Association of American Geographers (AAG)
Annual Meeting

Sat., April 17, 2010
Washington, DC, USA
12:40-2:20 p.m., Marriott Hotel, Virginia Suite B

Dawn Wright (Oregon State U.)
Chaowei Yang (George Mason U.)

Grand challenges are not merely routine research questions or research priorities, but questions and directives that: (1) are extremely hard to do, yet are do-able; (2) produce outcomes potentially affecting millions, if not hundreds of millions of people; (3) require multiple research projects across many subdisciplines in order to be satisfactorily addressed; (4) consist of well-defined metrics such that, through creativity and commitment, can be realistically met and one knows the end has been reached. (5) capture the popular imagination, and thus political support.

Emerging technologies and societal trends ensure that no set of grand challenges will stand frozen in time. Hence what are the grand challenges of GIScience, especially in the 10-15 years since the earliest deliberations were made via NSF-funded workshops and University Consortium for Geographic Science (UCGIS) agenda-setting? This panel will discuss fundamental scientific questions and forward momentum that will drive the field through the next decade. It serves also as an important discussion in advance of a planned NSF-funded workshop on the same theme, to which the geography/GIScience/information technology community will be invited.

Each panelist spoke on what they see as gaps in our current understanding of GIScience, existing research challenges that will persist (such as scale), and/or research questions that should be addressed in light of prior books, papers, workshops, etc. It is hoped that this effort contributes in the long run to important documents/publications marking ~10 years of development, a revisioning, decadal assessment of sorts, as well as a forward look.

This session was co-sponsored by the AAG GI Systems & Science, Cyberinfrastructure, and Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Groups.

Panel Session | Resources | Contacts

Panel Session

Presenter 1: Dawn Wright, Oregon State University, Introduction to the Panel [Presentation file]

Presenter 2: Tim Nyerges, University of Washington, Grand Challenges in GIScience: UCGIS Experiences 2006-2010 [Presentation file]

Presenter 3: May Yuan, University of Oklahoma, GIScience Grand Research Challenges: From Spatial Integration to Spatiotemporal Inspiration [Presentation file]

Presenter 4: Peggy Agouris, George Mason University, What Are the Grand Challenges in Geographic Information Science? Results from the NSF Workshop on Geospatial & Geotemporal Informatics [Presentation file] | Workshop Summary

Presenter 5: Ted Cope, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, NGA Perspective [Presentation notes]

Presenter 6: Jerry Johnston, EPA, Grand Challenges in GIScience: A Perspective from the EPA [Presentation file]

Discussant: Chaowei (Phil) Yang, George Mason University, [Notes]

Back to Top


Batty, M. (2011). Integrated Models and Grand Challenges

NSF SBE Call for Grand Challenges White Papers (August 2010)

Goodchild, M.F. (2010). 20 Years of Progress: GIScience in 2010

Goodchild, M.F. and Glennon, J.A. (2010). Crowdsourcing geographic information for disaster response: A research frontier

Gessler, D. (2009). The iPlant Collaborative: A Cyberinfrastructure for the Plant Sciences (including discussion of grand challenge proposals). June 22, 2009, UCGIS Summer Assembly, Santa Fe, NM.

Goodchild, M.F. (2008). Geographic information science: The grand challenge., The Handbook of Geographic Information Science, edited by J. Wilson and A.S. Fotheringham. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 596-608.

Grossner, K.E. (2009). Digital Earth as a UCGIS Grand Challenge, unpublished thought paper.

  • Grossner, K.E., M.F. Goodchild, et al. (2008). Defining a digital Earth system. Trans. GIS 12(1): 145-160.

Mark, D.M. (2000). Geographic information science: Critical issues in an emerging cross-disciplinary research domain. URISA J. 12(1): 45-54.

Miller, H.J. (2008). Transport 2.0: Meeting grand challenges with GIScience. ArcNews, Winter 2008/2009.

Thomas, J.J. and Cook, K.A. (eds.) (2005). Illuminating the Path: The Research and Development Agenda for Visual Analytics. US Department of Homeland Security, National Visualization and Analytics Center and IEEE, 190 pp.

Wright, D.J. and Goodchild, M.F. (2010). Leveraging technological change for the betterment of society, as part of the AAG 2010 panel Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences: The Forthcoming National Research Council Report, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Session 3123, Washington, DC.

Wright, D.J. and Halpin, P.N. (2005). Spatial reasoning for Terra Incognita: Progress and grand challenges of marine GIS, Place Matters: Geospatial Tools for Marine Science, Conservation and Management in the Pacific Northwest, edited by D. Wright and A. Scholz. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 273-287.

Brandt, A. (2006). Grand challenges for ocean sciences research. Oceanography, 19(2): 14-17.

Forsyth, D.W., Lay, T., Aster, R.C., and Romanowicz, B. (2009). Grand challenges for seismology. Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 90(41): 361-362.

Back to Top


Session Organizers:

Back to Top