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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus
programs (see Box) that have been established between the federal government and state and local government, industry, and academic communities in promoting the objectives of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.
As the NSDI is explicitly a national concept, the committee considers that it is appropriate that the federal government originated and continues to play the major role in its construction. As the primary sponsors of the first stage of adoption of the NSDI, the federal government has successfully “primed the NSDI pump.” This priming action appears to have been directed largely at the one specific goal of improved access to data, and the evidence gathered by the committee 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. Therefore, in the data access area, 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.
Full adoption of the NSDI will require attention to the remaining three goals: reduced redundancy, decreased cost, and increased accuracy. To date, the funding incentives established by the FGDC through the NSDI partnership programs do not appear to have significantly affected these goals. The committee strongly suggests that the FGDC direct its attention to the remaining three goals, in order to assure the future of the NSDI, with the understanding that successfully attaining these additional goals will require a much more fundamental level of cooperation among partners than the simple sharing of an agency’s existing data. Specifically, future partnership programs sponsored by the federal government should be based on convincing evidence that adoption of the NSDI’s concepts and design result in reductions in redundancy and cost, as well as increased accuracy. 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,