Abstract    Table of  Contents   Acknowledgments
Chapters  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   Bibliography

 
INFRASTRUCTURES FOR SHARING GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
AMONG ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCIES
by
John D. Evans
 
Submitted to the Department of Urban Studies and Planning
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems in Planning
at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
June 1997
© 1997 John D. Evans. All rights reserved.
The author hereby grants to MIT permission to reproduce and to distribute publicly paper and electronic copies of this thesis document in whole or in part.
 
 
Signature of Author
John D. Evans 
May 30, 1997
Certified by 
Joseph Ferreira, Jr. 
Professor of Urban Planning and Operations Research
Accepted by 
Frank Levy 
Chair, Departmental Ph.D. Program
 

Infrastructures for sharing geographic information
among environmental agencies
by
John D. Evans
Submitted to the Department of Urban Studies and Planning
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems in Planning
ABSTRACT

This research draws on several organizational and technological perspectives to examine the design and growth of infrastructures for inter-organizational geographic information sharing, and their role in collaborative environmental management. The study draws, first, on the experiences of selected coalitions of government agencies to discern their organizational dynamics; and on a software prototype that illustrates coming technological trends. The study gives special attention to geographic information, which often requires special handling and promises particularly important influences on organizations and joint policy-making. It also seeks to understand the interdependence between human and technical aspects of geographic information infrastructures.

The first research phase is a case study of three groups of government agencies that are building networked information-sharing systems for the joint protection of large ecosystems (the Great Lakes, Gulf of Maine, and Pacific Northwest rivers). These cases richly illustrate the challenges and benefits of designing flexible standards, rethinking organizational structures, and adjusting decision-making processes to depend on shared geographic information. The study’s second phase, a prototype networked service for digital orthophotos, suggests that shifting the focus of information sharing from datasets to data services is becoming increasingly feasible, but that organizations may need to adapt to new forms of information sharing. Together, these findings suggest an expanded view of standards as layered, strategic choices; and of organizations in complex, interdependent relationships.
 

Thesis Supervisor: Joseph Ferreira, Jr.
Title: Professor of Urban Planning and Operations Research


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Background and Scope

1. Overview

2. Concept Definitions

a. Various conceptions of sharing
b. Information sharing infrastructures
3. Related research
a. Organizational aspects of geographic information sharing
i. Factors in information sharing, consensus, and coordination
ii. Processes of information sharing, consensus, and coordination
b. Technological aspects of geographic information sharing
i. Levels of connectivity: physical, logical, semantic
ii. Standards, metadata, and non-intrusive sharing
iii. Network tools and network management
c. Interdependence of organizational and technological aspects

d. Organizational and technological change

Chapter 3: Research Methods
1. Overview
a. Case studies: contextual views of information sharing infrastructures
b. Prototype development: anticipating the effects of emerging technologies
2. Organizational case studies
a. Criteria for evaluation and comparison
b. Choice of cases
c. Data collection methods
d. Qualitative analysis
e. Discussion
3. Prototype development
a. Selection of prototype
b. Design choices
c. Evaluation
4. Synopsis
Chapter 4: The Great Lakes Information Network
1. Overview

2. Brief history

3. Context of the infrastructure

a. Institutional context
b. Technological context
4. Infrastructure choices
a. Institutional arrangements
b. Technological design
5. Information sharing characteristics
a. Forms of information sharing
b. Size of the infrastructure
c. Quality of the shared information
i. Precision and accuracy
ii. Concurrency and timeliness
iii. Usability and encapsulation
d. Quality of the information infrastructure
i. Reciprocity: what it takes to publish data
ii. Flexibility: how people join the network
iii. Scalability and sustainability
iv. Non-intrusiveness and transparency: how much change is required
6. Infrastructure impacts
a. Interdependent, "ecosystem" thinking
b. RAPIDS: a clear impact?
7. Challenges and lessons
a. Supporting GLIN's growth
b. Populating GLIN with "real" data
i. Security concerns
ii. No perceived need
iii. Risk of misinterpretation or misuse
iv. Staff burdens
c. Adjusting to a complex network-of-networks
i. Distinct approaches to data sharing
ii. Reconciling the different approaches
8. Conclusions
Chapter 5: The Gulf of Maine Environmental Data and Information Management System
1. Overview

2. Brief history

3. Context of the infrastructure

a. Institutional context
b. Technological context
4. Infrastructure choices
a. Institutional arrangements
b. Technological design
5. Information sharing characteristics
a. Forms of information sharing
b. Size of the infrastructure
c. Quality of the shared information
i. Precision and accuracy
ii. Timeliness and concurrency
iii. Usability and encapsulation
d. Quality of the information infrastructure
i. Reciprocity
ii. Scalability
iii. Non-intrusiveness
6. Infrastructure impacts

7. Challenges and lessons

8. Conclusions

Chapter 6: The Northwest Environmental Database, Coordinated Information System, and StreamNet
1. Overview

2. Brief history

a. The Northwest Power Act
b. Pacific Northwest Rivers Study and Northwest Environmental Database
c. Anadromous fisheries and the Coordinated Information System.
3. Context of the infrastructure
a. Institutional context
i. Many conflicting stakeholders
ii. Other regional data sharing efforts: reinforcement and competition
iii. Increasingly mature & formal state data sharing
iv. Informal communities
b. Technological context
i. Widely varying degrees of experience
ii. Increasing prominence of GIS standards and networking
4. Infrastructure choices
a. Institutional arrangements
i. Northwest Environmental Database: stakeholder cooperation and interdependence
ii. Coordinated Information System: neutrality through isolation from stakeholders
b. Technological design
i. Northwest Environmental Database: decentralized, qualitative, geographic
ii. Coordinated Information System: centralized, quantitative, tabular
5. Information sharing characteristics
a. Forms of information sharing
b. Size of the infrastructure
c. Quality of the shared information
i. Precision, accuracy, and scale
ii. Timeliness and concurrency
iii. Usability and encapsulation
d. Quality of the information infrastructure
i. Reciprocity
ii. Scalability
iii. Non-intrusiveness
6. Infrastructure impacts
a. Consistent, region-wide strategies
b. Enhanced public access to information
c. Improved inter-state collaboration
d. Enhanced data management: CIS and other NED offshoots
7. Challenges and lessons
a. Decentralized vs. centralized coordination
b. Providing data connectivity among data suppliers
c. Teamwork and coordination
8. Conclusions
Chapter 7: Case Study Synthesis
1. Salient findings from the three cases
a. History and context
b. Infrastructure choices
c. Infrastructure characteristics
d. Infrastructure impacts
e. Challenges and lessons
2. Differing views of information and sharing
a. "We will serve no data before its time!": Information sharing as data management
b. "Democracy in action": information sharing as public disclosure
c. If we build it they will come: information sharing as a networking project
d. "We learn from each other": information sharing as a meeting of the minds
e. Getting it right: creatively solving new problems, organizational change, integrated choices
3. Mutual influence of technology, organizations, and policy/planning
a. Technology influences actions
b. Actions influence organizations
c. Organizations influence actions
d. Actions affect technology
e. Policy and planning influences action
f. Actions influence policy and planning
g. Technological and organizational change
4. Technology choices
a. From datasets to data services
b. From standards to metadata
c. From compatibility to interoperability
5. Organizational choices
a. From autonomy to interdependence
b. Growing complexity over the long term
c. Sharing costs and benefits reliably
Chapter 8: Prototype Development: a Digital Orthophoto Browser for the Boston area
1. Introduction

2. The National Spatial Data Infrastructure and the orthophoto browser

a. National Spatial Data Infrastructure overview
b. Relation of the orthophoto browser project to the NSDI
3. Design goals and development stages
a. Background and design goals
b. Development stages
i. FGDC-compliant metadata for pilot orthophotos; begin manipulating images
ii. Preliminary Web-based interface to (tiled) orthophoto excerpts
iii. Build a final orthophoto browser interface with custom image "snippets" and GIS headers
iv. Unveil full-scale service to a wide audience; examine management and replication issues.
v. Discussion of development stages
4. Product functionality
a. Browser overview
b. Links to metadata
5. Evaluation
a. Fulfillment of project objectives
b. Demonstrated value to the research community
c. Usage reports
d. Performance along the case-study criteria
6. Implications: what’s different about the orthophoto browser?
a. A widely accessible, "just-in-time" data service
b. Information integration through metadata
c. Interoperability between software systems
d. Towards a scale-free referencing system
7. Implications for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure
a. Growing the NSDI Clearinghouse beyond metadata
b. Shifting the focus of NSDI standards
c. Networked orthophoto services in the NSDI Framework
8. Implications in the case-study contexts
a. More-than-incremental change
b. Who pays? Distributing responsibilities, costs, and benefits
Chapter 9: Some implications for technology, organizations, and policy
1. Overview
a. Motivation
b. Findings from the case studies
c. Findings from the orthophoto prototype
d. Synthesis of the two studies
2. Technology implications: choosing strategic standards
a. National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse
b. OpenGIS
c. Proprietary protocols: GIS-network integration
d. Evolution of a standard
3. Organizational implications: towards dynamic interdependence
a. Inter-agency teamwork and collaboration
i. The "shadow organization" and emerging structures
ii. From partnership to marketplace: dynamic, chaotic organizational relationships
b. Redistributing responsibilities, costs, and benefits
i. When is geographic information sharing worthwhile?
ii. Incremental vs. radical change
iii. Maintaining infrastructures for the long term
4. Policy implications: role of government, impacts on government
a. Government policy in infrastructure development
i. Information to fuel applications; rethinking ownership
ii. Setting de jure standards
b. Infrastructures in government policy
i. Broader participation and more effective consensus
ii. Improved scientific analysis before and after policies are made
5. Hypotheses for further research
Bibliography


Tables and Figures
Table 3-1. Case study parameters
Figure 4-1. Great Lakes geography
Table 4-2. Organizations on the GLIN Advisory Board (May 1997)
Figure 4-3. Areas of Concern joint Web map
Figure 5-1. Gulf of Maine geography
Figure 6-1. Pacific Northwest States and Columbia River Basin
Table 6-2. Sizes of state River Reach files
Figure 7-1. Mutual influence of technology, organization, and policy/planning on people and actions
Figure 8-1. Preliminary "tiled" images
Figure 8-2. Internet subdomains using the orthophoto browser, Sept. 1996-March 1997
Figure 8-3. Orthophoto browser usage, Sept. 1996-March 1997
Figure 8-4 Orthophoto project homepage
Figure 8-5. Orthophoto browser main page
Figure 8-6. Choosing image and header formats
Figure 8-7. Metadata: keyword search
Figure 8-8. Metadata: spatial and temporal search
Figure 8-9. Multi-site query for the National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse
 
Acknowledgments
 
"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely,
"and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
- L. Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
I’d like to thank my advisor, Prof. Joseph Ferreira, Jr., for sticking it out with me all these years and giving liberally of his time, especially in the home stretch. My thanks also go to Prof. Wanda Orlikowski, of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, for opening up new ways to do research, and for restoring my hope with three simple words: "important, fascinating work!" And I thank Prof. Lyna Wiggins, at Rutgers University, whose straight talk got me back in motion several times when I was fogged in. I am indebted to my 61 interviewees for giving their time, insights, and enthusiasm to the three case studies, whether in person, by phone, or by e-mail. Special thanks to fellow denizens of the Computer Resource Laboratory, especially Lijian Chen, Kamal Azar, and Annie Kinsella, who brightened my graduate school experience with their humor and friendship. Thanks to my wife Suvia for standing with me through a lot more than she’d bargained for. And thanks to God, "our dwelling place through all generations."

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation, under Grant No. SBR-9507271, and by the 1995 Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program of the Federal Geographic Data Committee. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are my own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or of the Federal Geographic Data Committee.


Abstract    Table of  Contents   Acknowledgments
Chapters  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   Bibliography