NCGIA Initiative 17:
Collaborative Spatial Decision-Making

National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA)

Co-leaders
Paul Densham, University College London
Marc P. Armstrong, The University of Iowa
Karen K. Kemp, University of California at Santa Barbara


Many spatial problems are intrinsically complex and require an interdisciplinary approach to their solution. Consequently, individuals often collaborate on developing solutions to these problems, working as members of a committee or task force. It is in supporting this collaboration that existing spatial decision support systems are weakest: they are not designed explicitly to provide tools that enable groups to develop and evaluate alternative solutions to complex spatial problems. The purpose of this initiative, therefore, is to extend current conceptual frameworks for spatial decision support systems (SDSS) to help groups of decision-makers generate tractable solutions to ill-defined spatial problems. A specific point of emphasis will be placed on integrating SDSS with new computer supported cooperative work environments. Such environments enable groups of people to work together by providing a set of generic tools that handle many of the tasks that are required of group enterprises: exchange of textual, numerical and graphical information; and group evaluation, consensus building and voting. To be credible in supporting group problem-solving and decision-making, collaborative spatial decision-making (CSDM) systems must exhibit certain characteristics. Three focal areas for research are: first, how to encapsulate knowledge in SDSS to assist decision-makers in formulating alternative solutions to their problem; second, how to improve decision-makers' interaction with spatial analysis tools; and finally, how to provide decision-makers with mechanisms for evaluating alternative solutions to a problem