National Academies Press: OpenBook
« Previous: Executive Summary
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

1
Introduction

HISTORY

Since 1807 the United States has recognized a federal government responsibility to develop and disseminate maps and charts to “promote the safety and welfare of the people” (Thompson, 1988). This mission was significantly expanded in 1879, when Congressman Hewitt of New York in authoring legislation to create the United States Geological Survey (USGS) asked, “What is there in this richly endowed land of ours which may be dug, or gathered, or harvested, and made part of the wealth of America and of the world, and how and where does it lie?” Charged with this task, Clarence King as the first director of the USGS concluded that it mandated the mapping of the nation, a task increasingly formalized as a defining operation for the USGS. As the second director, John Wesley Powell, acting on advice from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS, 1884), consolidated national mapping efforts and started work on a 20-year mapping program as a “sound framework for scientific study and national resource development.” This initially consisted of maps at 1:250,000 and 1:125,000 scale, but by 1894 two-thirds of the nation was covered at the more detailed scale of 1:62,500. During the twentieth century the mapping evolved into a National Mapping program, today the responsibility of USGS’s Geography Discipline (see Box 1.1).

During the 1950s a standard mapping scale of 1:24,000 was adopted for the contiguous states and Hawaii, and the national mapping effort started

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

BOX 1.1
Mission of the USGS National Mapping Program

“To accomplish its mission, the Office of the Associate Director for Geography conducts the National Mapping Program to meet the Nation’s need for basic geospatial data, ensuring access to and advancing the application of these data and other related earth science information for users worldwide. The responsibility of the National Mapping Program is to ensure the production and availability of basic cartographic and geographic spatial data of the country; coordinate national geospatial data policy and standards; provide leadership for the management of earth science data and for information management; acquire, process, archive, manage, and disseminate the land remote sensing data of the Earth; and improve the understanding and application of geospatial data and technology.”

SOURCE: Michael Domaratz, USGS, personal communication of a planned revision to the Department of the Interior manual, 2002.

anew based on the principles of photogrammetry and air photograph interpretation pioneered and advanced during World War II. By 1991 the 1:24,000-scale paper topographic base map of the United States was complete, although Alaska remained mostly covered at the 1:63,360 scale.

Today the USGS’s primary topographic map series includes more than 55,000 unique map sheets and 220,000 digital orthorectified images. Although this ranks as a great, if unsung, scientific accomplishment, most of the nation’s map coverage1 is out of date. Paper map sheets in the USGS’s primary map series are on average 23 years old (USGS, 2001). Map timeliness, a function of the rapidity and effectiveness of map revision, remains a critical national need. At the same time, events such as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and recent natural disasters have shown that current information in the public domain can save lives and protect public and private property. The demand is great for up-to-date information for public welfare and safety.

Yet even before the completion of the monumental undertaking of mapping the nation, mapping methodology began to transform itself around the digital information revolution.2 Paper maps now meet only a

1  

Geographic extent of coordinates in the map database.

2  

Hence, the committee uses the term map, as in The National Map, not in the strict sense of a paper graphic depiction of a scaled symbolization of geographical

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

minority of the needs of map users, and maps have evolved into digital spatial data, computer representations of the nation’s features and of the paper maps that first captured them. The digital transformation has taken the mapping world by storm. The USGS began a digital conversion effort in the 1970s, and digital mapping of America is taking place at the local level as literally thousands of separate private, nonprofit, academic, tribal, state, and local organizations build and now maintain their own detailed maps and databases to suit their own needs, often independent of federal mapping efforts.

Recognizing this transition, the USGS envisions its role as the national spatial data coordinator, rather than as the central map creator for the next level of the mapping of the nation (USGS, 2001). Key to this role will be the USGS’s proposed leadership in spatial data standards development (USGS, 2001).3 The broader aim is to build out the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) (see Box 1.2) that links spatial data holdings across the nation. In the committee’s view this infrastructure will approach completion once it contains high-quality, integrated, nationally consistent data linked to other larger-scale spatial datasets, such as those being generated by communities around the country. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of data and technology reside with local, state, and tribal entities, and thousands of data-collection projects are planned. What is needed is the collaborative architecture and incentives to maximize the benefit to all participants.

CURRENT CONTEXT

The USGS has proposed a new national map.4 In the vision document proposing the project (USGS, 2001) The National Map is seen as providing “public domain core geographic data about the United States and its territories that other agencies can extend, enhance, and reference as they

   

features in their correct locations, but as any such depiction, and even a “latent” map within a spatial database. Thus a “national” map could exist independently of any scheme for the delivery of hard copy scaled depictions of part of the map coverage.

3  

This role is already assigned to the USGS in OMB Circular No. A-16. As a lead agency on a number of data themes the USGS has the responsibility to facilitate the development and implementation of Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) standards in those themes.

4  

The generic term “national map” (which in the modern context of maps is centered on a digital database) is distinguished from the USGS program for The National Map by capitalizing and italicizing the latter.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

BOX 1.2
The National Spatial Data Infrastructure

Called for in Executive Order 12906 (see Appendix C), the goal of the NSDI is to reduce duplication of effort among agencies, improve quality and reduce costs related to geographic information, to make geographic data more accessible to the public, to increase the benefits of using available data, and to establish key partnerships with states, counties, cities, tribal nations, academia, and the private sector to increase data availability.

The NSDI has come to be seen as having the technology, policies, criteria, standards, and people necessary to promote spatial data sharing throughout all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and academia. It provides a base or structure of practices and relationships among data producers and users that facilitates data sharing and use. It includes a set of actions and new ways of accessing, sharing, and using geographic data that enables comprehensive analysis of data to help decisionmakers chose the best course(s) of action. One focus of NSDI activities has been on Framework data themes, which are cadastral data, digital orthoimagery, elevation and bathymetry, geodetic control, government units, hydrography, and transportation. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is the primary coordinator of the NSDI at the national level.

Much has been accomplished in recent years to further the implementation of the NSDI, but there is still much to be done to achieve the vision of current and accurate geographic data being readily available across the country.

concentrate on maintaining other data that are unique to their needs.” The National Map is seen as a spatial database rather than a traditional map. USGS’s new role in The National Map is as the integrator of locally held spatial data sets. The USGS would be, in other words, the agency responsible for managing the placement of localized data into a common reference frame.

The USGS has presented The National Map as its way to continue to serve the mission of the National Mapping program in the twenty-first century. Indeed, it could be said that the USGS National Mapping program’s long-term survival depends on the success of this potentially invaluable resource, which will enhance the NSDI. The USGS initiative is not alone on the federal side in seeking to build the NSDI. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (see Box 1.3) is accelerating the

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

advancement of the NSDI, driven by the proposed Internet portal Geospatial One-Stop (see Box 1.4).

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE USGS VISION DOCUMENT

This section summarizes the characteristics of The National Map vision as laid out by the USGS in its vision document (USGS, 2001).

Data Characteristics

National Map layers will include

  • high-resolution digital orthoimagery;

  • high-resolution elevation and bathymetry;

  • vector data themes (hydrography, transportation, structures, boundaries of government features and publicly owned lands);

  • geographic names (e.g., physical and cultural features); and

  • land-cover information.

National Map data characteristics will include

  • up-to-date data (with the ultimate goal that none will be more than seven days older than a change on the landscape);

  • seamlessness (accessible for arbitrarily defined study areas);

  • consistent classification;

  • variable resolution (never worse than existing primary series topographic maps for an area);

  • completeness;

  • consistency and integration;

  • variable positional accuracy;

  • reprojection to a uniform datum;

  • standardized content;

  • standardized metadata; and

  • appropriate archiving to capture the temporal dimension of change in data layers.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

BOX 1.3
Structure, Membership, and Current Role of the Federal Geographic Data Committee

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is an interagency committee that coordinates the development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geographic data nationally. The OMB established the committee in the 1990 revision of Circular No. A-16 and reestablished it in the circular’s 2002 revision. The FGDC evolved in part from an earlier committee established by OMB in 1983 called the Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee on Digital Cartography.

The FGDC membership is composed of representatives from 18 cabinet-level and independent federal agencies. Eleven nonfederal collaborating partners representing state and county governments, tribal governments, cities, academic institutions, geographic information science professionals, and the private sector are active stakeholders in FGDC.

FGDC is organized into a Steering Committee, Coordination Group, 12 data subcommittees, and 13 working groups. The Steering Committee sets strategic direction for the FGDC as a whole and the Coordination Group advises on day-to-day business. As laid out in OMB Circular No. A-16, the Steering Committee is chaired by the secretary of the interior or designee and vice-chaired by the deputy director of management for OMB, or designee. Departments are most often represented by cabinet-level appointees, independent agencies by managers of the geospatial and technology programs, and the nonfederal collaborating partners by the leaders of their organizations. The monthly Coordination Group meeting is chaired by the FGDC staff director.The FGDC subcommittees are organized by data themes and coordinate the development, use, and dissemination of that data theme. Working groups play a crosscutting role, dealing with issues that span many of the subcommittees. Staff support for FGDC committees is provided by the FGDC secretariat staff. FGDC receives a budget of approximately $4.9 million from the USGS to facilitate coordination, develop standards, sponsor cooperative agreements, and support the secretariat staff.

Some of the accomplishments attributed to the FGDC include the development and issuance of approximately 25 spatial data standards including the metadata standard; establishment of clearinghouses that provide access to spatial data using metadata standards; hundreds of cooperative agreements that sponsor the development of Framework data, the development and testing of spatial data access technology and interoperability; and numerous publications and educational materials describing the National Spatial Data Infrastructure and its various components.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

SOURCE: FGDC (2002a); Milo Robinson, FGDC, personal communication, 2002.

BOX 1.4
What is Geospatial One-Stop?

Geospatial One-Stop, one of twenty-four e-government initiatives of the Office of Management and Budget, includes a proposed portal that is designed to be the single online portal for the government’s spatial information databases (Bhambani, 2002). The One-Stop project aims to accelerate ongoing efforts to build the National Spatial Data Infrastructure and “to spatially enable the delivery of government services (FGDC, 2002b).” The project has a finite lifespan, initially intended to be two years, and is focused on the seven Framework data themes (see Box 1.2).

For Geospatial One-Stop to be effective, participating data producers must classify and document their data holdings following accepted standards. Geospatial One-Stop aims to advance spatial data collaboration initiatives by accomplishing the following tasks (FGDC, 2002c):

  1. Develop and implement data and metadata standards for NSDI Framework data themes;

  2. Maintain an operational inventory of spatial data and publish their metadata records through the portal;

  3. Publish metadata detailing planned data development, acquisition, and update investments;

  4. Deploy enhanced data access and Web-mapping services; and

  5. Establish a comprehensive electronic portal as a logical extension to the NSDI clearinghouse network.

Geospatial One-Stop is an ambitious project with a challenging schedule. Data standards for Framework data themes are slated for completion in 2003. To manage the initiative, a Geospatial One-Stop Board of Directors has been established that brings together representatives of multiple federal agencies, and state, local, and tribal governments organizations.

SOURCES: Bhambani (2002); Cameron (2002); FGDC (2002b,c).

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

Widespread Use and Maintenance of Data

The National Map will have a range of traits to encourage widespread use and maintenance. The vision document proposes that The National Map will

  • initially draw heavily on existing sources of data;

  • update databases only with needed changes;

  • rely on notification of changes from those closest to the change (e.g., local governments, certified local volunteers);

  • comprise distributed networked data sources maintained to common standards by data holders;

  • be available free across the Internet (or at a cost of media and distribution);

  • use industry-supported, open, standards-based protocols;

  • provide unrestricted and immediate access to data;

  • maintain data in the public domain;

  • be readily linked to databases of other federal agencies and organizations, acting perhaps as a reference base on which to link other attribute information, or combining data displays with those of other organizations; and

  • provide access to detailed data or value-added services for a fee from public and private organizations.

Roles of the USGS and Partners

In the vision document USGS roles are

  • guarantor of completeness, consistency, and accuracy;

  • responsible party for awareness, availability, and utility of the map database;

  • catalyst and collaborator for creating and stimulating partnerships;

  • integrator and certifier of data from contributors;

  • owner and producer of content when no other suitable and verifyiable source exists;

  • leader in the development and implementation of national spatial data standards (additionally, the USGS will ensure data quality through standards development, by devising and implementing quality assurance procedures, and by promoting process certification criteria for content providers);

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
  • provider of liaison staff to other agencies and in area maintenance offices to be closer to users and partners to understand their needs; and

  • provider of field centers to provide management, technical, and administrative support to National Map activities.

Specific outcomes assigned in the vision document are

  • a federal advisory committee (with membership from all sectors) will advise on evolving requirements, approaches to maintenance and processing, systems and technology development and implementation, and skill enhancements;

  • federal partners will collaborate with the USGS in data development and maintenance (e.g., Bureau of the Census for roads and boundaries; Department of Agriculture for imagery; Environmental Protection Agency for hydrography and land cover; Federal Emergency Management Agency for elevation; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for bathymetry and geodetic control; National Imagery and Mapping Agency for data needed for national defense);

  • state, tribal, regional, and local partnerships will be strengthened to bring high-resolution data into The National Map (cooperative agreements will support activities that are mutually beneficial to state or local partners and the USGS);

  • private-sector partnerships will be sought, particularly in supplying analysis and visualization tools, for research on cartographic technologies, and for open technology and processing standards;

  • the USGS will acquire data from the private sector with licensing provisions that support broad access and use;

  • academic and library partners will collaborate with the USGS on cartographic, geographic, and general information science challenges (the USGS will continue its partnership with the U.S. Government Printing Office on assuring access to The National Map through the Federal Depository Library program [FDLP], and will seek library partnerships for data archiving for permanent access); and

  • public partnerships will arise in the form of certified volunteers possessing Global Positioning System (GPS) units.

THE CHARGE TO THE COMMITTEE

The National Research Council was asked by the USGS to review its concept of The National Map as part of the broader review process of their vision document (USGS, 2001). The three focal topics for the

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

committee parallel the structure of the vision document. Centered on a workshop, the study reviewed the goals for The National Map and evaluated approaches described in existing USGS documents to meet these goals, the potential benefits of The National Map to the nation (e.g., for homeland security) and the role of the USGS as the proposed leader of this effort. Specific aspects evaluated were (1) the proposed data characteristics and recommended methods for providing consistent data for these characteristics over areas of arbitrary geographic size or shape from multiple data holdings whose characteristics will vary among sources; (2) the means described in USGS documents to encourage widespread use of The National Map through low-cost data in the public domain, and still encourage participation in data maintenance by public, private, and nonprofit organizations; and (3) the roles described for the USGS and partners, including volunteers, to undertake the project.

The National Research Council’s Committee to Review the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of The National Map has taken its task literally, that is, we have reviewed not only the USGS’s vision in their descriptive document (USGS, 2001) but also the concept and implications of a national “map” independent of the USGS’s document. The USGS vision document has undergone extensive review and public comment, and the committee began its assigned task by reviewing these earlier inputs. All involved with the committee’s review and the workshop believe that the USGS has created a vision of profound scope with critical national impacts. As with the 1884 National Academy of Sciences report, the committee seeks a “perfect co-ordination and co-operation” between the parties involved that will bring forth a “practicable…plan for surveying and mapping the Territories of the United States on such general system as will, in their judgment, secure the best results for the least possible cost.”

REPORT STRUCTURE

This report begins with a discourse of the need for a national map, continues with a discussion of it’s component parts and how such a concept could be implemented, and concludes with recommendations. The recommendations are grouped into the three focus areas in the committee’s charge. Supplemental information has been placed in appendixes, but relevant descriptions of programs, concepts, and terminology necessary to follow the flow of discussion have been included in boxes that parallel the report.

During its deliberations the committee considered the comments received in written and oral form during the workshop. Where pertinent,

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×

these comments are quoted and attributed accordingly. These statements have been chosen to illustrate particular points or to reflect the consensus of the committee.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
This page in the original is blank.
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 9
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 10
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 11
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 12
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 13
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 14
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 15
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2003. Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map'. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10606.
×
Page 18
Next: 2 The Need for a National Map »
Weaving a National Map: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of 'The National Map' Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $53.00 Buy Ebook | $42.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Weaving a National Map draws on contributions to a September 2002 workshop and the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) "vision" document for The National Map, envisioned by the USGS as a database providing "public domain core geographic data about the United States and its territories that other agencies can extend, enhance, and reference as they concentrate on maintaining other data that are unique to their needs." The demand for up-to-date information in real time for public welfare and safety informs this need to update an aging paper map series that is, on average, 23 years old. The NRC report describes how The National Map initiative would gain from improved definition so that the unprecedented number of partners needed for success will become energized to participate. The challenges faced by USGS in implementing The National Map are more organizational than technical. To succeed, the USGS will need to continue to learn from challenges encountered in its ongoing pilot studies as well as from other federal-led programs that have partnered with multiple sectors.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!