodesy. However, enrollments in the core areas have been declining, jeopardizing the viability of academic photogrammetry programs, and Vector Study Programs do not exist in the emerging areas. Because academic programs in many areas of interest to NGA are already in place, expanding and/or modifying the Vector Study Program would result in nearly immediate gains in staff trained in critical areas.
Although most NGA employees receive specialized training at the NGA College, class offerings in the core areas are limited compared to those offered by a top university degree program (Box 5.2). As a result, current employees are receiving less in-depth training than employees who are nearing retirement. Increasing enrollments in the Vector Study Program could forestall a loss of skill. In addition, the NGA College offers few classes in the emerging areas. Adding graduate programs in emerging areas to the Vector Study Program would produce NGA employees with new skills. About one-third of universities that participate in the Vector Study Program have departments that provide strong education and training in an emerging area (see Tables A.6–A.10 in Appendix A). These universities may be good near-term candidates for Vector Study Programs in emerging areas. Because Vector Study Programs are developed by university faculty members in collaboration with NGA, the new programs would also allow NGA to influence developments in the field.
The flexibility of the Vector Study Program could be increased by including online or distance-learning classes in the program, which would allow employees to take courses while working part-time at NGA. Once a sufficient number of online credits have been acquired, the employee could complete the degree requirements on campus. The combination of online and on-campus study could be tailored to suit the individual and/ or program need. Another way to increase program flexibility is to allow both shorter and longer periods of study. The program currently specifies a number of semesters in a particular period (e.g., two semesters and a summer session in one calendar year for a nonthesis master’s degree in photogrammetry). A midcareer employee could benefit significantly from even a single semester of refresher courses, advanced courses in their specialty area, or introductory courses in new or emerging areas. Other employees could benefit from a longer course of study, such as an extra year. Ph.D. programs in particular are difficult to finish in the time allowed by the program, and both online and distance learning and longer periods in residence on campus would facilitate their completion. An extension would also allow courses in multiple areas to be combined, such as language and photogrammetry. Such individuals with diverse training are needed for NGA to meet its continuously evolving responsibilities.