Acknowledgements Table of Contents Sections 1-3 Section 4 Sections 5-6

1. Framework for the Initiative

The idea for an Initiative on Collaborative Spatial Decision-Making (CSDM) first arose from discussions between Armstrong and Densham. They had worked together on various elements of the research agenda for Initiative 6 (Spatial Decision Support Systems) and saw the need to move the focus of decision support research from individuals to groups as a natural outgrowth from Initiative 6.

The general objective of a specialist meeting is to develop and refine a research agenda by:

Five major objectives for Initiative 17 were stated in Densham and Armstrong's proposal to the NCGIA's Board of Directors (Appendix C):
  1. examine the body of theory on the design, implementation and use of computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) environments and evaluate its utility for GIS/GIA;
  2. identify impediments to the development of highly interactive, group-based spatial modeling and decision-making environments;
  3. develop methods for eliciting, capturing and manipulating knowledge bases that support individual and collective development of alternative solutions to spatial problems;
  4. develop methods for supporting collaborative spatial decision-making (CSDM), including methods for managing spatial models; and
  5. extend capabilities for supporting multicriteria decision-making in interactive, CSDM environments.
During preparations for the Specialist Meeting, Armstrong and Densham have published papers on various aspects of CSDM (see Section 5) and they both participated in a NATO Advanced Research Workshop, entitled Cognitive Aspects of Human-Computer Interaction for Geographic Information Systems, that addressed some research issues for CSDM. Held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, during March of 1994, this meeting was organized by Timothy Nyerges - a member of Initiative 17's Steering Committee.

In consultation with the Steering Committee, the initiative leaders refined their initial objectives and five cross-cutting research topics were identified as potential topics for discussion during the Specialist Meeting:

  1. The development of a metaplanning capability: methods to elicit, capture and manipulate knowledge bases that support individual and collective development of alternative solutions to spatial problems.
  2. The design and implementation of methods to improve decision-makers' interaction with spatial analysis tools, including modelbase management systems, visualization and display tools, and group-based user interfaces.
  3. The provision of mechanisms that enable decision-makers to evaluate alternative solutions to a problem.
  4. The identification, selection and incorporation of methods for resolving spatial conflicts in interactive, CSDM environments, including multicriteria decision-making.
  5. The characterization of CSDM processes, including but not limited to the specification of task models in various domains such as environmental, transportation, natural resource, economic development, emergency management, and other high priority subject domains; and investigations which elucidate the use of CSDM technology in various CSDM subject domains.
These themes were made public when an open call for participation was issued during March of 1995 (Appendix D).

2. Participants

2.1 External participants

The organizers sought to bring together a wide range of researchers from academia as well as from the public and private sectors. In particular, the organizers encouraged the participation of researchers with interests in linkages between GIS and group-based decision-making, researchers with international links and researchers who could provide specific examples of the strengths and weaknesses of GIS in CSDM research.

Fifteen of the external participants were affiliated with universities in 5 countries (US, Canada, UK, Germany and Switzerland). Two of the participants work for US private corporations (one of these has recently moved to an academic position, but retains a part-time relationship with his prior employer). Three participants work for US public sector agencies. Two additional international participants (David Grimshaw, UK, and Paul Hendriks, the Netherlands) were not able to attend at the last minute, but as their position papers were included in the set reviewed by others they are included in Appendix E. Furthermore, Mike Batty, one of the Steering Committee, had last minute demands that prevented him from attending the meeting.

2.2 NCGIA participants

A total of five NCGIA faculty, students and staff attended the meeting: one member of faculty, one research staff member, and two graduate students from UCSB, plus one research staff member from NCGIA Maine. NCGIA participants represented departments of geography and spatial information engineering and science; in addition, Professors Helen Couclelis and Waldo Tobler from NCGIA Santa Barbara attended for portions of the meeting.

3. Meeting Format

3.1 Preparation

Formal preparation for the specialist meeting began in July of 1993 when Paul Densham and Marc Armstrong made a proposal to the NCGIA Board, meeting in Buffalo. A revised and expanded proposal for Approval in Principle was submitted to the Board at their meeting in December, 1993, and Approval in Detail was granted in July, 1994.

An open call for the meeting was distributed during April, 1995, to several news-groups (comp.infosystems.gis, comp.groupware, bit.listserv.geograph, news.announce.conferences). Potential attendees were asked to submit a three to five-page position paper and a brief biographical sketch by June 1st, 1995. Each paper was reviewed by the Initiative leaders and members of the steering committee. The position papers were posted on the NCGIA WWW server ( and participants were asked to read the papers before arriving in Santa Barbara for the specialist meeting.

3.2 Working group formats

Participants were not asked to prepare a formal presentation for the meeting; instead, they were asked to prepare for a mixture of plenary and small working group sessions by reading the position papers submitted by the other participants and considering these in light of their own particular areas of expertise. Appendix B contains the meeting schedule. The small working groups discussed issues identified in the plenary sessions. Each group focused on a different issue, or set of issues, and participants chose the one they attended. The self-selection process for these groups worked well, with most of the groups having a balanced membership. Each group selected a spokesperson to report their discussions and findings to the larger group. To help present their results, participants had access to DOS and Macintosh word-processors, laser printers, overhead transparencies, and other, more traditional display media and materials. After the first morning, plenary sessions were devoted to working groups' reports and discussion of them. Each plenary session was chaired by a meeting participant to help direct the form and content of the session and to prevent the initiative leaders from unduly guiding the discussion.

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Posted March 3, 1996

Comments to Karen Kemp