National Geospatial Advisory Committee meets in Washington

June 19, 2015
Julie Sweetkind-Singer

The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) met in Washington, DC on June 9-10, 2015.  The full report of the meeting including the powerpoints from the subcommittees and lightning sessions are available on the NGAC Website.  The NGAC is a Federal Advisory Committee that reports to the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).  Our role is to provide advice and recommendations related to the national geospatial program and the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

The group started out the meeting by discussing what's trending in geospatial these days.  We noted that geospatial data are becoming much more tailored to the consumer and that people now expect it to be a part of how we live our lives each day.  We carry maps in our pockets on our phones, we track where we run, we tag interesting places, and we georeference maps while waiting for the bus.  Privacy concerns are never far from our thoughts be it with the availability of location addressing or the concerns about how drones will be used.  We also noted that technology is making it easier to teach people about geospatial concepts and technologies at a earlier stage in their educational life.  Geospatial information and tools are ubiquitous leading one member of the group to say, "We may not be special anymore, but we're still spatial!" 

Jennifer Gimbel, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, asked the NGAC to develop a set of recommendations that the work that should be done by the FGDC in the next 18 months prior to the change in administration.  The group recommended the following:

1. Data Initiatives

  • National Address Database: Develop and implement approach for a National Address Database.  Ensure governance & funding models meet needs of major stakeholders.
  • 3D Elevation Program: Make significant advancements in the 3DEP initiative.  Secure funding commitments for enhancement and institutionalization of the program.

2. Communications Strategy

  • Finalize and implement national communications strategy for NSDI and Geospatial Platform.
  • Seek input and engagement from NGAC and non-Federal partners in developing goals, messages and approaches
  • Develop a variety of effective and adaptable tools - videos, social media, web presence, etc.

3. Geospatial Platform

  • Make significant advancements to further develop and institutionalize the Geospatial Platform.
  • Continue to collaborate with external partners on communities, shared services, etc.

4. Transition Strategy

  • FGDC work with NGAC to develop options/proposals for next Administration
  • May include strategic approaches - new strategic plans for NSDI, National Map, etc.
  • May include new programmatic and partnership approaches.

A National Address Database Summit Meeting was held on April 8-9, 2015 with 58 participants and 25 observers including federal, state, local, tribal, private, non-profit, and trade organizations.  The goal was to identify and discuss possible options for developing a National Address Database.  The Summit was recapped in two blog posts, one by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), who stated that the objective was doable and that the United States is well underway to sustain this effort.  All presentations and reports are on the main website for the Summit Meeting.

The Crowdsourced Data Subcommittee convened a spotlight session on crowdsourced data.  Alex Barth from OpenStreetMap (OSM) gave an overview of OSM.  Two Presidential Innovation Fellows spoke - Lea Shanley at NASA on citizen science and Mikel Maron at the State Department on OSM for government.  Interesting projects that were discussed included:

  • MapGive, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Humanitarian Information Unit, that allows volunteers to learn to map and then get involved in online tasks such as mapping parts of Nepal, Liberia, and Malawi.
  • TeachOSM, an online resource to help educators introduce people to open source mapping using OpenStreetMap.
  • Nature's Notebook, a project that allows the general public to submit observational record of plants and animals.  In 2014 volunteers recorded more than one million observations.

The NGAC continues to follow the Geospatial Data Reform Act in the Senate sponsored by Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) "to improve oversight and reduce duplication in the management of geospatial data."  The bill is now in committee.

The next meeting of the NGAC will be in September 2015 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.