PSD’S COMSA Matters
By Kathrine Cargo, URISA President 2009-2010
In a recent issue of the
,President-elect Cy Smith sent a reminder to the membership to check out theURISA website (http://www.urisa.org/an-nual/keynote) for the Opening Keynote Address delivered at the 2009 AnnualConference in Anaheim. The speaker wasDr. Barry Wellar, who, besides being a PastPresident of URISA, has accomplishmentsin the eld of GIS that are too numerousto list here. His topic was “Core Informa-tion Challenges and Opportunities, 2010-2020: Building on Strengths,” in whichDr. Wellar laid out four main areas whereURISA should consider focusing its ener-gies and agendas over the next decade.It was an excellent presentation, andcontained much food for thought notonly for the leaders in URISA, but for theentire URISA membership in that we, asGIS professionals, have the institutionalknowledge, experiences, and ability todirect the future course of GIS activities.By identifying four areas of focus, Dr. Wellar challenged URISA to not onlymaintain the past high standard of GISservice to the industry and membership,but to continue to strive to be the go-toassociation for geospatial research, ethics,and best practices.
The idea of challenging URISA to focus on four areas intrigued me, and I wanted tosee how closely Dr. Wellar’s view of thedirection in which URISA should movemirrored the initiatives in the URISA Stra-tegic Plan. Given the space constraintsof this column, I have summarized Dr. Wellar’s Core Information points for thepurposes of comparison with the StrategicPlan initiatives.
Point 1 - Strengthening nterdepen-dent nfrastructures
. Briey stated,URISA has always been about how
urbanand regional entities identify and useinformation. As Dr. Wellar stated, “Oneof the core information challenges andopportunities for URISA in the comingdecade is to elaborate federal and state/provincial government perspectives oninfrastructures, so that they are consis-tent with urban and regional realities.”Infrastructure can mean many things tomany people, and for the purposes of his presentation, Dr. Wellar focused onidentifying interdependent infrastructuresvia a matrix to assist in showing wherethe greatest interdependencies exist, andthus, where GIS could be used to producedata with the maximum benet. While the URISA Strategic PlanningCommittee did not use a matrix to figureout our interdependent “infrastructures”when identifying our initiatives, we didconsider those activities that wouldproduce the maximum benefit to themembership and the Association. Whether it is developing a new methodologyto identify and create new workshops,or institutionalizing a professionaldevelopment track at the AnnualConference, or the most interdependentof all infrastructures, strengthening thebonds between URISA and her chapters,the Strategic Plan initiatives all support theassociation’s objectives of engaging themembers in key issues, and building themembership community.
Point 2 - Climate Change Mitigationand Adjustment
. As an example of identifying information systems applica-tions, Dr. Wellar suggests that climatechange is one area where there is stillmuch work to be done “linking inter-dependent infrastructures and climatechange mitigation and adjustment at theurban and regional level.” He contendsthat while much has been written aboutclimate change, there is little quantitativeevidence to support mitigation efforts atlocal and regional levels. Dr. Wellar feelsthat this is an area where URISA, in col-laboration with other associations, canlead the way in providing analytical datato support mitigation efforts.URISA’s Strategic Plan also supportscollaborative efforts to achieve itsinitiatives. Specifically, the StrategicPlan wants to work more closely withCorporate and Business members todevelop educational offerings that providegeospatial solutions to the membership. Another educational initiative is to offer URISA Workshops to regional and nationalconferences of affiliated organizations inorder to better educate those outside of URISA of the benefits of geospatial analysis.The Strategic Plan is right in line with Dr. Wellar’s ideas on promoting the knowledgeand benefits of GIS use to help addressissues for today and into the future.
Point 3 - Safety and Security.
Accord-ing to Dr. Wellar,
homeland security andpublic safety are interdependent infra-structures which have gained signicantattention over the last decade. The sheer amount of complex information that isgenerated keeping humans safe from realand perceived threats is overwhelming tothose at all levels of government taskedwith protecting vulnerable populations.But it is precisely the management of allthis generated information that is boggingdown the process of using the informa-tion. Dr. Wellar pointed out that URISAhas a history of synthesizing informationcreated by a large variety of sources intousable data, or as he says, the “data‐in- formation‐knowledge transform processthat has characterized URISA discussionssince the 1960s.” He further opined that,
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