EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has an exceptional opportunity to contribute significantly to the overall economy of the United States by becoming proactive in managing spatially referenced digital data (srdd). This conclusion was reached by the Mapping Science Committee in its study of the technological transformation that has occurred in recent years related to the integration, processing, and display of spatial data for the purposes of making decisions.

If ours is to be an information-based economy that is competitive on a global basis, there is a critical need for a coordinated and efficient national information infrastructure to facilitate the sharing and communication of information resources. This must include a geographic or spatial data component dealing essentially with where things are to support all manner of resource, transportation, planning, administration, marketing, and communication activities. The most important function of the USGS’s National Mapping Division (NMD) in the future will be to act as the federal coordinator of the national geographic data infrastructure, not just to produce maps and derived digital data.

The paper or analog map, traditionally the primary tool for decision support, is being supplemented by combinations of computer hardware and software known as geographic information systems (GIS). These digital systems are becoming increasingly powerful, and therefore the demand for digital data for use within them is increasing. The committee discovered, through briefings with the USGS and several other federal agencies and by conducting an extensive set



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Spatial Data Needs: The Future of the National Mapping Program EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has an exceptional opportunity to contribute significantly to the overall economy of the United States by becoming proactive in managing spatially referenced digital data (srdd). This conclusion was reached by the Mapping Science Committee in its study of the technological transformation that has occurred in recent years related to the integration, processing, and display of spatial data for the purposes of making decisions. If ours is to be an information-based economy that is competitive on a global basis, there is a critical need for a coordinated and efficient national information infrastructure to facilitate the sharing and communication of information resources. This must include a geographic or spatial data component dealing essentially with where things are to support all manner of resource, transportation, planning, administration, marketing, and communication activities. The most important function of the USGS’s National Mapping Division (NMD) in the future will be to act as the federal coordinator of the national geographic data infrastructure, not just to produce maps and derived digital data. The paper or analog map, traditionally the primary tool for decision support, is being supplemented by combinations of computer hardware and software known as geographic information systems (GIS). These digital systems are becoming increasingly powerful, and therefore the demand for digital data for use within them is increasing. The committee discovered, through briefings with the USGS and several other federal agencies and by conducting an extensive set

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Spatial Data Needs: The Future of the National Mapping Program of interviews, that this demand is being met by data-generating organizations that include federal agencies, state and local governments, and private firms, as well as by data sets produced and/or managed by the USGS/NMD. As a nation, we can expect to experience substantial redundancy and excessive cost if uncoordinated, unstandardized, localized data base building continues unchecked. The committee believes that NMD should expand its role in inventorying and managing general-purpose srdd and in making such data available to user communities. The committee found that there is significant and often wasteful duplication of effort in digitizing map data at a wide variety of scales, one of the most important being the 1:24,000 scale of USGS map production. The capability of the new computer-based tools creates the possibility of and the demand for even more current information for decision making. The committee believes that to better prepare to meet the future spatial data needs of the nation NMD must begin a process of redirecting its roles, goals, and mission to better serve not only the USGS and the Department of the Interior, but the cartographic enterprise as a whole. To accomplish this, NMD must be restructured to better meet future user requirements. NMD must expand its role in coordination of mapping activities both within and beyond the federal establishment. The committee urges other federal agencies to participate in supporting the development of the National Digital Cartographic Data Base (NDCDB) and to follow NMD’s lead in creating and adopting national standards. The USGS will be looked to for leadership in the area of standards and in the structuring and operation of an enhanced NDCDB—a national spatial database. The committee also believes that there is a need for NMD to examine innovative ideas for continuing and strengthening its existing work-sharing and cost-sharing programs, including the concept of a data donor program. NMD must continue to be sensitive to the emerging needs of the federal agencies for the operational production of special-purpose continental and global scale map products, such as those associated with programs such as the global change initiatives and those of the Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction Program. Finally, the committee also recommends that NMD expand its research program and improve its ties with universities and public and private sector users, in the interest of improving the overall quality of our national cartographic enterprise. The committee recommends that the National Mapping Division expand its role in developing the National Digital Cartographic Data Base so that its functions include management and coordination, standard setting and enforcement, data production, cataloging, and data dissemination and related services.

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Spatial Data Needs: The Future of the National Mapping Program increase its activities to provide a larger number of classes of spatial data to better meet national needs both within the earth science/natural resources sector and in other sectors that are dependent on spatial data. speed the creation of the National Digital Cartographic Data Base by (1) increasing emphasis on work-sharing and cost-sharing programs, (2) developing, prototyping, testing, and implementing a digital data donor program throughout the public and private sectors, and (3) allocating adequate NMD resources to information management and user/donor coordination, and, if necessary, increasing these relative to traditional data production programs. continue and, if possible, expand its efforts in establishing and promulgating digital spatial data quality standards, including standards for larger-scale data sets and maps. establish plans for and begin prototyping a national spatial data base, which would be an enhancement of the National Digital Cartographic Data Base and would be feature-oriented and accessible on-line by the year 2010, if not sooner. expand its current research activities in digital cartography, geographic information systems, and remote sensing and image processing.