The University Record, February 13, 1996

Committee named to study issues related to mapping systems

From the Office of the Vice President for Research

Geographical information systems (GIS), which allow researchers to map data onto locations or geographic sites in sophisticated ways, are becoming increasingly important in research involving data that has geographical or location-relevant elements, and create opportunities for exciting new types of analyses.

At present, availability of this tool at the U-M is fragmented and inadequate. Some units have developed successful GIS efforts, but the lack of a campuswide GIS capability hinders the use of the tool by researchers and prevents the interdisciplinary exchange of use and data that one finds at other universities.

Because of this, the U-M has lost the opportunity in the past to launch valuable interdisciplinary projects because of the insufficient availability of GIS.

As a result, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) and the Office of the Vice Provost for Information Technology (ITD) have appointed a five-member GIS Coordinating Committee.

The charge to the committee notes that the systems are literally "transforming the discipline" in many fields of study, "enabling researchers to ask questions heretofore thought impractical."

Vice President for Research Homer A. Neal and ITD's Vice Provost Douglas E. Van Houweling note that geographical information systems "can serve as a powerful vehicle for sharing and integrating data among and across disciplines and projects, facilitating new interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches."

Among the elements the committee might explore for creation of an adequate infrastructure are:


Support and oversight of data acquisition and management, making the growing fund of GIS data readily available to faculty and students.


Stable, base-level technical support for the installation and set-up of GIS software and systems, facilitating broader access and use of GIS by faculty.


Training and consultation services for faculty and students.


Mechanisms for appropriate and timely acquisition of new GIS software.

Committee members, who have been asked to develop an implementation plan by June, are:

David Allan, professor of natural resources and environment (chair); Yu Xie, associate professor of sociology and associate research scientist, Population Studies Center; John Vesecky, professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences; Jonathan Levine, assistant professor, Urban and Regional Planning Program; and Karl Longstreth, senior associate librarian, Hatcher Library.

Mark Davis-Craig of ITD will provide technical support to the committee. Victor Wong, ITD director of information technology for research, and Gary Krenz, assistant to the vice president for research, are ex-officio committee members.

Neal and Van Houweling note that the committee is intentionally small, allowing it to complete its mission in the tight time frame.

In the charge, the two ask the committee to "consult widely" with users and potential users of GIS who may not be directly represented on the committee but who "have a stake in the development and maintenance of the GIS infrastructure."

In the coming weeks, the committee will delegate responsibility for various areas of concern and make available a contact list that will be on the OVPR Web page (

Until then, questions about the committee should be directed to Krenz, 763-6048 or, or Wong, 763-6207 or