Expert Report

Advancing Strategic Science: A Spatial Data Infrastructure Roadmap for the U.S. Geological Survey (2012)

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Science is increasingly driven by data, and spatial data underpin the science directions laid out in the 2007 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Science Strategy. A robust framework of spatial data, metadata, tools, and a user community that is interactively connected to use spatial data in an efficient and flexible way—known as a spatial data infrastructure (SDI)—must be available for scientists and managers to find, use, and share spatial data both within and beyond the USGS. Over the last decade, the USGS has conducted breakthrough research that has overcome some of the challenges associated with implementing a large SDI. This report is intended to ground those efforts by providing a practical roadmap to full implementation of an SDI to enable the USGS to conduct strategic science.

Key Messages

  • An optimal spatial data infrastructure (SDI) for the USGS would include data standards, modern data-management services, and a set of key application services that are essential for addressing scientific questions.
  • There are lessons to be learned from past efforts of several types of organizations, including USGS analogues in other countries, multinational organizations, U.S. public and private institutions, large discipline-specific organizations, and spatial data at the USGS.
  • Successful implementation of an SDI depends on an agency's roadmap and strategy, organizational leadership and culture, standardization, technical competence, funding and contracting, workforce competence, and cooperation and partnerships.
  • The development and maintenance of an SDI requires collaborative partnerships with cooperating agencies, research organizations, nonprofit organizations, private organizations, and the public.
  • Integration of multiple data sources to support analysis will be critical for an SDI and warrants high priority.
  • A roadmap for SDI implementation can be divided into three broad phases: (1) preparation and planning; (2) design, development, and testing; and (3) rollout and refinement. The committee proposes some general steps in each phase to assist the USGS in carrying out its task in implementing an effective SDI.
  • A series of organizational and technical considerations are necessary for following the roadmap. It is important that SDI implementation have high priority for USGS leadership.