The United States Geological Survey (USGS) sponsored a workshop on volunteered geographic information January 12-13, 2010 in Herndon, Va. The workshop explored how citizen mapmakers might contribute to The National Map, the USGS source for topographic information for the nation. While volunteered data have always been an important factor in the USGS topographic mapping program, the emergence of the Internet and social networking technologies have allowed volunteer amateur mapmakers to collaborate or “crowdsource” online maps that are beginning to rival maps made by professionals in government and the commercial sector.
In recent years, The National Map Corps volunteers used an online system to contribute location and attribute information in relation to thousands of point features, including landmark structures, but this project was put on hiatus due to shifts in program priorities. The USGS is developing a strategy on how volunteered geographic information could be efficiently and effectively incorporated into The National Map. Participants in the workshop contributed their ideas and experience in working with volunteers so that USGS representatives could better understand the state of the technology and develop an informed plan to move forward.
Andrew McLaughlin of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the keynote speaker at the workshop, discussed the Administration’s open government data policies. Presentations were made by commercial and non-profit organizations that work with volunteered geographic information including Groundspeak of Seattle, Wash., (Geocaching.com); FortiusOne of Arlington, Va., (GeoCommons); the OpenStreetMap Foundation of Great Britain (OpenStreetMap); OpenGeo, New York; O’Reilly Publications, Sebastopol, Calif.; Stamen Design, San Francisco; the WikiMedia Foundation, San Fransicso; Technigraphics, Wooster, Ohio, (FreedomWeb); and TeleAtlas, Lebanon, N.H.
Several Federal agencies discussed their use of volunteered data and citizen science, including the Library of Congress’ use of Flickr for citizen tagging of historical photographs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Observation Network, and CitSci.org, a citizen-science website focusing on invasive species funded by the National Science Foundation, Colorado State University, USGS and NOAA. Academic researchers Dr. Muki Haklay, University College, London, Dr. Daniel Sui, Ohio State University, and Nama Raj Budhathoki, University of Illinois Urbanna-Champaign described results of their studies on the motivations and participation of contributors to volunteered geographic information websites.
More information can be found at the workshop web page http://cegis.usgs.gov/vgi/.