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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus 2 Review of NSDI Partnership Programs The MSC, in its 1994 report, Promoting the National Spatial Data Infrastructure through Partnerships, stated (NRC, 1994; p. 1): “Cooperation and partnerships for spatial data activities among the federal government, state and local governments, and the private sector will be essential for the development of a robust National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).” In this report, the committee articulated its vision of a partnership model. This model was built on the foundation of shared responsibilities, shared cost, shared benefit, and shared control. That same report reviewed some existing cooperative programs and partnership activities. These included: The Bureau of the Census’s State Data Program. The National Geodetic Survey’s program for incorporating local input into the national geodetic control network. NOAA’s partnership with South Carolina to build a state-of-the-art natural resource information management system. EPA’s cooperative program to help fund the Maryland Digital Orthophoto Program. These are just a few examples of how federal agencies work with non-federal partners to help advance the development of spatial data. Some of these programs may be viewed as mechanisms for meeting agency mandates, whereas others are based on special funding arrangements. Clearly, such partnership activities would have
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus evolved out of necessity, innovation, or political motivation without the existence of the FGDC. The MSC has always viewed the NSDI in the broadest possible context. It suggested that “The infrastructure includes the material, technology, and the people necessary to acquire, store, and distribute…geographic information that describes the arrangement and attributes of features and phenomena on the Earth” (NRC, 1993; p. 2). In its workshop report, The Future of Spatial Data and Society (NRC, 1997; p. 42), the MSC concluded that “The NSDI is comprised of consortia in which all stakeholders in the spatial data community play important roles, whether as federal, state, or local governments; corporations; academic institutions; or individuals.” This broad definition makes it extremely difficult to assess the status of the NSDI in its entirety; therefore, this study only focuses on the specific role of the FGDC as a catalyst in the process. When the FGDC was given the explicit mission of coordinating federal spatial data development activities, it identified the need to establish a more formal mechanism for developing partnerships. This chapter presents a review of the FGDC partnership programs that have promoted various aspects of the NSDI over the past seven years. As a consequence of the MSC’s charge to provide external advice to federal agencies, the primary focus of this study is to review these specific FGDC-sponsored programs rather than to assess all the other formal and less formal programs sponsored or coordinated by non-federal groups and institutions that have also helped to promote the development of the NSDI. This review includes a brief discussion of each program and its objective, together with an assessment of the program’s effectiveness in addressing the goals of the NSDI. These assessments rely on: views the committee gathered through presentations made at its September 1, 1999, meeting; on past assessments the sponsors of partnership programs conducted and made available to the committee; on views participants expressed in a forum the committee convened at the August 1999, NSGIC meeting in New Orleans; on responses to a questionnaire the committee distributed to participants in federally sponsored partnership programs; and on the committee members’ experience and expertise. While it is impossible for the committee to conduct in-depth surveys, its members have extensive firsthand knowledge of the development of the NSDI, the programs of the FGDC,
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus and the experiences of a wide range of users in both the public and private sector. It should also be noted that in February 2000, the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) issued a Request for Proposals (UCGIS, 2000a) for an assessment of FGDC’s funding programs, “…to better understand their effectiveness, to determine whether the grants are the most effective means to achieve the NSDI goals, and to help guide future grant efforts.” The UCGIS study, being carried out by the Department of Geography at SUNY at Buffalo, is being funded under a contract between UCGIS and FGDC. We expect that, when completed, the UCGIS study will add substantially to our knowledge of the effectiveness of these programs, and will complement the content of this present report. An important element of this study is an assessment of reasons why organizations have decided not to participate in the NSDI partnership programs. NSDI COOPERATIVE AGREEMENTS PROGRAM In 1994, the FGDC initiated the NSDI Cooperative Agreements Program (CAP) (1994; p. 1) “…to help form partnerships with the non-federal sector that will assist in the evolution of the NSDI. The goal is to encourage resource-sharing projects through the use of technology, networking, and more efficient interagency coordination…” This program is now in its seventh year. It funds activities that promote the goals of NSDI, and is designed to provide relatively small amounts of money that leverage local sources and stimulate new activity, particularly new partnerships. By keeping the funding amounts small and limiting its awards to seed funding for one year, CAP strives to initiate long-term activity while avoiding long-term dependency on federal funding. As a consequence of policy decisions and budget priorities, the nature and size of the program and the types of projects funded have varied considerably from year to year: 1994 —Approximately $250,000 was distributed among nine projects. 1995 —Projects that developed and used metadata tools were emphasized; $625,000 was allocated to 22 projects.
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus 1996 —$1.1 million supported 31 projects, with an emphasis on Framework development. 1997 —$1.2 million was allocated to support 36 projects, with an emphasis on projects involving many cooperating groups. 1998 —$1 million was given to 31 projects; for the first time federal agencies were eligible for funding. 1999 —$1.8 million was used to support 95 projects under the Don’t Duck Metadata program (see below). The funding success rate was very high (95 of 108), but the grants were smaller than in previous years. Before 1999, funding success rates had averaged 35 to 40 percent. 2000 —$1 million was distributed among 45 projects, supporting the Don’t Duck Metadata initiative, Framework Demonstration projects (see below), and for the first time the Open GIS Consortium’s Web Mapping Testbed was supported with four successful projects. 2001 —$1 million is available for partnership projects, distributed among Don’t Duck Metadata, integration of clearinghouse nodes with the Web Mapping Testbed, and U.S.-Canadian Framework collaborative projects. To be eligible for CAP funding, a proposal must involve a partnership among agencies, and non-federal partners must provide matching funding of at least 25 percent of total project costs. Successful CAP projects have usually included an emphasis on improvement of local government decision making. The funds have been used to encourage new partnerships that can build on existing expertise. They have typically addressed one or more of three fundamental areas of data sharing: improving the way users find or access data through the development of clearinghouses; improving the integrity or usability of data through the creation of metadata; and creating or maintaining the data themselves. A few projects have simply promoted the concepts of the NSDI or provided training and educational opportunities. Several practical problems have arisen in the management of CAP funding. Since the grant competition is based on an annual cycle, some states with a biennial budget process have not been able to respond in a timely manner. Furthermore, because the grants are fairly small, institutional oversight has not always been adequate. For example, a few
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus grants have been awarded to smaller agencies that are not part of a statewide coordinated effort. In fact, some awards have detracted from long-term state objectives by diverting resources from data conversion efforts. The FGDC has resisted requiring state geographic information councils to approve proposals, but does look for consistency with state strategic plans. It also favors proposals that appear to promote attention to NSDI issues at the state level; however, the FGDC has no formal mechanism to ensure that the funds are compatible with local goals. Over the past seven years, every state except North Dakota has presented a successful proposal. Although the committee has not conducted a comprehensive analysis of the success and impact of all of these awards, anecdotal evidence suggests that some states have certainly utilized the CAP funds to assist and promote ongoing efforts. States that have been most successful in gaining awards tend also to be most actively involved in other aspects of the NSDI. For example, they are likely to have established a state geographic information council, developed a clearinghouse node, or had a high response rate to the 1998 NSGIC Framework Data Survey. The ultimate success of the NSDI will depend on nationwide acceptance. While it is unlikely that each of the thousands of local government entities will endorse the objectives of sharing spatial data, it would be reasonable to expect every state to participate. The FGDC, in conjunction with NSGIC, could establish a virtual organization (an “Interactive Town Square,” see OMB, 2000) to keep everyone informed and make organizations aware of opportunities. Efforts could be made through the National Governors Organization to designate a key office in a state that would be charged with the responsibility of handling communication with the FGDC. The FGDC could also concentrate on educational or training sessions that could be offered regionally. This would encourage regional participation and minimize the cost to participants. In September 1997 the FGDC produced its own assessment of the CAP, based on the period 1994 through 1996 (FGDC, 1997b). The FGDC report examined program effect from three perspectives: Program output: were project objectives achieved? Intermediate outcome: are project efforts being continued beyond the funding period?
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus Long-term impact: are the tenets of the NSDI being incorporated into the programs of non-federal organizations? The FGDC’s information was obtained from final project reports as well as from questionnaires sent to the 62 funding recipients, 52 of whom responded. The FGDC assessment concluded that the CAP is: adding structure and discipline to the process of building a national information resource; helping state governments, libraries, universities, local government organizations, and private sector entities become anchor tenants on the NSDI and thereby attracting others to use and become a part of the infrastructure; helping to form data-sharing partnerships that are still continuing, that might otherwise not have happened; increasing the level of collaboration across agencies, and bringing attention to organizations that has led to new collaborative activities; showing the non-federal community the importance of documenting data to standards that will make the data useful in multiple applications; raising the level of information technology skills in the geospatial data user community as project collaborators train people in their local communities, who in turn become trainers of others; building the accumulation of experience and knowledge that others can use to reduce the uncertainties associated with investing in new ideas and technologies and, ultimately, lower their costs; showing the non-federal sector the feasibility of some applications that they might otherwise have passed over; changing, in some cases, agencies that have historically been information repositories to being customer-driven service providers; extending access to the NSDI to new constituencies and to organizations and communities that typically are not on ‘the geospatial information highway’; and clearly demonstrating that as completed projects have time to mature and grow, organizations are realizing more benefits than originally anticipated.
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus In the committee’s opinion, the total financial commitment to the CAP program represents a very minor investment. The total federal contribution to the CAP during these three years was approximately $2 million. By comparison, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that total federal expenditures on digital geospatial data activities in 1993 amounted to approximately $4 billion, and total sales of GIS software in these years were in the hundreds of millions. To emphasize this point, a recent commentary estimated the total worldwide expenditure on GIS and related activities was of the order of $15 billion to $20 billion (Longley et al., 2001; p. 360). An examination of personnel costs provides a useful perspective on the CAP investment. The $2 million investment would provide full-time employment for at most 20 suitably trained people for one year. That averages approximately half a person-year for each of the states that were successful in the program. Even under the most optimistic leverage scenarios, CAP funding was only a minor component of total geospatial data investment. It is to the FGDC’s credit that CAP recipients are so positive about the experience, and the program has seeded so many projects that have the potential for long-term effect. This is particularly noteworthy given obvious constraints the one-year budget cycle imposes on these projects. Framework Demonstration Projects Program The Framework Demonstration Projects Program (FDPP) was initiated in 1996 as a funding initiative separate from the CAP. In 1998 a joint announcement of both programs was made, and in 1999 the program was merged with the CAP program. Continued support for the FDPP was reflected by the funding of four projects in 2000, but the program was not included in the 2001 call for proposals. According to the FGDC (1996; p. 1), the FDPP was established to: “…support cooperative projects that test the means by which the geospatial data community can work together to build and maintain the data Framework for the NSDI…Funding is provided for implementations of multi-organization, multi-sector partnerships to coordinate data collection, maintenance, use and
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus access in local and regional areas. Program participants will identify a basic information content for the Framework data and will develop technical, operational, and business contexts by which a distributed, collaborative data collection and maintenance effort will operate.” At approximately $100,000, the average FDPP award is substantially larger than the average CAP award made between 1994 and 1998, and almost an order of magnitude larger than the CAP awards of 1999. In 1996 the FDPP funded seven projects for a total of $810,000. Total funding for the program fell to $470,000 in 1997, but rebounded to $845,000 in 1998. The following examples illustrate the range of projects funded under the program: A Statewide Framework of Public Lands Data Using Locally Derived Cadastres (North Carolina, 1996) “…will create a viable technical process for the maintenance of the Framework cadastral theme in North Carolina by improving statewide datasets of federally and state-owned property” (FGDC, 1997a; Appendix H). The Baltimore-Washington Regional Digital Spatial Data Framework Demonstration Project for the Gwynns Falls Subwatershed (Maryland, 1996) “…will explore the administrative and technical issues of linking local and regional datasets for the Framework themes of geodetic control, digital orthoimagery, elevation, transportation, hydrography, governmental units, and cadastral data” (FGDC, 1997a; Appendix H). Alaska Transportation Mapping Coordination Project Linking State and Local Programs to Build the NSDI (Alaska, 1998) “…to better organize Alaska’s state and local mapping authorities to address the transportation Framework layer” (FGDC, 1998; p. 1). Even though the funding level for these projects was more substantial than in the previous FGDC effort, the amounts remain small in comparison with the size of the geospatial data user community. Furthermore, the committee finds it difficult to determine whether the larger FDPP grants have been more effective than the smaller CAP grants, although it is apparent that the relatively small size of CAP awards and their short duration has created some problems of continuity. The
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus core team for all of the projects tends to be small, and the temporary nature of the funding often leads to an unstable working environment. The departure of a key player can severely impede the success of a project and momentum can quickly disappear. Don’t Duck Metadata In 1999 the FGDC sponsored 95 projects to promote the creation and use of metadata in support of geospatial data sharing. This program was designed to encourage the adoption of consistent policies for metadata, and to counter the notion that metadata are expensive to create and have limited benefits. Grants of approximately $18,000 were given to 42 states to stimulate partnerships that would promote the development of metadata. Metadata play a critical role in the NSDI. They facilitate the sharing of data, particularly between partners who are not in direct contact with one another; it is necessary to document the contents of datasets; to provide sufficient detail to allow computing systems to open and access them; and to document data quality. In effect, these metadata components allow potential users to assess the fitness of datasets for their own use, and to minimize the problems associated with importing data from another system. Such sharing of data is central to the NSDI goals of reducing duplication of effort, improving data quality, and improving data access. Unfortunately the benefits and costs of metadata creation accrue in ways that do not necessarily promote these goals. Most of the costs of metadata creation accrue to the custodians and creators of data, while most of the benefits accrue to users, often in other organizations. As a result, data providers tend to “duck” metadata or to assign them a low priority. The FGDC believes that one solution to this difficulty is to bring users and creators into a single partnership that can reassign or aggregate costs and benefits in ways that are more satisfactory to all the partners. The committee considers that smaller grants (e.g., the average award of $18,000 in 1999, and $22,200 in 2000) appear to be inadequate to meet the program’s objectives. Moreover, the decision to fund almost all applicants (95 of 108 in 1999; 31 of 32 in 2000) may prove to be
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus detrimental to the goal of partnership development. After reviewing the call for proposals for the 2001 program, the committee notes that the maximum grant limit—$6,000 for metadata implementation assistance and $30,000 for trainer assistance—may restrict the likelihood of success, whereas the maximum limit of $75,000 for the single US-Canadian Framework project is a more appropriate funding level. The committee also noted that the 30 percent of the funding allocation for 2001 is reserved for federal agency grants. The committee considers that the strength of the NSDI partnership program lies in the development of partnerships between federal agencies and other levels of government, industry, and academic communities, and views the reservation of such a substantial proportion of available funds as detrimental to the leveraging concept and unlikely to have the catalyzing effect that the committee originally promoted. In the committee’s view, one of the significant benefits of the FGDC partnership programs lies in the effort that must be made during the proposal preparation stage. Several participants have commented that the “carrots” the FGDC offers have fostered interagency cooperation, which has resulted in successful long-term collaborations independent of the outcome of the award competition. Consequently, a high success rate may actually reduce one of the incentives for collaborative efforts. COMMUNITY DEMONSTRATION PROJECTS Community Demonstration Projects represent an FGDC effort to promote another level of partnership. By using $645,000 provided by the National Performance Review Fund, FGDC was able to fund six projects from 1998 to 2000 that demonstrate the importance of geospatial data in community-wide planning. At its September 1999 meeting, the MSC heard presentations on the program as a whole, and on projects carried out in Dane County, Wisconsin; the Tijuana River Watershed; Gallatin County, Montana; and the Baltimore City Police Department. Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI) is a partner with FGDC in these activities, providing the projects with in-kind software support and expertise. Each of the projects is exploring an innovative form of community-federal partnership with a major geospatial data component.
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus A common objective for each of the projects is to promote the broad-based participation of stakeholders in planning and decision making by enabling geospatial information to be easier to create, share, and use. The underlying premise is that geographic information technology can change the traditional way that local decisions are made. The goal is to better inform citizens, to get them involved in the planning process, and to enable them to explore alternative scenarios. Each of the projects makes use of GIS technology, as well as a wide range of alternatives such as the Internet, cable TV, displays at public meetings, and collaborative software to help disseminate information. The following bullets summarize the key points made to the committee on each of the four projects presented: Dane County, Wisconsin. This county has a long history of innovative uses of geospatial data and technologies, particularly in agriculture and land-use planning. The project aims to address inequities in the accessibility of geospatial information through a series of workshops for professionals and the general public. Among many benefits of the process to its stakeholders, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will gain a better understanding of community needs for soils data. Available at: http://www.lic.wisc.edu/shapingdane. Tijuana River Watershed. This watershed straddles the United States-Mexico border and feeds an estuary that is part of NOAA’s estuarine research program, the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) Program. Geospatial information provides the common language among five overlapping projects within the NERR, with an improved assessment of flood vulnerability as a major goal. Available at: http://typhoon.sdsu.edu/tjwater. Gallatin County, Montana. This project aims to engage the community in evaluating options for growth in the county, which is being impacted by urban sprawl. The county contains part of the Greater Yellowstone area, with its high environmental sensitivity. This project is exploring and evaluating ways of presenting geographic information and planning options through community meetings, the media, and other mechanisms. Available at: http://co.gallatin.mt.us/planning/index.htm.
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus Baltimore City Police Department. Conducted in partnership with the Department of Justice, this project is exploring ways to use maps and other products of geospatial information technologies to reduce crime, and the fear of crime, in Baltimore neighborhoods. Available at: http://usdoj.gov/criminal/gis/rcagishome.htm. Two additional projects were completed under the Community Demonstration Program: Tillamook County, Oregon. This flood mitigation and restoration project integrated several datasets to assess the risk of flooding. Available at: http://gisweb.co.tillamook.or.us. Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna Watershed. This flood mitigation and environmental management project utilized web-based approaches to share maps with the community. Available: http://www.fgdc.gov/nsdi/docs/cdp/ppt/UpperSusquehanna_files/frame.htm. Although each of these projects revolves around geographic information technology and geospatial data, their objectives and the objectives of their sponsors go well beyond the immediate aims of the NSDI, especially in the realm of data integration. Although the federal investment is small, it is being spent in just a few local areas, and thus can be expected to have a more significant local impact than the same amount of investment directed at an entire state. The committee believes that these projects represent a valuable investment in a few well-designed experiments. The four projects represent a cross section of geographic areas and public policy issues. They are being conducted by experienced teams and show great promise in evaluating how well some of the technological advancements that have progressed and whether they are useful in promoting a broader base of citizen participation. The projects also offer a good opportunity to determine whether the geospatial data are appropriate for the level and type of policy decisions being explored. The FGDC’s final report noted that funding precipitated the formation and maintenance of partnerships that would otherwise probably not have developed (FGDC, 2001). The FGDC document, Overview of the Lessons Learned from the NSDI Community Demonstration Projects (Executive Summary), emphasizes the importance of vision, capacity,
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus and support. The focus of the projects was on “the capacity to acquire, deliver and use geospatial data and tools in a decision making process.” The report also suggests that: “…Federal grant dollars can provide an effective incentive for communities to embrace NSDI standards and serve as “seed money” for purposes of leveraging financial and technical resources from other sources…. The NSDI community should initiate and expand projects to initiate a national infrastructure that focused on community data and information needs and eliminates barriers that communities face in working with the Federal government to build place based information management systems.” It is important to note that in June 2000, the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) gave a Hammer Award to the NSDI Community Demonstration Projects. The NPR is an interagency task force established in 1993 to find ways to make government “…work better, cost less and get results Americans care about…” (NPR, 1993). This award recognizes exceptional achievement in reinventing government. The Community Demonstration Projects were recognized because they show the benefits that can be realized by an expanded sharing of geographic information among federal and local agencies. While the Hammer Awards may not represent a very rigorous evaluation of the merits of these projects, the committee believes that it is significant that NSDI-oriented projects supported by the FGDC are being recognized as important ways to make government more cost effective and efficient. COMMUNITY-FEDERAL INFORMATION PARTNERSHIPS Development of the Community-Federal Information Partnerships (CFIP) concept was proposed in 1998 as an initiative involving several federal agencies; it evolved into a $20 million proposal in new federal funding in FY 2001. Its goals are similar to those of the Community Demonstration Projects, but encompass a much broader domain and with a much higher level of federal investment. The CFIP
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus program focuses on the role of geospatial information in community planning and the development of “livable communities”; on the role of the federal government as an agent of change and as a coordinator of geospatial data infrastructure; and on the ways that data, metadata, and technologies can be deployed to make geospatial data more accessible to all of the community’s stakeholders. A major goal of the program would be to demonstrate that the NSDI is the key to integration, and that it constitutes a way of coordinating federal and local interest in solving local issues. CFIP has received strong support from the NSGIC and from the National Association of Counties (NACo). In the committee’s view, the proposed CFIP program will have to resolve several issues in order to be successful. An analysis of project scale is needed to clarify what can be achieved with any specific level of funding, or how to divide the total funding among projects to achieve maximum effect. The committee suggests that careful consideration be given to whether the program’s objectives might be better served by a few large grants, as in general it considers that a much larger number of small grants may not always be effective. The committee advocates adoption of a funding formula that provides resources to all participants on a non-competitive basis, coupled with grants of sufficient size and duration to achieve expected outcomes. As a multi-agency program, the goals of the program are very diverse, go well beyond those of the NSDI, and will have to be clearly articulated if the program is to be successful. The process by which funds are awarded will have to be clarified, as it will involve multiple agencies and stakeholders at all levels, all ideally working toward common objectives. PRIMING THE PUMP-THE FEDERAL ROLE IN NSDI PARTNERSHIP INITIATION By definition, the NSDI is an ambiguous concept. It is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. Although it could be argued that spatial data should be treated as a commodity that is created and distributed according to a simple business model, the committee believes that it should be treated as a public good. Ultimately, geospatial data exist to serve societal purposes, such as the mitigation of hazards, efficient operation of delivery services, and wise manage
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus ment of natural resources. Geospatial data are a collective resource, produced and used by many different groups, agencies, and individuals. In this context, the NSDI represents a mechanism for the more effective production, management, and use of geospatial data. It can also be viewed in the context of a substantial innovation in the way that data are traditionally created and managed. Therefore it is useful to examine the motivation, the impediments, and the rate of adoption as this innovation diffuses through society. The NSDI inherently falls within the larger domain of information technology; therefore, it is also useful to view its development in terms of whether the intended user community is passing through the set of societal and technological “gates” that Mayo (1985) suggests inhibit the adoption of any new technology. Tulloch (1999) provides an excellent discussion of how the implementation of a multipurpose land information system can be viewed in terms of the conflict between what Mayo describes as the push of technology and the pull of society. The committee envisions the role of the FGDC as an agent of change that is charged with the mission of pushing and pulling a vast and unorganized set of users through these gates. In this sense, the development of partnerships represents successful and demonstrable evidence that the goals of NSDI have been accepted and that diffusion is occurring. More specifically, the designers of the NSDI argued that its construction would provide four benefits: reduced redundancy in geospatial data production; reduced cost; greater access to geospatial data; and greater accuracy of geospatial data. All of these four imply a comparison between a world with the NSDI and a world without it, or the world that existed before the NSDI was established compared with the situation that would have existed now had the NSDI not been constructed. In the committee’s view, the NSDI is explicitly a national concept in which the federal government originated and continues to play the major role in its construction. This is an appropriate responsibility for the federal government for several reasons. First, there is a natural tendency to equate nationwide and federal, in part because the federal government is the sole government of the nation as a whole, and in part because of its sheer size. Second, and more specifically, the federal government, through the FGDC, has played a
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus major role in the definition and design of the NSDI: The Executive Order that initiated the NSDI may be viewed as an order to the federal government, rather than as an order to the nation. In addition, the federal government clearly has much to gain from the NSDI, as well as deserving credit for much of the work behind its construction. The NSDI can provide much of the geospatial data that the federal government needs to carry out its own programs. For example, the Bureau of the Census depends on local governments for current listings of streets and addresses. A mature and efficient local-federal partnership that successfully overcomes both the technical and institutional barriers that inhibit the sharing of this information could greatly reduce the cost of conducting the decennial census. Ideally, in a robust NSDI, these data would be continually updated on a transaction basis at the local level, and shared dynamically over an internet-based clearinghouse with federal and private users. Such a partnership would probably result in a more efficient local emergency 911 system and facilitate commercial package delivery services, while simultaneously assisting the creation of a nationwide street centerline database. The committee also notes that the Ground Transportation Subcommittee of the FGDC and the Cultural and Demographic Subcommittee have made considerable progress in developing standards for handling transportation features and street addresses. These draft standards—now out for public review—are the result of extensive review by participants from many agencies. Broad acceptance of these standards will play a significant role in enabling organizations to share street and other transportation data. Because the production of geospatial data is mandated for many federal agencies, including the USGS and NOAA, it is in their self-interest to promote a robust NSDI. In fact, as the demand for higher resolution and more precise spatial data intensifies, it could be argued that the federal mapping functions will become increasingly dependent on local government data sources. For example, recent changes in policy have significantly improved the accuracy of mapping-grade GPS receivers to approximately 10 meters, which is less than the stated accuracy of the 1:24,000 scale USGS topographic quadrangles. This suggests that the largest scale nationwide mapping series is an inappropriate base map for many applications. A serious question for the next decade will be to determine the most appropriate
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus approach to the development of new national map series at a much higher level of accuracy. Although the orthophoto base of the nationwide framework database is based on a 1-meter pixel size, many local governments have already invested in orthophotos with a 0.5-foot resolution. The federal government must find more innovative ways to incorporate these high quality data sources into their overall strategy. It is clear that we are in a period of rapid change in terms of human-computer interaction and institutional arrangements. It is important that the federal government actively monitor the technological setting for the use of spatial data and participates in the further enhancement of applications. For the benefits of a robust NSDI to accrue, however, it must first reach a threshold of sustainability. The community of geospatial data producers and users must be made aware of its concepts and design, and must be persuaded to adopt them (i.e., pushed through the social gates). Because of its patchwork nature, the NSDI cannot be successful unless a large proportion of the geospatial data community adopts the NSDI principles. According to Rogers (1995), the diffusion of an innovation generally passes through five stages: knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation. As in any adoption cycle, organizations will vary greatly in the rate in which they progress through these stages. Some innovative groups will have the organizational structure and the technical ability to be early adopters, whereas others face severe impediments that will force them to lag considerably behind. The following is a simple model describing that adoption process, in three stages: Awareness or knowledge of the NSDI is promoted through the efforts of the FGDC, other federal agencies, professional organizations such as NSGIC, and individual advocates. Efforts are made to ensure that local and regional governments are provided with concrete examples of how the use of spatial data can help them solve critical problems. Benefits are characterized as incentives to capture the attention of the community, and additional monetary incentives are provided. Other parts of the community are persuaded by the novelty of the concept, and see benefits in being perceived as trendsetters.
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus Initial adopters make decisions to assist with implementation of the NSDI. They realize its benefits, document them, and disseminate awareness of these benefits to new parts of the community. Residual sections of the community are convinced by the demonstrated benefits of the NSDI, and their actions complete the adoption process. In the context of this simplified adoption model, the partnership programs discussed in Chapter 2 that are designed to provide financial incentives can be assigned to the first stage. In the committee’s view, the FGDC has played an important role in this first phase of adoption. It believes that awareness of the NSDI goals is now widespread among the user community, and there is considerable knowledge of the availability of partnership funding. However, the recent University of Kentucky study conducted for the FGDC (Harvey, 2001) noted: “More surprising, our survey revealed that half the respondents did not know what NSDI referred to. The limited awareness among local governments suggests that the most significant hurdle for developing the NSDI is raising awareness and educating local governments.” The study also found that local governments realize that they could benefit from the use of federal data sources but the smaller ones face major obstacles in the adoption of new technology and they feel excluded from the process. The authors conclude (Harvey, 2001, p. 40): “Lacking specific policy, financial, or organizational guidelines to promote involvement, NSDI implementation stumbles at the local level.” It must also be noted that although many larger local governments (e.g., Cook County, Illinois, which is investing $15,000,000) have a clear business plan for the use of spatial data, it is not clear that they feel the need to share that data with other levels of government. Continued success of the adoption process will depend on persuading a large proportion of the user community to adopt the design of the NSDI. Harvey suggests that “Building the NSDI is not only a matter of building a pyramid of data, but also of creating a pyramid of trust.” The ultimate success of such widespread adoption will depend upon proof of benefits. If that proof does not materialize, the adoption process may terminate at the first
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus stage and never provide the benefits that were originally hypothesized. As noted in Chapter 1, the committee’s purpose in initiating this assessment was to determine whether programs conducted to date have assisted in meeting the four main goals of the NSDI. As dominant sponsors of a first stage of adoption, the federal government has successfully “primed the NSDI pump.” This priming action appears to have been primarily directed at the one specific goal of improved access to data, and the evidence the committee gathered clearly demonstrates that the NSDI does indeed improve access to data. The actions of the federal sponsors of the NSDI, in creating the National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse (NGDC) and fostering the use of the Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) through partnership programs, have led to a substantial improvement in nationwide access to geospatial data. Furthermore, we anticipate that a second stage of adoption will follow; namely, where many more agencies and organizations can be expected to participate in the NGDC and adopt the metadata standard, without requiring further direct pump-priming and encouragement by the federal government. It should also be noted that the FGDC and UCGIS funded the Spatial Data and Visualization Center at the University of Wyoming to develop educational materials on metadata; see http://www.sdvc.uwyo.edu/metadata.educational.html. THE FUTURE FEDERAL ROLE IN DEVELOPING THE NSDI Full adoption of the NSDI will require attention to the remaining three goals: reduced redundancy, decreased cost, and increased accuracy. To date, the federal government’s funding incentives through the NSDI partnership programs do not appear to have had a significant effect on these goals. In many ways, these additional goals rely on a much more fundamental level of cooperation between partners than the simple sharing of an agency’s existing data. Because these goals are critical to the future evolution of the NSDI, the committee considers that continued evolution of the NSDI is in some jeopardy. Organizations that initially responded positively to the NSDI, attracted by the obvious benefits and financial
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus incentives, may grow bored or disenchanted and withdraw when the novelty wears off and the funding disappears. Others who were drawn by incentives provided by federal partnership programs may withdraw when it becomes clear that those incentives were not intended for the long term. The committee strongly suggests that, to assure the future of the NSDI, attention be directed at the remaining three goals. Specifically, future partnership programs sponsored by the federal government should be required to provide convincing evidence that adoption of the NSDI’s concepts and design results in reductions in redundancy and cost, and increased accuracy. These projects should serve as clear models of the benefits of partnerships and mechanisms for long-term sustainability. To be convincing, such demonstrations should satisfy certain criteria: Scale. Demonstrations should be large enough to provide unambiguous results, and sufficient resources should be provided to ensure that there is sufficient time for the project to be completed. Visibility. Demonstrations should be widely visible to the geospatial data community, and sufficient resources should be provided to ensure that results are widely disseminated. This can be in the form of virtual town hall meetings and “cookbooks” that demonstrate clear success stories that should be widely distributed at professional meetings attended by local government officials and workers. Rigor. Demonstrations should be designed according to appropriate scientific principles, with solid experimental designs that will ensure that the findings can be extended to other areas. This should include efforts to better understand the impediments to successful adoption of the goals of the NSDI. It will also be important that future funding initiatives be widely advertised, with the criteria for selection clearly stated. Ideally, a panel of experts in the field should evaluate the proposals, with appropriate peer-review. Partnership is a very general concept that can serve many different ends, so it is particularly important that a program of part
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus nerships intended to support the construction of the NSDI be allowed to focus on that goal. The federal government has many other goals and objectives for its geospatial data activities besides the promotion of the NSDI. Geospatial data are used for many purposes, and their use supports many goals. As a result, there is some danger that programs designed to promote the NSDI may become convolved with other programs, be diverted to serve other needs, or expected to serve too many different purposes. At the same time, it must be recognized that many projects and programs depend on accurate and current spatial data and the cost of creating and maintaining the data is a legitimate cost item (OMB, 2000; see Box 3). BOX 3 NSDI and the Office of Management and Budget It must be recognized that the activities of the FGDC partnership programs were not designed to be a panacea for solving all problems associated with sharing spatial data. Successful models rely on a combination of organization and financial resources. Over the past two years, the Office of Management and Budget has taken a keen interest in NSDI issues. In July of 2000 it held a GeoSpatial Information Roundtable with the objective of identifying the financial and institutional barriers that impede development of the NSDI. This meeting was attended by 110 senior representatives from various sectors. This gathering recognized the importance of the NSDI to E-Government and E-Business, and highlighted FGDC’s role in its stewardship. While the OMB objectives in this sphere parallel those of the FGDC, a report Collecting Information in the Information Age (OMB, 2000) argued for a new paradigm that would build the NSDI from the “bottom up”. The report recognizes the importance of scale, and notes that “State, local and tribal entities will build much of the NSDI… The challenge for the Federal government is to leverage this investment, coordinate efforts, and help state and local governments and the private sector make the data available regionally and nationally” (OMB 2000). The OMB report also recognized that “By itself, FGDC’s resources are insufficient to steward the building of ‘natural clusters’ of partners.” The participants in the roundtable developed a set of recommendations that emphasized many of the same issues that
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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus the MSC has addressed in several of its reports. For example, it also advocates the development of an extended framework. The OMB initiative established a model for Implementation Teams (I-Teams). These teams develop comprehensive plans, conduct needs assessments, and formulate implementation strategies. Although this approach was only publicized in the summer of 2000, within a year I-Teams had been established for Arizona, Arkansas, Nebraska, Delaware, Kentucky, Wayne County Michigan, New Jersey, New Jersey and New York Metro Region, New York City, Texas, Utah, North Carolina. Montana, and Oregon. Some of these initiatives are already quite extensive. For example, the Utah Framework Implementation Plan is a comprehensive assessment of statewide needs and a blueprint for creating the NSDI within the state. It is very clear that the OMB initiative is providing a valuable umbrella for coordination. According to the Utah plan, “The OMB Information Initiative to align the needs and resources to continue to develop the National Spatial Data Infrastructure provides public and private agencies in Utah an opportunity to focus on mutually beneficial partnerships. The results of these efforts will help to provide integrated information for analysis of issues and decision-making at federal, state, local, and Tribal levels of government. Further it will provide a common frame of reference for communicating information and concepts of complex issues to citizens….” The OMB initiative also called for the establishment of a ‘financing solutions team’ that would examine ways to reconcile the need for long term capital financing and the reliance on short-term annual funding mechanisms. As a consequence of this suggestion, the FGDC sponsored a report, Financing the NSDI: National Spatial Data Infrastructure—Aligning Federal and Non-Federal Investments in Spatial Data, Decision Support and Information Resources. Revision 2.0 of this report is now available for public comment.
Representative terms from entire chapter: