The U.S. Geological Survey Cartographic and Geographic Information Science Research Activities 2006-2010

Article excerpt

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) produces geospatial databases and topographic maps for the United States of America. A part of that mission includes conducting research in geographic information science (GIScience) and cartography to support mapping and improve the design, quality, deliver, and use of geospatial data and topographic maps. The Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science (CEGIS) was established by the USGS in January 2006 as a part of the National Geospatial Program Office. CEGIS ( evolved from a team of cartographic researchers at the Mid-Continent Mapping Center. The team became known as the Cartographic Research group and was supported by the Cooperative Topographic Mapping, Geographic Analysis and Monitoring, and Land Remote Sensing programs of the Geography Discipline of the USGS from 19992005. In 2006, the Cartographic Research group and its projects ( became the core of CEGIS staff and research. In 2006, CEGIS research became focused on The National Map (

With the establishment of CEGIS, the USGS took advantage of an existing contract with the National Research Council (NRC) of the American National Academy of Sciences to develop A Research Agenda for Geographic Information Science at the US. Geological Survey (http://books.nap. edu/catalogphp?record_id=12004) (NRC, 2007). The NRC completed and published the report in December 2007. The research agenda in the NRC report then became the basis for CEGIS research to support The National Map and advance the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) of the United States. Initiation in 2008 of the research recommendations of the NRC was facilitated by the fact that several ongoing CEGIS research projects were identified as short-term (2 to 4 years) high priority by the NRC. These include developing an ontology for The National Map, automated data integration and generalization. The NRC also recommended additional high priority short-term projects including User-Centered Design for Web Map Services and Design of an Electronic Topographic Map. Long term (4 to 8 years) projects recommended by the NRC centered on developing ontology-driven, spatio-temporal, quality-aware, and transaction processing data models.

CEGIS Research Activities

Based on the NRC recommendations and other research needs for The National Map identified within the USGS, CEGIS established six short term inter-related research projects. These projects address immediate objectives of The National Map to investigate new methods for information access and dissemination, automated data integration and generalization, and knowledge organization systems, which are formalized specifications of domain knowledge that include taxonomies, thesauri, gazetteers, and ontologies. They provide important authoritative or community-sanctioned domain knowledge in forms that are explicit and shareable by both humans and computational systems. The projects included:

--Geographic Feature Ontology for The National Map.

--Automated Data Integration.


--User-Centered Design for Web Services.

--Electronic Topographic Map Design.

--Multi-Resolution Raster Data, including rapid projection and an application to sea level rise.

The results of these projects to date (September 2010) are briefly documented in the remainder of this article.

Geographic Feature Ontology for The National Map

Ontologies specify feature semantics for richer data models. New data models and associated knowledge organization systems for The National Map can translate traditional topographic information into a flexible spatiotemporal knowledge base that can serve many different application areas. In 2009, CEGIS sponsored a Specialist Meeting on "Developing and Ontology for The National Map." Participants in the Specialist Meeting developed short position papers and provided insight on the construction of the ontology. …