Science is increasingly driven by data. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has developed several discipline-specific spatial data infrastructure (SDI)1 programs over the years and has begun developing a comprehensive SDI through The National Map program. The 2007 USGS Science Strategy outlines the immediate and future science directions at the Survey, and any future SDI will need to be designed to serve these strategies. There are several technical challenges to developing a coherent SDI for any institution, but some of the largest challenges may be organizational. Establishment of a coherent SDI in the USGS to connect spatial data, metadata, tools, and a user community offers a potential for great advances in how science is conducted at USGS and elsewhere.
The charge for the present study is to describe a vision for a USGS-wide SDI and to create a roadmap for executing that vision (see Box S.1). It is not within the scope of this study to design an SDI, create an exhaustive list of recommended datasets or recommend specific funding for SDI development. Those activities will be the work of the USGS if it chooses to move forward with the plan outlined in this report, and some of this work is already in progress through the USGS Council on Data Integration and other agency initiatives.
It is important to note the distinction between an SDI at the USGS and
1A spatial data infrastructure (SDI) is a framework of spatial data, metadata, tools, and a user community that are interactively connected so that spatial data can be used in an efficient and flexible way (Nebert, 2004).
the broader and more ambitious goal of a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).2 The NSDI is the work of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC, 2011), and the USGS is an important contributor to this multi-partner effort. The key design focus of the USGS SDI, and therefore the focus of the present study, is to support science in the agency and to address key disciplines of water, geology, biology, and geography. An important secondary goal is to support science in other federal agencies, state, local, and tribal governments, academe, and the private sector.
The USGS recently dissolved the organizational structure around the four core disciplines of water, geology, biology, and geography and reorganized around the strategic directions outlined in the landmark 2007 Science Strategy (USGS, 2007). The reorganization is significant with respect to SDI development because it establishes an Associate Directorship for Core Science Systems, which includes the National Geospatial Program. Because the Science Strategy outlines the future science directions for the agency, the present committee adopted the six science directions in it—ecosystems, climate, energy and minerals, hazards, environmental health, and water—as the focus of this report for optimizing an SDI. Indeed, the members selected for the committee were identified to address each of those directions.
The Science Strategy clearly defines a need for geospatial data to support each of the science directions. In the opinion of this committee, an SDI is so important for supporting the six directions that it probably deserved its own chapter in the Science Strategy report as an underpinning to those six directions. The committee hopes that this report can serve as the “missing chapter” of that important document.
This report incorporates state-of-the-art SDI concepts for consideration by the USGS. Our review of contemporary SDIs in use today in government, academe, and private industry provided the basis for adapting these concepts to the needs of the USGS. Clearly, keeping an SDI relevant over time will require the USGS to regularly review developments in SDI components.
There are not likely to be any surprises in the committee’s definition of an optimal vision for an SDI for the USGS. Much has been written and debated publicly on the subject (e.g., NRC, 1993, 1995, 2001; Onsrund, 2007), and the Survey has held recent workshops to review the concepts. A focus on execution and defining a roadmap as called for in the third item of the Statement of Task (Box S.1) is the USGS’s primary need with regard to an SDI. Although it is neither appropriate nor feasible for the committee to recommend changes in the
2Executive Order 12906, published in 1994 and amended in 2003, initiated the development of a coordinated National Spatial Data Infrastructure and National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse and called for the establishment of spatial data standards, partnerships for data acquisition, and a National Digital Geospatial Data Framework.
organizational structure of the USGS, some critical elements of a successful SDI implementation pertain to the entire organization and are described in this report.
This report is organized according to the Statement of Task. Chapter 2 provides background on the Science Strategy and its dependence on geospatial data and identifies the challenges for a successful SDI. Chapter 3 addresses Task 1, lessons learned from SDI implementation in other organizations that the committee felt were pertinent to the USGS situation. Most of the information for the chapter was drawn from briefings to the committee and a survey of key people and organizations involved in SDI development and implementation. Chapter 4 addresses Task 2, outlining the committee’s vision for optimizing an SDI for the USGS and discussing key goals for desirable constituent elements of an SDI. Finally, Chapter 5 addresses Task 3 with key recommendations on organizational considerations and a general roadmap for SDI implementation. The committee understands that execution is USGS’s key need with respect to its SDI; Chapter 5, although brief, might be the most valuable contribution of this study.
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