The UCGIS Research Agenda - driving forward by locating challenges

By Gregory Elmes

Research Agenda A vital component of the mission of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) is to foster multidisciplinary research in Geographic Information Science.UCGIS is an institutional organization comprising more than 70 members, widely recognized as an important voice of Geographic Information Science (GIScience).To accomplish the research element of its mission, UCGIS provides research priorities for advancing theories and methods, and also an organizational framework to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, and commitment to basic GIScience and initiatives driven by national needs.

Since 1995, UCGIS has identified a set of research challenges and priorities in an invigorating and intellectually stimulating set of exercises.Usually the process has called on members to propose and justify topics to be considered as candidate challenges. Three such thought provoking meetings focused on research issues have been held: in Columbus, Ohio (1996), Mount Hood, Oregon (1998) and Athens, Georgia (2002).A fourth meeting, in Minneapolis, MN was held in 1999 to link basic science problems to GIS applications, resulting in a special issue of the URISA Journal in 2000.The process is designed to be open, inclusive, comprehensive, and not a little competitive; after all GIS advances swiftly and the underlying problems are diverse and growing in number, as the ambitions of GIScientists expand.While UCGIS has no direct funding capability it has established channels for targeted project support, including from HUD, FGDC and USGS.

The current agenda is divided into long term challenges and short term priorities, which are listed below with links to briefings and white papers.

Long-term Research Challenges


Short-term Research Priorities

A result of the UCGIS agenda-setting exercise is the forthcoming book: Robert B.McMaster, and E.Lynn Usery (eds.), A Research Agenda for Geographic Information Science, to be published on 8/26/2004 by CRC Press, ISBN: 0849327288.The book presents a state-of-the-art review of GIS topics and outlines a statement of contemporary research challenges.The book identifies critical issues that must be appreciated and the scientific problems that have to be solved if GIScience and related technologies are to move forward.Chapters in this book address the basics of GIScience, and how they relate to the research agendas of cognate fields such as statistics and cognitive science and include topics of spatial analysis and modeling, visualization, ontology, data mining, distributed and mobile computing, remotely acquired information, and GIS and society.

The research agenda process involves private business, government agencies and academia in a rigorous assessment of problems and needs.Since developments in GIScience are extremely rapid and driven by a number of groups, it is essential that the priorities be reassessed and revised on a regular basis.But agenda setting alone is insufficient and the UCGIS process has input into the research direction decision making of companies, such as Intergraph and ESRI, and has a degree of influence on the priorities of national funding agencies such as NSF. The biocomplexity in the environment, information technology research, the cyberinfrastructure, and the human and social dynamics initiatives all offer opportunities for further research in geographic information and geographic systems of many types.Based on its past practical successes, UCGIS will continue to identify and support the leading edge GIS research issues of the day and seek the means to investigate and resolve them.


Published Thursday, July 1st, 2004

Written by Gregory Elmes



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