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Why Maps Matter

by Frank Konkel, FCW, March 17, 2014

And as mapping technology advances, it allows for far more than foolproof directions. Federal agencies now use geospatial data, geo-analytics and multi-layered maps for myriad purposes, including gathering intelligence, predicting disease outbreaks and sharing data pools with the public.

For full text of the article, please click here.

NEW US Gov Accountability Report on Geospatial Information

Geospatial Information: Office of Management and Budget and Agencies Can Reduce Duplication By Making Coordination a Priority

GAO-14-226T, Dec 5, 2013

The President and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have established policies and procedures for coordinating investments in geospatial data, however, in November 2012, GAO reported that governmentwide committees and federal departments and agencies had not effectively implemented them. The committee that was established to promote the coordination of geospatial data nationwide–the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)–had developed and endorsed key standards and had established a clearinghouse of metadata. GAO found that the clearinghouse was not being used by agencies to identify planned geospatial investments to promote coordination and reduce duplication. In addition, the committee had not yet fully planned for or implemented an approach to manage geospatial data as related groups of investments to allow agencies to more effectively plan geospatial data collection efforts and minimize duplicative investments, and its strategic plan was missing key elements.

Other shortfalls have impaired progress in coordinating geospatial data. Specifically, none of the three federal departments in GAO’s review had fully implemented important activities such as preparing and implementing a strategy for advancing geospatial activities within their respective departments. Moreover, the agencies in GAO’s review responsible for governmentwide management of specific geospatial data had implemented some but not all key activities for coordinating the national coverage of specific geospatial data.

While OMB has oversight responsibilities for geospatial data, GAO reported in November 2012 that according to OMB staff, the agency did not have complete and reliable information to identify potentially duplicative geospatial investments. GAO also reported that FGDC, federal departments and agencies, and OMB had not yet fully implemented policies and procedures for coordinating geospatial investments because these efforts had not been a priority. As a result, efforts to acquire data were uncoordinated and the federal government acquired duplicative geospatial data. For example, a National Geospatial Advisory Committee representative stated that a commercial provider leases the same proprietary parcel data to six federal agencies. GAO concluded that unless the key entities determined that coordinating geospatial investments was a priority, the federal government would continue to acquire duplicative geospatial information and waste taxpayer dollars.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government collects, maintains, and uses geospatial information–information linked to specific geographic locations–to support many functions, including national security and disaster response. In 2012, the Department of the Interior estimated that the federal government was investing billions of dollars on geospatial data annually, and that duplication was common.

In November 2012, GAO reported on efforts to reduce duplicative investments in geospatial data, focusing on OMB, FGDC, and three agencies: the Departments of Commerce, the Interior, and Transportation.

This statement summarizes the results of that November 2012 report on progress and challenges in coordinating geospatial information and includes updates on the implementation of recommendations made in that report.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making no new recommendations in this statement. In November 2012, GAO recommended that to improve coordination and reduce duplication, FGDC develop a national strategy for coordinating geospatial investments; federal agencies follow federal guidance for managing geospatial investments; and OMB develop a mechanism to identify and report on geospatial investments. Since that time, FGDC and several agencies have taken some steps to implement the recommendations. However, additional actions are still needed.

WEBCAST EVENT: New Visions for Citizen Science

NEW VISIONS FOR CITIZEN SCIENCE
Please note NEW DATE:
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
from 1:00 – 5:00 PM EDT
Woodrow Wilson Center
Ronald Reagan Building
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC
RSVP to participate in person: http://bit.ly/1cdBZyp
Watch the live webcast here: http://bit.ly/1cdBZyp
Organizations can bolster their internal resources with contributions from outside volunteers. These contributions bring new and unique perspectives to advance science and technology or generate solutions to complex challenges. However, it is sometimes unclear which problems open innovation and science can solve, or which technologies and processes can support projects in federal agencies.
The Commons Lab of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars seeks to help federal agencies understand how open innovation and science can support community and agency goals. In collaboration with the Africa Program and ESCP, we are hosting “New Visions for Citizen Science,” the first in a series of roundtable discussions on open innovation and science, on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. EDT in the 6th floor dining room at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.
This roundtable will connect federal agencies hoping to initiate or expand open innovation projects with leaders from the field of citizen science, a well-established form of mass collaboration where volunteers contribute to scientific research.
Citizen science projects have demonstrated success with a range of methodologies and diverse groups of volunteers. Projects range from classifying galaxies and collecting environmental data to collectively solving the structure of an AIDS-related enzyme through a protein-folding game. These projects increase knowledge, support education, and influence management policies and practices.
By highlighting new approaches in citizen science, we hope to help federal agencies better understand these key considerations:
  • What technologies support volunteer data collection, analysis, and problem solving?
  • How can volunteer data be integrated with formal data sets?
  • How can open innovation and citizen science inform decision-making?
  • What are the science, management, and policy impacts of citizen science?
  • How do we measure success?
Speakers include:
  • Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (invited)
  • Dr. Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology & Innovation, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (invited)
  • Dr. Jake F. Weltzin, Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, and Executive Director, USA National Phenology Network
  • Dr. Lina Nilsson, Innovation Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies, UC-Berkeley, and Founder, Tekla Labs
  • Erin Heaney, Director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York
  • Dr. Stuart Lynn, Astronomer, Adler Planetarium, and Zooniverse
RSVP to participate in person: http://bit.ly/1cdBZyp
Watch the live webcast here: http://bit.ly/1cdBZyp

 

 

Nurture affects gender differences in spatial abilities

As an undergraduate in physics many years ago, I asked my adviser about whether to pursue a career in GIScience. His response — “women are not as good spatial thinkers as men.” But research demonstrates otherwise — it’s nurture, not nature. This research, published in the highly distinguished Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that the “gender gap in spatial abilities, measured by time to solve a puzzle, disappears when we move from a patrilineal society to an adjoining matrilineal society.” It’s about education, not gender.

Nurture affects gender differences in spatial abilities

Moshe Hoffman, Uri Gneezy, and John A. List

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — Volume 108, Number 36 (2011) 14786–14788

Women remain significantly underrepresented in the science, engineering, and technology workforce. Some have argued that spatial ability differences, which represent the most persistent gender differences in the cognitive literature, are partly responsible for this gap. The underlying forces at work shaping the observed spatial ability differences revolve naturally around the relative roles of nature and nurture. Although these forces remain among the most hotly debated in all of the sciences, the evidence for nurture is tenuous, because it is difficult to compare gender differences among biologically similar groups with distinct nurture. In this study, we use a large-scale incentivized experiment with nearly 1,300 participants to show that the gender gap in spatial abilities, measured by time to solve a puzzle, disappears when we move from a patrilineal society to an adjoining matrilineal society. We also show that about one-third of the effect can be explained by differences in education. Given that none of our participants have experience with puzzle solving and that villagers from both societies have the same means of subsistence and shared genetic background, we argue that these results show the role of nurture in the gender gap in cognitive abilities. Download PDF Here

New Report on Building a Sustainable National Land Imaging Program

, pre-launch

Landsat and Beyond: Sustaining and Enhancing the Nation’s Land Imaging Program (2013)

Authors

Committee on Implementation of a Sustained Land Imaging Program; Space Studies Board; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; National Research Council

Description

In 1972 NASA launched the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ETRS), now known as Landsat 1, and on February 11, 2013 launched Landsat 8. Currently the United States has collected 40 continuous years of satellite records of land remote sensing data from satellites similar to these. Even though this data is valuable to improving many different aspects of the country such as agriculture, homeland security, and disaster mitigation; the availability of this data for planning our nation’s future is at risk.

Thus, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) requested that the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Committee on Implementation of a Sustained Land Imaging Program review the needs and opportunities necessary for the development of a national space-based operational land imaging capability. The committee was specifically tasked with several objectives including identifying stakeholders and their data needs and providing recommendations to facilitate the transition from NASA’s research-based series of satellites to a sustained USGS land imaging program.

Landsat and Beyond: Sustaining and Enhancing the Nation’s Land Imaging Program is the result of the committee’s investigation. This investigation included meetings with stakeholders such as the DOI, NASA, NOAA, and commercial data providers. The report includes the committee’s recommendations, information about different aspects of the program, and a section dedicated to future opportunities.

Draft Strategic Plan for the National Spatial Data Infastructure

Date: July 31, 2013

Subject: NSDI Strategic Plan – Public Comment Period

Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is seeking public comment on the draft strategic plan for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The draft plan, which has been developed through collaboration with partners and stakeholders in the geospatial community, describes a broad national vision for the NSDI and includes goals and objectives for the Federal government’s role in continued sustainable development of the NSDI.

I encourage you to review the plan and offer any comments for improvement. The strategic plan, along with instructions for providing comments, is posted at the following address: http://www.fgdc.gov/nsdi-plan and a copy is attached. Comments may be submitted electronically to: nsdicomments@fgdc.gov. Comments are due by August 21, 2013.

The new NSDI plan is important and timely for several reasons. First, while the FGDC community has engaged in a series of strategic initiatives over the past several years, including the Geospatial Line of Business and Geospatial Platform initiatives, the current NSDI strategic plan has not been revised for a number of years. Second, geospatial technologies, industries, and applications have seen tremendous growth and change over the past several years, and our strategies need to be modernized to align with and leverage these changes. In addition, the recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “OMB and Agencies Need to Make Coordination a Priority to Reduce Duplication” (GAO-13-94), reaffirmed the importance of improving coordination and reducing potential duplication and recommended the development of an updated NSDI strategy.

As we have developed the plan, we have provided multiple opportunities for participation and input. These opportunities have included forums for leaders of key geospatial organizations, workshops for Federal leaders, sessions at geospatial professional conferences, and public meetings of the FGDC Coordination Group, the FGDC Steering Committee, and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC). Our goal has been to engage leaders of key geospatial organizations in the early stages of the planning process, gather initial input, and seek continuing involvement. The input and suggestions we received from our partners, both within and outside of the Federal government, has been instrumental in shaping the new plan. The NGAC, in particular, has provided extensive and thoughtful input into the plan.

Following the public comment period, a revised draft of the plan will be prepared for final review and adoption by the FGDC Steering Committee. Following completion of the strategic plan, the FGDC community will develop more detailed project plans for the goals and objectives in the strategic plan.

We appreciate your long-standing involvement and support for the NSDI, and we look forward to working with you and your organizations as we finalize and implement the new NSDI strategic plan. Additional information about the NSDI planning process is posted at: http://www.fgdc.gov/nsdi-plan. We will post additional information on the webpage as the planning process advances.

Regards,

Anne J. Castle

Chair, Federal Geographic Data Committee

Assistant Secretary for Water and Science

U.S. Department of the Interior

PCAST Updates Assessment of Networking and InfoTech R&D

Posted by David Shaw, Susan Graham, and Peter Lee, The White House on January 17, 2013 at 05:43 PM ED

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology PCAST released its latest report to the President and Congress, Designing a Digital Future: Federally Funded Research and Development in Networking and Information Technology. The report is a Congressionally mandated assessment of the Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development NITRD Program, which coordinates the Nation’s federally-funded research and development R&D in areas such as supercomputing, high-speed network­ing, cybersecurity, software technology, and information management. The report is an update on progress since the last such assessment was conducted in 2010.

The United States is a world leader in R&D for networking and information technology NIT—a sector that touches virtually every human endeavor and fuels economic growth, national security, and enhanced quality of life. NIT capabilities are at the core of our Nation’s infrastructure—underpinning and enabling diverse functions ranging from communication and commerce to defense and manufacturing. New NIT insights and discoveries ensure that the Nation remains a safe and healthy place where Americans can continue to succeed and thrive.

In its new report, PCAST concludes that progress has been made toward addressing a number of the recommendations made in the 2010 report. For example, the report cites notable steps forward in multi-agency work to advance “big data,” health IT, robotics, and cybersecurity, and calls out significant progress toward creating infrastructure for network scaling and NIT testbeds.The report also notes that many important areas have received less attention and investment than is needed, making recommendations summarized on page xi for stronger coordination among agencies to meet continuing NIT challenges in educational technology, data privacy, energy, transportation, and other important sectors.

Among other recommendations, PCAST proposes development of new multi-agency initiatives to catalyze innovation and advances in high-performance computing, understanding of collective online human activity, surface and air transportation, and learning sciences and also recommends measures to strengthen the Nation’s NIT workforce through training programs, continuing education opportunities, and other mechanisms. To ensure continued multi-agency coordination and investment in NIT areas, PCAST recommends establishment of a high-level standing PCAST sub-committee that would focus on providing ongoing strategic advice in this domain.

The United States has set the standard for innovation in NIT R&D. PCAST believes that implementation of the recom­mendations in this report will help the Nation maintain its leading NIT edge in an increasingly competitive global environment.

The full PCAST report is available here.

David Shaw, Susan Graham, and Peter Lee are co-chairs of the PCAST NITRD Working Group and Dr. Shaw is a member of PCAST.PCAST is an advisory group of the Nation’s leading scientists and engineers, appointed by the President to augment the science and tech­nology advice available to him from inside the White House and from cabinet departments and other Federal agencies. For more information about PCAST, please visit the PCAST website.

via PCAST Updates Assessment of Networking and InfoTech R&D | The White House.

Mapping the Growth of OpenStreetMap

by Emily Badger, The Atlantic, March 14, 2013

OpenStreetMap is a marvel of modern crowdsourcing. Since its creation in 2004, DIY cartographers – typically armed with GPS devices or satellite photography – have been slowly mapping the world’s road networks and landmarks to create a free alternative to proprietary geographic data that can then support tools like trip planners. The process, which began in the U.K., is painstaking and piecemeal, and nearly a decade into it, more than a million people have contributed a sliver of road here or a surveyed cul-de-sac there. …

For full text of this article, visit Mapping the Growth of OpenStreetMap – Emily Badger – The Atlantic Cities.

Also check out the great work of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

Google Admits Street View Project Violated Privacy

By David Streitfeld, NYT Technology, March 12, 2013

Google on Tuesday acknowledged to state officials that it had violated people’s privacy during its Street View mapping project when it casually scooped up passwords, e-mail and other personal information from unsuspecting computer users. In agreeing to settle a case brought by 38 states involving the project, the search company for the first time is required to aggressively police its own employees on privacy issues and to explicitly tell the public how to fend off privacy violations like this one.

For full text of the article, visit Google Admits Street View Project Violated Privacy – NYTimes.com.

 

Ohio Court: Geodata Intertwined with Proprietary Software Falls Outside Open Records Law

Supreme Court Rules County Engineer’s Response Met Requirements of Public Records Act

by Dennis Whalen, CNO, March 7, 2013

The Supreme Court of Ohio today denied a writ of mandamus sought by Portsmouth real estate appraiser Robert Gambill to compel the production of certain public records by Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman.In a 6-1 per curiam opinion, the court held that Opperman met the requirements of the Ohio Public Records Act by offering to provide Gambill with a copy of the county’s electronic database containing deed information and aerial photos of all property in the county if Gambill paid the estimated $2,000 cost of separating that data from proprietary mapmaking software protected by U.S. patent laws that is “inextricably intertwined” with the data on the engineer’s computer.

For full text of the article, visit Supreme Court Rules County Engineer’s Response Met Requirements of Public Records Act.

Related Articles:

See also High Court Rules in Favor of County (Portsmouth Daily Times), Ohio Court: Geodata Intertwined with Copyright-protected Software Falls Outside Open Records Law (Directions Magazine).

Similar Cases:

Sierra Club loses on appeal in case for access to Orange County database (Directions Magazine 2011)

The WireData Case and Implications for Geospatial Data (WI State Cartographer’s Office 2008)

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