6
WORKSHOP RESULTS

Not surprisingly, the workshop reached no conclusive consensus on the future of spatial data and society. Consequently, the results of the workshop as summarized in this report consist of ideas and issues drawn directly from the workshop in addition to issues arising from subsequent discussions of the Mapping Science Committee. This chapter contains lessons learned from the workshop including an evaluation of the workshop mechanisms and new insights about the national spatial data infrastructure (NSDI). Additionally, it contains sections on strategic planning as it relates to organizations that have a stake in the future of spatial data and a set of questions about major strategic decisions.

LESSONS LEARNED

Workshop Mechanism

Organizers of the workshop made use of several mechanisms for encouraging participants to think creatively about the future of the NSDI: circulation prior to the workshop of background documents and white papers and an agenda that broke the meeting into three stages of facilitated discussion, first identifying external driving forces, then enumerating anticipated changes, and finally considering four alternative scenarios.

It goes almost without saying that thinking creatively about the future is difficult. Our imaginations are dominated by present and past experiences and, while the human brain's powers of reasoning are normally very effectively based on learning by analogy and recognizing patterns, these characteristics naturally work against us when attempting to speculate about an uncertain future. Presented with a new technology, our natural inclination is



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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop 6 WORKSHOP RESULTS Not surprisingly, the workshop reached no conclusive consensus on the future of spatial data and society. Consequently, the results of the workshop as summarized in this report consist of ideas and issues drawn directly from the workshop in addition to issues arising from subsequent discussions of the Mapping Science Committee. This chapter contains lessons learned from the workshop including an evaluation of the workshop mechanisms and new insights about the national spatial data infrastructure (NSDI). Additionally, it contains sections on strategic planning as it relates to organizations that have a stake in the future of spatial data and a set of questions about major strategic decisions. LESSONS LEARNED Workshop Mechanism Organizers of the workshop made use of several mechanisms for encouraging participants to think creatively about the future of the NSDI: circulation prior to the workshop of background documents and white papers and an agenda that broke the meeting into three stages of facilitated discussion, first identifying external driving forces, then enumerating anticipated changes, and finally considering four alternative scenarios. It goes almost without saying that thinking creatively about the future is difficult. Our imaginations are dominated by present and past experiences and, while the human brain's powers of reasoning are normally very effectively based on learning by analogy and recognizing patterns, these characteristics naturally work against us when attempting to speculate about an uncertain future. Presented with a new technology, our natural inclination is

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop to put it to the same context as the old and to evaluate it on that basis. Thus, the first automobiles were evaluated as carriages in which the horse had been replaced by the internal combustion engine and the first computers as calculating machines. These legacies of old technologies are important in the short term but must be put aside if we are to think clearly about the impacts of new technologies a decade and a half from now. Nicholas Negroponte, in his book Being Digital, notes that much of his creative input in speculating about digital futures comes from listening to teenagers, who approach new technologies relatively free of the constraints that legacy ideas impose on the rest of us. Unfortunately, no teenagers were available to participate in the workshop. Moreover, assuming that creative ideas are comparatively rare outliers, the democratic processes of workshops, particularly when facilitated in the interests of consensus building, may work directly against creativity. In that sense the discussion that is provoked by the publication of this report may have greater value in the long run than the report itself. The Importance of Spatial Data While the NSDI is by now a well-entrenched and well-recognized concept, discussions at the workshop remind us of the role of spatial data in the much broader changes now occurring as society moves forward into the information age. In many areas the problems of spatial data are merely echoes of much broader concerns. In others, however, they are distinctive. While both types were discussed at the workshop, the emphasis there and in this report has been on the latter. For example, it would be difficult if not impossible to make sense of the four Wegener and Masser scenarios discussed in Chapter 5 if the word "spatial" were replaced with some other type of data, however well defined. The vast majority of the points made in this report apply more or less exclusively to spatial data; in that sense there is, indeed, something special about "spatial." National Spatial Data Infrastructure In earlier reports, the Mapping Science Committee took the view that the NSDI should not be limited to datasets or to the

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop technology for assembling, disseminating, and processing them but should be defined as the entire means to assemble geographic information, including the materials, technology, and people necessary. The workshop provided strong endorsement for that view, amply justifying the decision to adopt a broad definition that could accommodate technological change, focusing instead on the purposes that technology serves. In the future it will be more important than ever that the NSDI continues to be responsive to societal needs, politically relevant, and economically viable. STRATEGIC PLANNING The last session of the workshop reviewed the forces, trends, and likely outcomes for spatial data in the next 15 years. The implications of these outcomes for local, regional, state, and federal agencies and the entire spatial data community were discussed in terms of future concerns, workshop observations, and cautions. As with the previous sections, the committee summarized these observations and findings. It is the Mapping Science Committee's sense that most workshop attendees think it is more likely that the spatial data community will influence rather than change the course of society to any significant degree. However, workshop participants were given the opportunity to look at the specific implications of a wide range of future forces on the spatial data community, first by identifying external forces likely to drive changes, then by identifying specific changes, and finally by discussions framed by four alternative-future scenarios. These three stages of the workshop provide a template for strategic planning with wide applicability to organizations, agencies, and groups in the spatial data community. To frame its strategic planning within the template outlined in this report, an organization might ask itself the following questions: How important to the organization are the past and future driving forces identified in Chapter 2, and should other driving forces of particular significance be added to the list?

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop How significant to the organization are the changes identified in Chapter 3, and should other changes of particular significance be added to the list? Could society or the community change so dramatically that it would alter the demands on the organization or job? What will be the impacts of the decisions proposed in the organization's long-term strategic plan if parts of the scenarios discussed in Chapter 5 materialize? Is the organization's long-term strategic plan sufficiently flexible to accommodate several alternative future scenarios? What future scenarios would be incompatible with the organization's long-term strategic plan? STRATEGIC QUESTIONS Organizations and stakeholders within the spatial data community will be making many strategic decisions and choices in the coming years. In some cases a choice may directly influence the path of society toward one of the Wegener and Masser scenarios. This section presents a series of questions that could be asked about a major strategic decision and that might help elucidate a decision's implications. Each question addresses one or more issues of fundamental significance for the future of the NSDI. Questions for Partnership Initiatives Does the partnership arrangement achieve shared financial and management control and benefits among all participants? Does the partnership arrangement account for proposed or anticipated demand for the information generated, used, or assembled by the partnership activities beyond the life of the activities? Does the partnership arrangement address issues related to information liability, public records management, commercialization, copyright, and third-party distribution of databases in the present as well as into the future?

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop What level of government, partnership, or commercial authority is best to establish the institutional owner of the information to guarantee long-term viability, accountability, and cost effectiveness of the public funds? Have differences of professional terminologies and standards among the partners been identified and understood? Questions for Data Suppliers How will your organization develop information policies to balance the rights of the individual against the community's right to know? What information should be secure and what should be public? How will your organization assimilate real-time or near-real-time data into information policies? As the gap between collection and use shortens, how will updates, dissemination, security, access, quality assurance, and information integrity be managed? How will your organization take advantage of data collected from nontraditional sources? How will your organization manage personnel, technology, and information as it changes from production operations to partnerships? How will your organization adapt its investment strategies to respond to rapid technological change and yet ensure cost-effective access to current technology? Is your organization prepared to provide data in full immediate digital form, and are your customers ready to receive the information? Is your organization prepared to certify the quality and timeliness of its data? Questions for Education and Research Initiatives What will be the impact of this initiative on equity of access to future technologies? How will alternative future scenarios for intellectual property rights impact this initiative?

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop What degree of access will midcareer professionals and traditionally under-represented groups have to this initiative? Does this initiative emphasize training in the current state of the technology or education in its underlying principles? Is this proposal for applied research to address immediate problems or basic research on longer-term, fundamental issues? Questions for Other Organizations As a user of data produced by others, is your organization provided with appropriate quality and timeliness certification, and are you able to make use of it effectively? Is your organization prepared to manage information in an environment where data are ubiquitously available on demand using wireless technology? SUMMARY As noted previously, the workshop and this report are intended to be one step in a continuing dialogue on the future of the NSDI, as a collective vision is developed of the role it will play in society in the coming decades. 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. The NSDI must function as a forum for continuous dialogue, as a mechanism to promote research and education, and as a source for numerous partnerships and collaborations. The committee hopes this report will serve to stimulate continuing dialogue in the coming months and years and help inform policy and advisory groups that make decisions and develop strategic plans for the long term. Although this report is not definitive, it may serve as a starting point, to be modified and enhanced through ongoing debate and discussion of the NSDI in the future.