At NSGIC last week Milo Robinson of FGDC reported back on the Future Directions study that aimed to give some guidance to that committee.Last June FGDC completed the study aiming to "to draft a strategy and implementation plan for the FGDC to further the development of the NSDI." That came from outreach events including one at last year's NSGIC mid-year.Three key focus areas were identified: Partnerships with Purpose, Making Framework Real, Communicating the Message.Twelve action teams have been set up to move these forward.The first report is already published (in February).Two action plans have been finalized: Fifty States and Communications.They will move to a steering committee in the June time frame.Those involved with a few of the teams presented their work to date.
50 States Initiative
The goal of the "Fifty States Contributing to the NSDI Initiative" (50 States Initiative) is straightforward: By 2006, have 50 state coordinating councils in place that routinely contribute to the governance of the NSDI.The action team behind the initiative included state coordinators, federal agency reps, General Services Administration and URISA.First, the team updated the state GIS coordinator criteria (NSGIC has had a list for a while, but it was updated) and then defined council characteristics (broad representation, strategic plan, funding) and explored what councils should do (data sharing agreements, define stewards, post framework data layers to clearinghouses, create metadata, participate in The National Map, adopt appropriate standards, etc.).
Perhaps needless to say, NSGIC which has pushed for and advocated for state GIS coordinators was most pleased to see this work in action!
The Future Directions report highlighted the importance of standards, in particular noting:
Standardizing is critical for interoperability
ANSI is a first step toward interoperability
Expansion of framework layers is necessary
The seven framework standards were developed under Geospatial One-Stop but now are under FGDC, registered under INCITS (the ANSI accredited body for geospatial).Comments are currently being reviewed.The plan is for approval by ANSI by the end of calendar year 2005.There are implementation schemas available.
During the standards discussion attendees were asked to review the list data categories currently listed in the Office of Management and Budget (OBM) Circular A16, which guides geospatial.From the 26, participants were to identify up to five that were of particular significance.(These would ideally be put on the fast track for standards development.) This seemed a bit silly since for example, coastal states might be far more interested in maritime baseline or shoreline data than inland ones.And, as one attendee noted to me, a parallel effort is currently underway at the Department of Homeland Security.FGDC is not alone in its standards work: URISA has submitted an address data standard and NOAA is developing a shoreline data standard.
There are federal agencies that are not creating metadata or if they are, they are minimal.FGDC is collecting profiles of "A16" agencies to see how they were doing "metadatawise." Next up: FGDC wants to extend the survey to NSGIC and state agencies and work with the University Consortium for GIS to develop metadata into its core curriculum.Ideally this work will help encourage and empower geodata creators to create valuable metadata.Work in education and training revolves around establishing a more formal standardized metadata training program with different levels, developing a trainer network, and even expanding training beyond metadata to include topics such as a course on NSDI 101.
It's time for a more holistic approach to NSDI governance in general.That was the suggestion of the Future Directions work.
In a second session on the topic speakers explored the meaning of "governance." One might think of "telling people what to do" but in fact the term encompasses the definition of an organizational structure, the provision of leadership and authority, the definitions of roles and all associated regulations, policy and procedures to make NSDI happen.Why do we need governance? It boils down to the fact that governance helps connect the distribution of money and practices across silos (those disconnected organizations/structures into which money typically flows).One recurring theme in the discussions later was that these silos prevent dedicated work toward NSDI to occur.
In building a governance model, there are many factors to consider - it must be national, include the right level of decision maker, and be inclusive among other things.Part of the reason to consider this new governance possibility is to address the current challenges in NSDI governance - limited coordination, duplication of effort, etc.
The action team looked at previous materials and efforts as well as doing workshops with ASPRS, ACSM, MAPPS, GITA and other to gather ideas on governance.From that work, the group drew up four different "straw man" options for governance.Two basically did not set up a new organization but relied on existing legislation and organizations.The other two offered two different ways "to get to" a new organization.One other option, similar to the Ordnance Survey model, was rejected as too top-down and competitive with the private sector.The options were offered as much so illustrate different ways forward; we were not trying to select one.In brief the four shape up this way:
(1) Create a new entity via legislation, a National Geospatial Coordinating Council
(2) Create a new entity based on existing and new organizations in phases
(3) No council - use Circular A16 and Federal CIO Council Charter
(4) Create OMB Office (based on Office of Federal Procurement Policy)
The attendees split into small groups to do some high level thinking and address if a new organization was necessary, and if so what it might look like.We also looked at current challenges.
I was surprised that the four groups all questioned the need for a new organization.Many noted its risk, and the time it would take for it to have credibility within the government.Despite all the current challenges there was a sense that we'd be better off "tweaking" what we have in place today.Most groups noted that much of the challenge of building NSDI came down to funding it and make it easy for states and local governments to get funds from the federal government.The idea of a "funding clearinghouse" for NSDI came up more than once.
Other groups wanted to expand FGDC's role to include accountability and to increase outreach for full buy in from say, governors, Congress or the president.Membership might include non-profits and academic institutions.The other theme that ran throughout the reports: that the federal agencies need to streamline their involvement with state and local organizations.Finally, several people noted that we needed to look carefully at the work of the GeoData Alliance and why that organization, with the best of intentions and lots of hard work, was unable to move NSDI forward.
There will be more study on governance options (through April) with a report due in May.Stakeholders will provide feedback and a final report is expected in June.