In July 2002 the NRC appointed the Committee to Review the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of The National Map (see Appendix A). This committee acted under the auspices of the Mapping Science Committee. The committee’s charge was to review the goals for The National Map and evaluate the 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 to be 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 existing USGS documents to encourage wide-spread 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.

Information gathering for the study was centered on a workshop that took place in Washington, D.C., on September 25–26, 2002. Approximately 40 people from all levels of government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders were invited to submit written input prior to their attendance at the workshop (see Appendix B). These submissions are accessible at <>, and some key points are extracted as quotes in Appendix D. In addition to the written input and discussions at the workshop, the committee drew on materials provided by the USGS, including its “vision” document for The National Map (USGS, 2001) and a compilation of community input solicited by USGS on the previous draft of its vision document.


The committee acknowledges that the USGS Geography Discipline1 has made a bona fide effort to confront its future head-on with The National Map vision. If successful, the program will have great benefits to the nation. The National Map vision of the USGS is ambitious, challenging, and worthwhile. Nevertheless, there is also a uniform sense that the project is not well defined and needs a thorough definition.


The USGS has recently changed the nomenclature of its branches to emphasize its scientific disciplinary structure. The National Mapping Division and Geography Research are now reflected at USGS by the Geography Discipline.

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