ICA Research Agenda on Cartography and GIScience

Article excerpt


Maps and Geographic Information (GI) have special power through their ability to integrate data sets by geographical location and present the information in an easily understandable visual and factual way. Such ability has long been recognized as an intrinsic property of the map artefact and contemporary geodatabases. The power of maps and geographic data handling has been implemented in many real-world applications and strategic decision-making situations related to such issues as crisis management, early warning systems, sustainability, and decreasing global poverty.

The globally well represented and internationally visible International Cartographic Association (ICA) has a special role to play as a promoter of the development of Cartography and GI Science. Research and development in ICA aim to create theory and methods for Cartography and GI handling. By applying these theories and methods to various applications, new tools can be created for cartographic and GI practice. Such topics are addressed at the main work forums of ICA, its Commissions. The ICA Commissions are established by vote at the quadrennial ICA General Assemblies; interim Working Groups can also be established between General Assemblies by the ICA Executive Committee (EC) to address specific short-term issues.

The idea of the ICA Research Agenda on Cartography and GI Science was initially considered at ICA Executive Committee meetings during the 1990s, but the decision to work on a structured research agenda was not made until the London EC meeting in 2001, which called for a session to be organized on the issue at the International Cartographic Conference in Beijing in 9001. This session included several valuable presentations, including those from Professors Grunreich, Meng, Mullen, and Ormeling. The work plan for the Research Agenda development was finalized during the Mexico City EC meeting in 2005. It was realized that several ICA Commissions had overlapping research concerns while some new, challenging topics were outside of any Commission's field. A formal Research Agenda would have a significant role in informing Commission members, General Assembly Delegates, and ICC attendees of the integrated nature of research activity in Cartography and GI Science, the expanding scope of research, and the role of ICA in promoting such activities. It should be realized that the content of the agenda represents a snapshot in time. Nevertheless, such agendas should be living documents adapting to new technological and methodological developments over time. This paper consists of two major parts, the content of the research agenda and its current "implementation" by ICA's Commissions and Working Groups.

The Goal of the Research Agenda

The goal of this agenda is primarily to give some guidelines for the Commissions' work as well as to lead to tighter cooperation between Commissions. The agenda can support the development of a flexible Commission structure of ICA. From a practical point of view, the agenda may outline the future contents of the proposed International Yearbook for Cartography and Geographic Information Science.

More widely, the agenda has been written in order to show ICA's actual and potential contribution to scientific research within our global society, and to serve as a moderator for discussions in that forum. In order to implement its own strategic mission, "to ensure that geospatial information is employed to maximum effect for the benefit of science and society" (ICA Strategic Plan, 2003-2011), ICA must have a clear agenda for research covering all fields and topics under the title Cartography and GI Science. This agenda, therefore, documents current research activity in these fields, suggests areas where more intensive or renewed effort is required, and discusses the methods by which some of this research can be undertaken within ICA Commissions, through international collaboration with sister societies, and under suggested programs of integrated research stimulated, we hope, by the presentation of this summary. …