UCGIS at Its 10-Year Anniversary

By Lynn Usery

On December 4, 1994, 42 individuals representing 33 universities, research institutions, and the Association of American Geographers (AAG), met in Boulder, Colorado to establish the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS).From this Boulder meeting came the initial charge for UCGIS: that it would be a non-profit organization of universities and other research institutions dedicated to advancing the understanding of geographic processes and spatial relationships through improved theory, methods, technology and data.

Today, UCGIS has grown into an organization of more than 70 member institutions and is a widely recognized voice of Geographic Information Science (GIScience).In 10 years, UCGIS has been rapidly expanded and implemented the vision of the Boulder meeting in accomplishing its mission:

  • To serve as an effective, unified voice for the geographic information science research community;
  • To foster multidisciplinary research and education; and
  • To promote the informed and responsible use of geographic information science and geographic analysis for the benefit of society.
Its goals include:


  • Provide ongoing research priorities for advancing theory and methods in Geographic Information Science.
  • Assess the current and potential contributions of GIS to national scientific and public policy issues.
  • Expand and strengthen Geographic Information Science education at all levels.
  • Provide the organizational infrastructure to foster collaborative interdisciplinary research in Geographic Information Science.
Benefit Society
  • Promote the ethical use of and access to geographic information.
  • Foster Geographic Information Science and analysis in support of national needs.
UCGIS holds two annual meetings, a Summer Assembly of the UCGIS Council and a Winter Meeting held in Washington, D.C., in February of each year (see below for a description of the meeting).The Summer Assembly is usually convened near a member campus, and its primary goal is for delegates to address and access GIScience research and education challenges to meet the UCGIS mission, goals, and national needs.The assembly also features a series of workshops, presentations by invited senior scientists, student presentations and poster competitions, and awards for Young Scholars and for the GIScience Researcher and Educator of the Year.The Summer Assembly offers an ideal environment for researchers and students from member and non-member institutions across the country and overseas to meet and interact.

In 2004, the UCGIS Summer Assembly will actually be held in October in conjunction with the GIScience 2004 Conference to allow the Council of delegates to interact with a broader array of GIScientists worldwide and to provide a larger forum for the intellectual exchange of knowledge in GIScience.

The Winter Meeting provides a venue for member institutions to present their research results to members of Congress and their staff showcasing the value of GIScience to the nation.The meeting also features presentations by federal agency representatives reporting to UCGIS delegates of needs and funding opportunities in the federal agencies for GIScience research and education.The Winter Meeting also offers an ideal opportunity for UCGIS delegates to meet with members of their state congressional delegations in Washington, DC.

In the 10 years since its formation, UCGIS has developed a set of long-term research challenges documented on the UCGIS web site and in a forthcoming book from Taylor and Francis.The evolution of the research agenda has also included examination of applications of these research challenges and now includes a set of short-term research briefs.The applications and research briefs are also documented on the UCGIS web site.

UCGIS developments in education have included a set of priorities, distance learning, virtual seminars for graduate students in GIScience conducted among UCGIS member institutions, and a model curriculum document.These education objectives of UCGIS are ongoing and details are presented on the web site.

UCGIS has grown to be the primary organization representing GIScience researchers and educators in the United States and is gaining acceptance worldwide.It now includes representation of the initial founding university members plus additional universities, professional societies, corporate affiliates, a government agency and foreign affiliate institutions.The list of the member institutions can be viewed here. UCGIS continually welcomes new member institutions and is well positioned to lead the GIScience community in its second decade.

Published Thursday, March 11th, 2004

Written by Lynn Usery

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