Council recommends research agenda for National Map project

The National Research Council released a dozen recommendations today to help focus the research activities for a U.S. Geological Survey project known as the National Map.

All future geospatial information science will depend on the National Map, as will the disciplines of biology, geography, geology and water studies, the report states. The council recommended that USGS focus initially on developing innovative new methods for accessing and disseminating geospatial data.

The map project, centered in USGS’ Center of Excellence in Geospatial Information Science, has only a handful of researchers and support staff and a budget of $1.2 million to $2 million. The agency asked the council to develop recommendations to help the center maximize its limited resources.

Among its recommendations, the council advised the center to make research on developing systems for organizing knowledge a priority and to focus on integrating geospatial data from multiple sources.

“Despite more than a decade of research on the topic, fusing disparate data sources together is still a significant challenge,” the report states.

A major challenge for the project is developing a knowledge base capable of answering questions such as “Where is Canyon X?” The National Map cannot yet answer such simple queries because it does not know what a canyon is, the council reported.

The council advised USGS to hire six to eight Ph.D.-level scientists working in pairs on those priority research topics at the center. Each team could have a mix of agency scientists and visiting scientists or postdoctoral fellows.

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