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March Headlines!

EUROGI elects new President (24.3.99)

On 22 and 23 March 1999, EUROGI (European Umbrella Organisation for GI) held its annual Members' Day and General Board Meeting, hosted by DG XIII/E in Luxembourg. On the first day, the 17 national GI association members of EUROGI were all given the opportunity to present their activities from the past year and plans for the future. During the afternoon, two "break out" sessions were held, focusing on "GI - Value for Society" and "GI2000/EGII: Next Steps", with summary reports presented to the final plenary session of the day.

On day two, the election of the new EUROGI President, Prof. Ian Masser, of ITC, the Netherlands, replacing outgoing President Mike Brand, of OSNI, was effected with little drama, as the German candidate had withdrawn his candidacy the previous week. The remainder of the day was spent on reviewing the activities and finances of EUROGI in 1998 and the 1999 plan, as well as a detailed discussion of EUROGI's "Strategic Review" which was prepared over the preceding months - a retrospective look at EUROGI since its founding in May 1994. While much has been achieved, there was a general feeling that much also remains to be done in regard to many pressing issues facing the entire geospatial community across Europe, at national, trans-border and pan-European levels. A full meeting report and background documentation is available from EUROGI's Web site at http://www.eurogi.org/

Nordic GI Conference by GI Norden & ULI in assoc. with EUROGI (23.3.99)

GI Norden and ULI host the first of the "EUROGI badged" conferences in Lund, Sweden from 20 - 22 October 1999. The "badging" is a new concept implemented with the demise of the Joint European Conference (JEC) series in 1997. Each year, EUROGI will identify a national or regional GI conference that will become badged as the "European GI conference of the year". Details of the conference and preliminary call for papers are available from the EUROGI Web site athttp://www.eurogi.org/. For those wishing to contribute papers, a 20-line synopsis is due to the selection committee by 15 April.

GI2000 Update (22.3.99)

On 4 March 1999, DG XIII/E Director Mr. R. F. de Bruine, convened a meeting in Luxembourg of some 24 invited representatives from across Europe and across sectors of the wide GI community. The purpose was "to re-assess the need for GI2000 - the draft Communication regarding a European Policy Framework for GI - taking into account the significant time that has passed since the document was first produced." The question posed to participants was whether it is sufficiently up to date or does it need reworking. Also, the Commission wanted "to see if the participants still favoured 'relevant, necessary and wanted' specific European actions by the European Commission in the area of GI."

The answer was a resounding "Yes" to both questions. However, Mr. de Bruine cautioned the assembly that continued action on GI2000 as a formal Communication from the Commission to European Parliament and the Council of Ministers was in question, due to a severe lack of human resources. (The meeting report is available from the "GI2000 / 5FP : Meeting Reports" section of this Web site - see side panel menu). Of course, since that date, events in Brussels, with the mass resignation of the Commissioners, has confused the situation even more. Keep watching this news column for further updates.

Participants were asked to make any further comments about changes or additions that they wished to see in the draft Communication (which was distributed to the attendees) by 19 March and, if necessary, a new draft would be prepared. This request generated lengthy and, sometimes, heated debate on the gi2000 discussion forum (to join and see a summary of the list discussion, click on "GI Forum" in the "News - Views - Events" section of the side panel menu). A new draft is now being prepared for further comment by mid-April, at which time a further review of the status of GI2000 will take place in DG XIII/E.

In the meantime, the GI community was encouraged to take full advantage of the funding opportunities offered by the Fifth Framework Programme 1st Call for Proposals (launched 19.3.99 - see below) by (perhaps) submitting a proposal that would focus on beginning some of the preparatory work needed in regard to GI in Europe, e.g. setting up some form of investigative and consensus building Working Group, whose output could be well used by the High Level Working Party proposed in the GI2000 draft Communication. This idea was also discussed at the EUROGI Members Day and General Board Meeting on 22-23 March 1999 (see above).

Valuing Environmental Data - ENVALDAT reports (22.3.99)

The Customer Valuation of Environmental Data (ENVALDAT) concerted action (ENV4-CTC96-0363) funded by the EC's DG XII, has issued its final report "Establishing the Value of Environmental Data Products: A guide to present practice in coastal zone management", available in PDF format from the Web at http://www.hrwallingford.co.uk/projects/ENVALDAT/. While the report focuses on the marine/coastal environment for examples and case studies, the conclusions and principles incorporated apply across the spectrum of not only environmental data, but for any spatially related data. With sections on economic models, data pricing schemes (compared across sectors and nations), the report is well worth the download time (1.4 Megabytes) and the read!

Fifth Framework Programme - 1st Call for Proposals launched (19.3.99)

On Friday, 19 March, the first Call for Proposals under the Fifth RTD Framework Programme was launched. Call documentation is available from the Web sites at http://www.cordis.lu/ist/calls/calls.htm and the IST Specific Workprogramme for the Information Society Technologies theme is available from http://www.cordis.lu/ist/wp.htm in all official languages. Full administrative forms and an electronic "Proposal Preparation Tool" for all parts of the 1st Call (RTD projects and support measures) are downloadable from http://www.cordis.lu/ist/calls/199901.htm.

Information and contact coordinates on hundreds of past participants of 4th Framework and related EU-funded projects can be found at http://www.elpub.org, courtesy of the Electronic Publishing group within DG XIII/E, who are also responsible for the two specific action lines in the IST programme which at least mention "geographic information" as an example area/sector for action.

Proposals are due by 16 June - so DON'T DELAY if you wish to participate in this first Call!

UK AGI holds first EuroSIG meeting in London (18.3.99)

In January this year, the UK's Association for Geographic Information (AGI) created a new European interest Special Interest Group, the EuroSIG, which will have a major launch day on 10 May 1999 at the Commonwealth Institute in London. However, work of the SIG has already started, with an evening seminar held in London on 18 March to present the IST workprogramme of the EU's Fifth RTD Framework Programme to members of the UK GI community who may wish to take part. The EuroSIG will try to answer questions from the AGI membership regarding GI in the 5th Framework Programme, as well as guide potential proposers to possible partners, especially outside the UK. More details are available from the Web links at: http://www.agi.org.uk/pages/contents.html orhttp://www.agi.org.uk/pages/structure/committees/sigs.html.

GI & GIS Research Priorities - AGILE and USA (17.3.99)

AGILE - the Association of Geographic Information Laboratories in Europe - has published its first round of information concerning GIS research priorities for Europe. For information on AGILE, visit their Web site athttp://www.uniroma1.it/DICEA/menu1.html and the research priorities pages can be found at http://castafiore.uni-muenster.de/agile/index.htm. AGILE is also conducting its second annual conference from 15 - 17 April 1999 in Rome, Italy. Details available from the main AGILE Web site at http://www.uniroma1.it/DICEA/AGILE.htm.

From the USA also comes a NSF (National Science Foundation) report of the Workshop on "Geographic Information Science: Critical issues in an Emerging Cross-Disciplinary Research Domain" which can be downloaded in PDF or html format from the Web at: http://www.geog.buffalo.edu/ncgia/workshopreport.html The report is the result of the Workshop on GI Science and Geospatial Activities of the NSF, 14 - 15 January 1999 and is well worth reading.

Reports of Experts meetings available on-line (16.3.99)

Reports from the two experts' meetings convened by DG XIII/E in Luxembourg in November and December 1998 are available in the "Meetings" section of the Web site (click on "Meeting Reports" in the 'GI2000 and 5FP' side-panel menu).

From 16-17 November, 1998, a GI2000/EGII preparatory meeting was held, which focused on "Cross-border GI applications". One conclusion was that there are still many problems with availability of and access to cross-border data, even for single borders shared by any two countries, a situation that is magnified across Europe for true pan-European data.

An experts meeting titled "Developing a Vision for the EGII - European Geographic Information Infrastructure" was also held 7 - 9 December 1998 in Luxembourg, attended by 13 invited experts, including representatives of JRC and Eurostat, plus DG XIII/E hosts and TechServe support experts. An extensive report is available covering the main topics of the meeting.

Fifth EC-GIS Workshop "GIS of Tomorrow" 28 - 30 June 1999 (15.3.99)

The 5th EC-GIS Workshop will take place at Stresa, on Lago Maggiore, northern Italy, from 28 - 30 June, hosted by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, Space Applications Institute and DG XIII. The 1999 workshop will focus on projects funded by ESPRIT and INFO2000, other EC funded projects, GI2000 and EGII discussions and the 5thFramework Programme. More details are available from the Web at http://ams.egeo.sai.jrc.it/5ec-gis/ or Karen Fullerton at the JRC on e-mail: karen.fullerton@jrc.it.

AIDA INFO2000 review demonstrates problems in data access (12.3.99)

The INFO2000 project AIDA - Alpine Guide Italia-Deutschland-Austria - held a mid-term review on 12 March at the site of partner Universitaet der Bundeswehr Muenchen (Arbeitsgemeinschaft GIS) in Munich, Germany. Details of the project can be seen on the Web at: http://www2.echo.lu/info2000/en/mm-projects/aida.html.The project team demonstrated some of the Alpine guide, a tourism product combining CD-ROM with embedded on-line hyperlink capability. The CD-ROM contains the more static information, such as underlying 1:50 000 scale mapping, information from tourist centres across the covered regions and facts about the regions, while the on-line links can be used to access the latest weather data and status of hikers' huts, paths, etc.

However, the project has experienced first hand the serious difficulties in acquiring basic mapping information at the required scale, to the extent that production of the guide covering the Italian sector is now seriously in question. The team also reported that, even in cases where digital cartographic data was available, there were often serious delays in being able to acquire the data, terms of payment and use varied widely, different formats were in use (even within the same data supplier) and similar problems. As a practical demonstration of locating, acquiring, integrating and presenting cross-border GI, AIDA has some interesting messages for the GI community across Europe.

ARCTIC2 INFO2000 project reviewed (26.2.99)

The ARCTIC2 project from the 1st call in the INFO2000 programme had its mid-term review on 26 February 1999 at project coordinators Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (KAH) in Bonn. This project has not only achieved all its stated objectives, but may even be completed earlier than expected, thanks to the excellent work put in by all partners. The highly successful Polar Interactive Theatre, a main deliverable that focused on myriad subjects relating to Arctic and Antarctic exploration, life and environmental issues, was seen by more than 750 000 visitors at its two main venues (KAH in Bonn and the German pavilion at EXPO '98 in Lisbon, Portugal). The project also conducted a conference on "Visual Reality" in March, 1998, which was so well received, that a follow-on conference is planned for later this year. And the final deliverables, a Resource CD-ROM and a Visualisation Library (video clips and high-resolution imagery) are complete or nearing completion, offering the possibility for the highly educational media and interactivity of the Polar Interactive Theatre to be offered to the general public at a future date. Project information can be seen at the Web site: http://www.kah-bonn.de/1/16/1.htm in German and English.

Green Paper on Public Sector Information (18.1.99)

The long awaited Green Paper on the role of public sector information in the Information Society [COM(1998)585] was published on 18 January 1999 and can be downloaded from the Web at:

http://www2.echo.lu/info2000/en/publicsector/greenpaper.html

Since it is often quoted that "80% of all GI (spatial information) exists in the public sector", this is a most important document, to which the entire GI community should make a concerted effort to offer comment to the Commission by the 1 June 1999 deadline. Ten questions were examined in the Green Paper and are listed in an annex. It would be very useful if the various national GI associations (and perhaps EUROGI) could organise replies to these questions, specifically from the point of view of geographic/spatial information, as a unique type of public sector information.


November Headlines!

Conciliation Committee agrees 5FP budget

The Conciliation Committee reached agreement on 17 November on the overall framework budget, of ECU 14,960 million during the fourth conciliation process meeting in Strasbourg. According to the terms of the agreement, a sum of ECU 13,700 million is earmarked for the Fifth EC RTD Framework Programme. The remaining ECU 1,260 million is set aside for research activities in the nuclear sector under the Fifth Euratom RTD Framework Programme. As soon as the texts have been finalised in the official Community languages, both institutions will have six weeks to confirm the agreement definitively (by an absolute majority of the votes cast in the case of the Parliament, and by unanimity in the case of the Council), subject to which the legislative decision will be adopted. Given the urgency of the issue, it is anticipated both institutions will do their utmost to adopt this decision as soon as possible, so as to enable the Council to adopt the decisions concerning the specific programmes before the end of the year. First Calls for Proposal under 5FP are still expected to be launched in January 1999, with others to follow in March and June 1999. Visit our "GI in 5FP" pages to learn the latest news on progress on the Fifth Framework Programme.

DG XIII/E holds Experts meeting on Cross-border GI issues for GI2000

On 16-17 November, as part of its on-going GI2000 preparations, DG XIII/E held a meeting in Luxembourg, for invited experts with direct experience of cross-border use of GI, to present and discuss their experiences. A meeting report will be available shortly - so keep an eye on the GI2000 pages at this site. EUROGI were represented by Mr. Christian Chenez, Secretary-General. A second experts meeting will be held from 7-9 December in Luxembourg, to focus on the broad range of EGII (European Geographic Information Infrastructure) issues. Expect a report to be available from this meeting before the year end.

Third GSDI Conference reports from Canberra, Australia

The 3rd GSDI (Global Spatial Data Infrastructure) conference was convened in Canberra, Australia, hosted by the Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific, on 17-19 November 1999. All conference theme papers and reports from the conference speakers are already available from the GSDI Web site maintained by EUROGI, whose President, Mr. Mike Brand (OS Northern Ireland), was chairman.

Microsoft releasing new mapping products aimed at consumer

A spate of recent e-mails on various discussion lists are discussing the pre-release announcement from Microsoft of their MapPoint 2000 product, which Microsoft claims "does everything from finding addresses to plotting demographic data from Office, in an effort to bring Global Information Services (GIS) to the masses". Microsoft already includes the street address finder, Streets, with Office 97 Small Business Edition, but Office 2000, due for release in February, will remove Streets from the Small Business edition and MapPoint 2000 will be the address locator for all editions of Office 2000, sold as a stand-alone product for around $109. MapPoint 2000 contains "14 million street addresses, demographic information for the entire United States, with age, population, ethnicity, gender, and income information for 1980, 1990, 1998, and projections for 2008", according to John Betz, group product planner for MapPoint at Microsoft. Market analysts say that MapPoint could hook into a nascent market, attracting customers who would never have looked at more complex, more expensive products. Lets see how it performs when released in February!

NASA to launch Landsat-7 in April 1999

The latest in the series of US environmental monitoring satellites, Landsat-7, is to be launched in April 1999, a delay of 4 months from the previously planned launch date. The satellite contains the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM Plus) to continue building the database of high-resolution Earth imagery begun in 1982 with the Landsat-4 thematic mapper. The Landsat-7 data is expected to be used in crop monitoring, forestry management and information about population change and water quality.

Index to Prior News Columns

October/November 1998
August/September 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
March/April 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997

Other News Sites of interest

EUROGI Flash News items
Related INFO2000 News
I*M Europe News items


Last updated: 24.03.1999

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