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Geospatial Data Act Sets Table for Performance and Accountability

Legislation would benefit taxpayers and entire geospatial community

There simply is no change to professional licensing requirements and no expansion of the Brooks Act or other changes to the federal procurement process in the Geospatial Data Act.

For as long as NSGIC has been around – more than 25 years now – we’ve encouraged effective and efficient government through the coordinated development of geographic information and technologies to ensure that information may be integrated at all levels of government.

The Geospatial Data Act (S.1253) does just that. It establishes a clear vision, assigns responsibility, provides authority and ensures oversight by Congress of federal geospatial activities. These improvements will help ensure that the United States is able to build and sustain a robust national spatial data infrastructure (NSDI). Support of this legislation is a critical step toward building more resilient communities by ensuring they will have access to the consistent high-quality data they need.

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Let's Rally for GeoWomen!

I’ve been thinking about the NSGIC GeoWomen initiative quite a bit since its inception at the Midyear. It feels really important. The more I think about it, the more I am recognizing both the incredible impact that so many important women have made in my life and career, and the potential for more women to be leaders in our profession.

I didn’t think much about it in my formative years, but my grandmother was a fantastic role model. She was a first-generation American from Swedish immigrants and unlike nearly all women of her era, she did not marry as a late teen and settle into a life of limited domestic boundaries. Instead, she earned a 2-year college degree and quickly worked her way up to being the administrative assistant (in the title of Secretary) to the mayor of Worcester, MA. Knowing how driven and organized she was, it’s easy for me to speculate that she had a strong hand in running the city while the mayor did the glad-handing work. She didn’t marry until age 26 (a true “spinster” in 1918) and later ran my grandfather’s homebuilding business, his lumberyard, and also a summer boarding house at Moody Beach in Maine. Anna O. Johnson was the undisputed matriarch and center of the extended Johnson family when I was growing up.

In graduate school at Michigan State I had a wonderful academic advisor, Dr. Judy Olson, and the grad student with whom I had the closest competitive bond (though she always out-competed me, with aplomb) was Cindy Brewer. Cindy stayed for a Ph.D. and went on to become a GIS faculty member at Penn State and the creator of the ColorBrewer.org site that so many GIS people rely on to select appropriate choropleth color schemes.

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NSGIC - State GIS Council Partnership

A goal of mine, a few years back during my first year as AGRC's director was to facilitate increased 'enterprise GIS' interest and involvement of our state GIS association, the Utah Geographic Information Council (UGIC), a standalone 501c3 nonprofit.

One of the coolest things about professionals in the GIS field is that most of us value strategic problem solving approaches that reach beyond the domains of our individual assignments or agency responsibilities. GIS'ers have a strong tendency to look out for the 'whole' where others might not. While everybody in our field knows the vast degree to which the ‘enterprise of GIS’ in Utah is dependent on data sharing -- especially local to state government -- it is largely undersung to decision makers. Getting UGIC more interested in telling this story well seemed like a natural fit.

So for the goal of working more with UGIC, I didn't feel like anybody needed much persuasion. Rather, it was about making it easier to connect and participate. And to make that easier, we started by upgrading from individual-level NSGIC membership to the State Leaders 5-person membership package. By doing so, we added 4 Utah members, a mix of other state agency GIS managers and UGIC Board members who are elected to their positions specifically to represent the state, county, local, business, and academic sectors.

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Latin for GIS Professionals

You have, I am sure, seen the Latin phrase carpe diem, which translates literally to “seize the day.” In modern usage, carpe diem is sometimes equated to “living in the moment,” taking pleasure in the here and now without regard for the future, and occasionally even an ode to hedonism. But the more important definition, in my opinion, is to take a chance, to go above and beyond what might be expected, to take full advantage of an opportunity, to stretch yourself in pursuit of the issue before you right now. This is a credo that I can embrace, and with the clarity of hindsight, I now recognize that it has been a recurring theme in the best examples of GIS projects I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with over the years.

I’ll venture a guess that Latin scholars won’t like this, but I would like to offer a twist on carpe diem as it applies to those of us in the GIS profession: carpe geo, seize the GIS opportunity. I was honored to be the closing keynote speaker at the Utah Geographic Information Council conference in Park City this year, and I introduced carpe geo as part of my talk. It seemed to resonate well with the audience, well enough to embolden me to write this blog post to circulate it further.

Consider for a moment how most GIS projects start. How many times have you been presented with a complete and clear set of requirements that translate directly to the GIS-based analytics you need to perform to reach a well-articulated outcome? My guess is that your answer is “never.” That would also be my honest answer, and I’m basing mine on more than 32 years in this field.

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Moving Change: The Importance of Small, Unsung Benefits

This isn’t original but it's worth restating.

Maybe ‘change’ is so difficult because it’s so hard to know ‘when’ it’s the right time? That applies to life in general, but certainly to technology fields, like ours. In fact, there’s a whole body of study around the risk and benefit calculations made around technology, including my favorite description, the technology adoption life cycle. I am thinking about this today because I just had my first success with Esri’s latest GIS software product platform, ArcPro.

I am pretty sure that I am not considered an ‘Innovator’ or ‘Early Adopter’ for this change, especially considering how many GIS shops seem to bite instantly on the ‘you have to move now to version x.x’ hook without much thought. But maybe I am making the ‘Early Majority’ cut? It doesn’t really matter. It did, however, remind me of previous GIS software transitions that I’ve been involved in. And the common thread for those changes, surprisingly, was never a quest for the most hyped, flashy functionality.

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Major Movement for NSGIC Legislative Priorities

Both the Geospatial Data Act and the Digital Coast Act had big days yesterday. The bills are making their way through the 115th Congress after stalling out in prior years.

The Geospatial Data Act of 2017 was introduced yesterday by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) as S.1253. Over the course of the last few years, NSGIC has worked closely with other stakeholders to provide input with the states' perspective on improving the coordination and use of geospatial data.

NSGIC president Bert Granberg said this upon the bill's reintroduction: "From transportation, to natural resources, to homeland security, map-based digital information has quietly become mission critical to how work gets done and to future economic growth. We need an efficiency and accountability framework to build, sustain, and share geographic data assets for the entire nation. The GDA delivers just that." (Read more in the press releases put out by Senator Hatch and Senator Warner.)

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