Strategic Enhancement of NGA's Geographic Information Science Infrastructure

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Executive Summary

This proposal describes a three-year program of research into two related topics in geographic information science (GIScience). Users of geospatial technologies are increasingly faced with the problem of multiple data sources and the incompatibilities between them. Although geographic information systems (GIS) are often presented as the solution to problems of integrating data from multiple sources, in practice a large proportion of the resources of any project are devoted to overcoming initial problems of format, syntax, semantics, quality, and spatial support. The first two of these problems have been addressed over the past ten years through the development of a number of common standards and specifications, but the others are proving more difficult. This project will bring focused research effort to bear on them, and develop and implement solutions.

The project is divided into two phases, addressing first spatial webs and then data integration, since work on the second phase will depend in part on completion of the first. We define a spatial web as an information community actively sharing geospatial data, and propose to work to remove the impediments that currently exist to such sharing, in the face of issues of semantics, quality, and spatial support. We propose a four-task research agenda to address these issues over the first two years of the project.

The second phase will address data integration, which we define as the steps undertaken to combine data once the problems of the spatial web have been addressed. Such combination can be for a range of purposes, from fusion to concatenation and averaging, and we will develop methods to address all of these purposes. Integrated data inherits many of the properties of the data being integrated, but new properties are often created in the process; data quality, for example, may be better for data that have been averaged. We will research and implement appropriate methods for the automatic creation of metadata for integrated data sets, as part of a comprehensive four-part research program to address data integration.

The project will leverage the facilities and research expertise of the three institutions that are partners in the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA), a consortium founded in 1988 with a major grant from the National Science Foundation. The bulk of the effort will be at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but subcontracts are proposed with the University at Buffalo and the University of Maine. Buffalo researchers will contribute to the effort on spatial webs, and Maine researchers to the effort on data integration.

We will also provide opportunities for students in the Masters program at the University of Redlands to participate in the research, to conduct research projects of their own, and to interact with researchers and graduate students at NCGIA.