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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) is an independent research consortium dedicated to basic research and education in geographic information science and its related technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS). The three member institutions are the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University at Buffalo; and the University of Maine. The consortium was formed in 1988 in response to a competition for funding from the National Science Foundation, and continues to receive much of its funding from that source. Today, NCGIA stands as an international focus for basic research, especially in areas such as accuracy and uncertainty in spatial data, spatial cognition, and GIS modeling and representation. Its three sites attract short- and long-term visitors from around the world, and its educational programs address the needs of students at all levels.

This eScholarship repository (based on resources under the custodianship of the Center for Spatial Studies at UC Santa Barbara) holds reports, publications, and curriculum resources completed through initiatives of the NCGIA consortium. For more information, see:

National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis

There are 340 publications in this collection, published between 1988 and 2015.
NCGIA Closing Reports on Research Initiatives and Projects (21)

Accuracy of Spatial Databases—NCGIA Research Initiative 1, Closing Report

This report describes the results of NCGIA Initiative 1 on the Accuracy of Spatial Databases. It begins with a discussion of objectives and the process of developing a research agenda. Each of the seven major areas of the research agenda is discussed, and research activities of the center during the active period of the initiative (1988-90) and since its completion are described. The report ends with an assessment of the initiative against five criteria.

NCGIA Annual Report, Year 7

This document reports on the NCGIA's seventh full year of operation. Three research initiatives were completted in 1995: Formalizing Cartographic Knowledge; Institutions Sharing Geographic Information; and GIS and Spatial Analysis. Two major new research initiatives were begun, on Multiple Roles for GIS in US Global Change Research and on Collaborative Spatial Decision-Making , and a third was in the advanced stages of planning for its specialist meeting--GIS and Society: The Social Implications of How People, Space, and Environment are Represented in GIS, the first NCGIA research initiative to be planned mostly outside the center's three institutions. Education programs continued to be directed to K-12, GIS in the community colleges, and the development of new curriculum materials in GIS and remote sensing. Two collaborative projects were initiated under the Collaborative Grants program, and the Visiting Scholars program continued to support the work of visiting researchers at NCGIA sites. The program of collaboration with the European Science Foundation's GISDATA program continued, and the first joint Summer Institute for Young Scholars was held in Maine.

Architecture of Very Large GIS Databases—NCGIA Research Initiative 5, Closing Report

NCGIA Research Initiative 5 explored the Architecture of Very Large GIS Databases. This report covers research activities in this area over the period July 1989–August 1992. Central attention is given to problems relating to the storage, access, processing, and analysis of spatially indexed data processing. This report highlights how such datasets require radically new approaches to spatial data models, spatial data structures, algorithms, and user inter-faces.

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NCGIA Technical Reports (122)

Query Languages for Geographic Information Systems (90-12)

The three papers contained in this report show three different perspectives of interactive query languages for geographic information and analysis, an emphasis of the NCGIA’s Research Initiative No. 2 on "Languages of Spatial Relations." They are published as a technical report to make them accessible to readers as a whole so that they can make comparisons between the different approaches.

The first paper, "Concepts of Spatial Objects in GIS User Interfaces and Query Languages," was presented at GIS/LIS ’89 in Orlando. It investigates the requirements for a GIS query language from a user’s perspective. The second paper, "Spatial SQL: A Query and Representation Language," shows how such a GIS query language can be designed as an extension of the well-known relational query language SQL. Finally, the third paper, entitled "LOBSTER: Combining AI and Database Techniques for GIS," is a reprint of an article published in Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, Vol. 56, No. 6, June 1990, pp. 919-926. It reports on the implementation of and experience with a prototype of a spatial query language based upon the Prolog programming language.

A Hierarchical Spatial Data Structure for Global Geographic Information Systems (89-5)

Hierarchical spatial data structures offer distinct advantages of data compression and fast access, but are difficult to adapt to the globe. Following Dutton (1984, 1988a, 1988b), we propose to project the globe onto an octahedron, and then to recursively subdivide each of its eight triangular faces into four triangles. We provide procedures for addressing the hierarchy, and for computingaddresses in the hierarchical structure from latitude and longitude, and vice versa. At any level in the hierarchy the finite elements are all triangles, but are only approximately equal in area and shape; we provide methods for computing area, and for finding the addresses of neighboring triangles

Time in Geographic Space: Report on the Specialist Meeting of Research Initiative 10 (94-9)

This report describes the Specialist Meeting of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) Research Initiative on “Spatio-Temporal Reasoning in GIS.” This Research Initiative addresses space and time as it relates to objects and people in geographic space. The Specialist Meeting for the Research Initiative was held at Lake Arrowhead, CA May 8-11, 1993 to set and prioritize a research agenda.

The primary goal of this report is to disseminate the results of the discussions and make them available to other researchers. Discussions at the workshop focused on cognitive and formalization issues as they relate to spatio-temporal reasoning. Participants identified a research agenda consisting of three complementary parts: studies of human cognitive representation, language, and culture with respect to geographic space and time; developments of formal systems for spatio-temporal reasoning; and efforts to bridge the gap between human and formal systems with appropriate means for communication and interaction. 

Workshop participants found over 60 researchable questions, which they categorized according to this framework and subsequently prioritized. High priority was given to research that increases our knowledge of cognitive spatial representations and how such representations can be formalized. Also, the development of temporal taxonomies recurred throughout the discussions. Several times the need for alternatives to the snapshot space-time model were demanded, for instance by considering processes.

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Perspectives and Resources for GIScience Education (11)

California GIS Educators' Symposium: Participants, Summary Discussion and Agenda

The National Center for Geographic Information (NCGIA) and Analysis and the California Geographic Information Association (CGIA) organized the first California GIS Educators' Symposium, which took place on August 11—12, 1996. This day and a half meeting at the University of California, Santa Barbara brought together 45 GIS educators from around the state. There was a strong representation from the California State University system as well as from the state's community colleges. Participants also included educators from the University of California, private universities, the public schools, and other educational organizations.

The primary goal of the symposium was to begin a dialog between educators at in different types of institutions around the state and to attempt to coordinate GIS educational activities.

Jack Dangermond, President of ESRI, delivered a thought provoking keynote discussion, which touched on a broad range of issues related to the affect of GIS on society and education. He also discussed the directions which the technology may take, including the increasing importance of desktop and internet- based GIS.

The symposium also provided ample opportunity for discussion of the issues facing educators in each type of institution and between institutions. 

This document contains: a list of the symposium participants; summaries of the mixed group break out discussion and of the final set of recommendations/action items formulated; and the symposium agenda.

GIS in the K-12 Classroom: Research Agenda from EDGIS '96

This meeting of education researchers and teachers immediately followed the November 1996 Annual Meeting of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) in Santa Barbara, California. Participants explored the issues facing the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the K-12 classroom and developed a research agenda related to Pedagogy Issues, Curriculum Issues, Software Issues, and Cognitive Issues.

NCGIA Annual GIS Bibliography for 1992

GIS conference proceeding articles are only sporatically covered by the current online database services. Similarly, GIS books which contain articles or chapters written by different authors are difficult to access by the titles and authors of those chapters. The primary purpose of this document and accompanying data base is to provide bibliographic citations for all articles contained in the major GIS conference proceedings and book compendiums for the previous year (1992).

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Specialist Research Meetings—Papers and Reports (12)

International Symposium on Geographic Information Science. Twentieth Anniversary of NCGIA

Marking the beginning of National Science Foundation funding for the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) at its three sites, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University at Buffalo, and the University of Maine, December 1, 2008 represented the twentieth anniversary of NCGIA. In honor of this occasion, a symposium was held at which retrospective and prospective analyses of the work of NCGIA were reviewed. Of special interest are the alternative perspectives on the ten most significant discoveries and innovations in GIScience and on the role of NCGIA over the twenty year span beginning in 1988.

Land Use Modeling Workshop

The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) and the USGS sponsored a workshop on Land Use Modeling at the EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota from June 5th-6th, 1997. Topics of discussion included: the current and future state of the art in land use modeling, data needs and issues related to the land use and land cover information needed for calibrating and testing models, applications of land use models, the inclusion of human dimensions and, finally, research needs going forward.  

Included in this document are: the meeting summary and summary of discussions, a list of participants and the steering committee, participant statements and full position papers from participants (where applicable).

Workshop in Landscape Change: Final Report

This report describes a workshop held in January, 2001 in Santa Barbara, California. The workshop focused on landscape architecture, and brought together participants from both sides of this tension between the investigative and implementation disciplines, to explore its dimensions and to map directions for the future. Its central theme was landscape change, an area of concern to both investigators and practitioners.

Summaries of the four keynote presentations are provided as well as summaries of the subsequent plenary discussion on each of the four themes, and by summaries of each of the workshop’s breakout sessions. The final section provides a short summary of the workshop’s conclusions and ideas for follow-on actions. Appendix A provides the list of participants, and Appendix B presents an aggregated synthesis of the 80 research agenda suggestions provided by the participants during the workshop.

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Varenius Initiatives (1995-1999) (18)

Spatial Learning in Formal and Informal Settings—White paper on Transitions from Childhood to the Workforce

This white paper is based on outcomes from a workshop in Santa Barbara CA in September 1999. Questions relating to the spatial skills and abilities necessary for transition from childhood to the workplace were examined by 30 multidisciplinary experts. This white paper presents a summary of the two general foci of the meeting along with the general research topics that the group deemed critical along with specific research questions within each critical topic.

Transitions from Childhood to the Workforce, Specialist Meeting Introduction and Position Papers

Participants in this specialist meeting (Santa Barbara, CA, September 1999) explored research questions at the nexus of Geography, Education, Psychology and Cognitive Science regarding "Integrating Research & Education in the Spatial Domain" and  "Spatial Problem Solving in the K-12 and Undergraduate Arenas." Participant position papers on these themes are included in this report.

Workshop on Status and Trends in Spatial Analysis

The National Science Foundation sponsored a workshop on status and trends in spatial analysis from December 10­-12, 1998 organized under the Varenius program, the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA)’s project to advance geographic information science. The workshop focused on assessing how successful GIS has been at making spatial analysis widely available to physical and social scientists, and of what new directions might be researched in the future. 

This document includes a list of the participants involved in the workshop, as well as the position papers they submitted with their application.

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Core Curriculum-Geographic Information Systems (1990) (77)

Unit 40 - Spatial Interpolation I

This unit is the first of two that focuses on spatial interpolation—the procedure of estimating the value of properties at unsampled sites within the area covered by existing observations. It discusses several different methods for classifying spatial interpolation procedures, such as point vs. areal, global vs. local, and exact vs. approximate. Several point-based methods are described, both exact—proximal, B-splines, Kriging and manual (“eyeballing”)—and approximate—trend surface analysis, Fourier series and moving average/distance weighted average.

Unit 31 - Efficient Storage of Lines - Chain Codes

This unit considers how the geometry of lines and areas is coded in a GIS database. Different techniques for coding straight lines, arcs of circles, and splines are presented, and advantages and disadvantages of each are discussed.

Unit 10 - Spatial Databases as Models of Reality

This begins a three-unit section covering some basic principles of spatial databases. As these issues are fundamental, many of them are introduced here but dealt with in much greater detail in later units. Elements of databases are introduced, including the entity-object distinction, classes, attributes, layers and database models. The unit concludes with a discussion of database design, including the process, desirable database characteristics and issues.

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Core Curriculum-Geographic Information Science (1997-2000) (31)

Unit 188 - Artificial Neural Networks for Spatial Data Analysis

This unit presents a definition of artificial neural networks (ANN); describes different types of ANN and their applications in geography and spatial analysis; explains differences between ANN and AI and between ANN and statistics; and describes how to apply a supervised ANN in model classification and function estimation problems.

Unit 054 - Representing Fields

This unit answers the questions, What is a field? What types of fields are there? What is the difference between fields and discrete entities? and How are fields represented?

Introduction to the Core Curriculum in GIScience

This introduction provides context to the Core Curriculum in GIScience, including its design philosophy, organization of core concepts, editorial procedure, a development timetable, list of original developers and editorial notes. Note that hyperlinks are active only from the downloaded PDF document.

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GIS Core Curriculum for Technical Programs (1997-1999) (41)

Unit 48: Designing Products for Printing

This unit discusses applications, design elements, media and the creation process of printed geographic products including maps, tables and charts. Conventional map elements such as title, scale bar, legend, etc. are described and illustrated with examples, and different map types and their typical application are discussed.

Background: GIS Applications and Case Studies

This unit presents (1) a case study and (2) a bibliographic resource for GIS in the medical field. The case study illustrates the use of a GIS to monitor and analyze spatial patterns of physicians' multiple locations. This case highlights data location, acquisition and assessment, join and relational operators, geocoding and distance calculations, and standard query language.

Unit 47: On-Screen Visualization

This unit discusses applications, design concerns and strategies for effective visual, digital displays of geographic information. Topics presented include map types, selection and generalization, data classification, use of color and other visual variables, legend design and use of text.

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Newsletters (7)

NCGIA Update

This newsletter documents research progress, educational initiatives, announcements, and project management associated with the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis.

NCGIA Update

This newsletter documents research progress, educational initiatives, announcements, and project management associated with the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis.

NCGIA Update

This newsletter documents research progress, educational initiatives, announcements, and project management associated with the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis.

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