National Geospatial Advisory Committee holds June 2019 meeting

July 17, 2019
Julie Sweetkind-Singer
Landsat satellite

The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) held its first in-person meeting of the year on June 11-12, 2019 in Washington, DC.  The full report of the meeting is 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 (NSDI).

The meeting opened with introductions and a welcome to the new and returning members.  The new members to the committee include: 

  • Byron Bluehorse, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • Mike Hussey, State of Utah
  • Sanjay Kumar, World Geospatial Industry Council
  • Tony LaVoi, NOAA
  • Mark Reichardt, Open Geospatial Consortium and NGAC Vice-Chair
  • Christine Stinchcomb, Paulding County, Georgia
  • Gary Thompson, State of North Carolina

The main topic of the first morning was the passage of the Geospatial Data Act of 2018, which was signed into law on October 5, 2018.  A panel of four people versed in the GDA discussed the opportunities and challenges stemming from the passage of the Act.  Panel members included Deirdre Bishop (Census Bureau), Tod Dabolt (Department of the Interior) and two NGAC members, Cy Smith (State of Oregon) and Julie Sweetkind-Singer (Stanford University).  The group noted that geospatial data has now been recognized as a valuable part of the nation's infrastructure.  The passage provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the ubiquity of geospatial data throughout our economy.  Funding for data collection, management, and access will continue to be a challenge as will the reporting requirements mandated in the Act.

As is the norm with the group, the subcommittees presented on their work.  The Infrastructure subcommittee presented and had approved a paper entitled, Geospatial Information: Infrastructure Renewal Best Practices. The paper presents ten best practices for "successful geospatial support in infrastructure programs."  Recommendations include determining geospatial data requirements, scaling geospatial needs and workflows, identifying policies to support infrastructure renewal or maintenance, and creating service level goals.  It is the hope that these recommendations will help drive smart decision-making on infrastructure priorities and investments.

The Landsat Advisory Committee (LAG) released their much-anticipated report, Evaluation of a Range of Landsat Data Cost Sharing Models. This report was in response to a 2017 request from the Department of the Interior that the U.S. Geological Survey consider the possibility of fee recovery for Landsat data.   The analysis focused on three cost-sharing approaches: charging for traditional data, charging for value added products and services, and private-public partnership (P3) structures.  The committee did not recommend charging for Landsat 8 and 9 data stating, "The LAG believes that charging a fee for Landsat data will generate little net revenue."  Further, they note that doing so would "result in negative economic impacts to the U.S. commercial remote sensing satellite and value-added industries."  Laws and regulations would need to be changed in order charge for data and that the revenue gained would not be worth the economic, legal, societal or political costs.  Janice Nelson, Communications and Outreach Manager at the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center wrote a press release on June 19, 2019 with commentary by relevant parties interested in the committee's recommendations.

The NGAC's next meeting will be September 4-5, 2019 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.