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January 22nd, 2008
National Research Council Calibrates Research for The National Map

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PR — A report recently issued by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies sharpens the research focus of The National Map. The report, A Research Agenda for Geographic Information Science at the United States Geological Survey,
advocates the integration of highly diverse data from state and local
agencies into a consistent, national framework as a unique feature of The National Map that distinguishes it from other online geospatial data sources. 

The National Map is being developed by the USGS as a trusted,
nationally consistent geospatial framework to serve a broad range of
uses by scientists, communities, government officials, and the public.

"Comprehensive and authoritative baseline geospatial data are crucial
to the Nation and to the USGS mission of integrated, multi-disciplinary
natural science," said USGS Director Mark Myers. "The USGS is strongly
committed to the vision that this NRC report lays out. These research
directions will enhance The National Map, and with it, the National Spatial Data Infrastructure."

The USGS commissioned the NRC Mapping Sciences Committee to assess
current and future needs for USGS geographic information science
(GIScience) capabilities. The committee was also asked to make
recommendations concerning research and collaboration at the Center of
Excellence for Geospatial Information Science (CEGIS) established by
the USGS in 2006.

One element of The National Map – the National Hydrography
Dataset (NHD) – serves as an example of a nationally standardized
dataset that is not available from any other online geospatial data
source. The NHD was built, and is beginning to be maintained, in
partnership with its users who understand the local hydrography and who
also require precise, current data to meet their business needs. These
contributing partner stewards manage data maintenance activities in
their geographies while the USGS facilitates the overall process,
providing national coordination, standards, training, quality
assurance, archival, and data distribution. Downstream flow data in
NHD, one of its many information capabilities, is used extensively in
pollution control analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
to study the relationship between impaired waters and drinking water

To accelerate the incorporation of partner data into national
databases, the NRC study calls for further research to advance
automated integration, fusion, and generalization of data at widely
varying scales, resolutions and qualities. The report also calls for
new high priority research in user-centered design of Web map
interfaces, re-invention of topographic maps in electronic form, and
robust data characterization that conveys geographic context.

Looking ahead, the NRC study recommends additional research to transform The National Map
database into a geographic knowledgebase. This long term effort would
enable knowledge discovery and analysis to, in the words of the report,
go "far beyond the typical mapping portal" to "deliver enormous power
to The National Map application and lead to its clear differentiation from other web-based products." 

The report is available online for free download at

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