structure to conduct research—its approach could establish GIScience leadership for the USGS.

Indeed, in proposing that CEGIS be established, McMahon et al. (2005) stated, “The USGS must redevelop and reassert its leadership role in GIScience.” Until the 1980s, the USGS was the nation’s leader in collecting, processing, producing, and distributing spatial data. USGS researchers drove the national research agenda, and several of the major research conferences, including the early Auto-Carto events, were cosponsored by the USGS. The geospatial community looked to the USGS as a source of high-quality spatial data and maps, for coordination of access to spatial data, and as a place where some of the world’s best ideas emerged on spatial processing, projections, uncertainty, and visualization.

In recent years, however, the USGS has undertaken several transitions that have weakened its national leadership in these aspects of GIScience. Although other entities such as the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) have stepped in to coordinate national-level geospatial research, they have even more limited resources than USGS to do so. A dynamic, nimble, cutting-edge research unit at CEGIS could lead a nationally important GIScience research agenda that more effectively focuses and harnesses the nation’s GIScience assets in academia, industry, government, and nongovernmental organizations. Also, even though The National Map will be the initial impetus for identifying research challenges (Chapter 3), solutions to these problems will be of broader interest and be applicable throughout the geospatial community.


No two mapping agencies are identical because each has different demands and constraints. Nonetheless, the committee received a range of information on how research is conducted within mapping organizations around the world and within the United States, and drew upon the lessons of these organizations as it deliberated on ideas for recommending an approach that CEGIS might follow. Case studies from three such organizations are presented in this section. The Conception Objet et Généralisation de l’Information Topographique (COGIT) Laboratory in France (Box 4.1) and the research unit within the Ordnance Survey (OS) in the United Kingdom (Box 4.2) are both successful research laboratories that support foreign national-level mapping capabilities. The Basic and Applied Research Office of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) (Box 4.3) supports U.S. geospatial intelligence provision capabilities.

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