Building a National Data Sharing Infrastructure

In March, 2014, URISA published the first in what is intended to be a series of occasional GIS Management Institute® discussion papers. “A Distributed Model for Effective National Geospatial Data Management: Building a National Data Sharing Infrastructure,” by Jim Sparks (State of Indiana GIO), Philip Worrall (Indiana Geographic Information Council Executive Director), and Kevin Mickey (Indiana University Polis Center Geospatial Education Director).

While Indiana’s history with building a spatial data infrastructure has been short relative to several other’s, its track record is impressive. In the late 1990’s the Federal Geographic Data Committee awarded a small grant to a small group of likeminded GIS professionals in Indiana in hopes of starting something – anything really – to boost GIS coordination in the state. The 2000’s brought sweeping change, including developing a not-for-profit council, voluntary standards, GIS data sharing and metadata initiatives, statewide data collection programs, multi-level governmental support, and instituting the IndianaMap. In 2009, the IndianaMap partners quietly released the first view of a multi-county parcel database. Today the IndianaMap hosts and freely delivers the nearly complete framework – map data sourced from local agencies – along with dozens of other statewide and regional data sets (more than 230 layers of GIS data, Indiana Geological Survey). These data are served for viewing and free download to the public and rolled-up all the way to the federal level into The National Map.

This important paper examines a number of impediments to effective data development and data sharing and offer solutions that reflect the employment of effective coordination, carefully directed funding, and the application of current information technology tools and strategies. It summarizes the best practices that the authors believe should be applied nationwide to maintain local control of processes while achieving the broad goals of the National Map. The authors provide a summary of how Indiana has met one of its biggest challenges over the years – how to create a viable, sustainable technical data collection, storage, and distribution infrastructure and the human resources to manage and maintain it.

While the NSDI concept has spanned decades, the realization of a nationwide local-to-statewide-to-national NSDI has been elusive. This paper presents case studies from across the nation. It evaluates what practices have proven to work, and also those that have proven not to work. With it, we may yet get closer to realizing an NSDI.

Read the full paper here.