In 1988, the U.S. National Science Foundation established the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA), a consortium of three institutions: the University of California at Santa Barbara, the State University of New York at Buffalo, and the University of Maine. The primary mission of the NCGIA was to conduct basic research, but the organization was also asked, from time to time, to provide services or coordination for members of the broader Geographic Information Science community. In 1990, the NCGIA board of directors recommended that a more broadly-based organization be established to promote and support the field, especially the needs of researchers. After continued discussions in 1991, the NCGIA responded by establishing an ad hoc steering committee consisting of 16 individuals from as many institutions, representing about seven different academic disciplines. After a series of meetings at professional conferences, sufficient momentum was gathered to establish a national conference on the issue in Boulder, Colorado.
Multidisciplinary Scope of the UCGIS
The University Consortium for Geographic Information Science emphasizes the multidisciplinary nature of GIS and the need for balance and cooperation among the disciplines listed below, and many others.
CARTOGRAPHY, includes the analysis, design, visualization, and generation of various forms of maps, and can take advantage of animation, user interaction, and analytical processing.
COGNITIVE SCIENCE. A significant branch of geographic information science is concerned with how people think about their geographic surroundings. Researchers use this knowledge to make Geographic Information Systems easier to use and to improve the design of navigation systems for vehicles and for the visually impaired.
COMPUTER SCIENCE. The need for better methods of representing geographic information in databases and processing it for specific purposes has led to specialization in such areas as spatial databases, computational geometry, spatial reasoning, and digital libraries
ENGINEERING and LAND SURVEYING are the determination and physical protraction of land boundaries to serve as a basis of real estate and taxation
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES, which include disciplines such as Forestry and Soil Science, are advancing research into the spatio - temporal relationships of phenomena in the natural and human - modified environment, the correlation and distribution of physical and biotic resources, and the simulation of trends and conditions under varying assumptions of environmental process.
GEODETIC SCIENCE researches new and more accurate methods for determining precise positions on the Earth's surface. GPS units, for instance, can establish their exact position anywhere on the earth by observing the signals of satellites.
GEOGRAPHY research focuses on the development and application of geographic information theory and technologies to the discipline's traditional goal of understanding the spatial relationships between
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE. GIS technologies are aiding the design process as landscape architects address ecological issues and the physical, biological and social characteristics of their sites.
LAW and PUBLIC POLICY research addresses ownership rights in digital spatial data, liability associated with the creation and use of geographic information, ethical use of geographic databases, access to the government's geographic data and records, and the effects of detailed spatial data sets on personal privacy.
REMOTE SENSING and PHOTOGRAMMETRY focus on the science of interpretation and making measurements using images acquired from a distance. These disciplines are devising new computer-based methods for detecting features, establishing their precise position, and undertaking analysis and interpretation of image content.
STATISTICS. Questions about the accuracy of geographic information and the uncertainties associated with coarse-scale maps are being tackled through developments in the recognized sub-fields of spatial statistics and geostatistics