Notes from the introductory meeting of the Digital Gazetteer Information Exchange

(DGIE) Working Group, December 11, 1998, USGS Room 1B215, Reston VA

Written up by Linda Hill.

The meeting was convened by Linda Hill of the Alexandria Digital Library Project of the University of California at Santa Barbara, CA and hosted by the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. There were 22 attendees from 8 government agencies (USGS, NIMA, NASA, NOAA, Census, NPS, LC, & Smithsonian), one professional association (AGI), and one university (UCSB).

Hill passed out a pre-publication paper on the Alexandria Digital Library gazetteer research and development and presented the information in the paper.

Following discussion identified the following issues:

  1. Roger Payne expressed concern about the effect of "non-authorized" gazetteers on the use of place names by federal government agencies. The BGN is authorized to standardize the use of place names by the federal government.
  2. Fred Broome noted that changes are constantly taking place in the names of places and in the boundaries of administrative areas and that ways to accommodate and manage this change must be part of gazetteer development. This is part of the updating and management aspects of gazetteers to keep them current by incorporating changes from various originators and suppliers.
  3. For international and multi-lingual purposes, representations for extended character sets need to be incorporated into the exchange format. For example, XML coding that specifies UNICODE format. We should also be aware that we will have to "deliver" basic ASCII as well as UNICODE since many "receivers" will not be able to use the extended character sets due to hardware and software limitations.
  4. Fuzzy areas, such as "The Midwest", cannot be part of the official BGN gazetteers because there is not a consensus about what area that is exactly. They can, however, be represented in other gazetteers and need to be there to support information retrieval – e.g., "what does the information system know about the Midwest?" would be a reasonable end user question. There need to be ways to elicit and represent such fuzzy areas and ways of presenting them to users so that the generalized nature of the footprint is clear. In an information retrieval system, the user should be able to accept the area’s "footprint" as a query area or modify it and then use it as a query area.
  5. Bibliographic files, such as library catalogs and indexing services, use place names from authority files or thesauri to describe the geographic areas that documents are "about." These files are typically not geospatially referenced (GeoRef’s place names are the exception). An area of investigation is how well can we use spatially-referenced gazetteers to apply geospatial footprints to the documents in bibliographic files.
  6. The accuracy of the boundaries represented in gazetteers needs to be documented so that users can properly evaluate what they are being shown.
  7. NASA is looking into the use of spherical quadtree representations for spatial footprints.
  8. Physiographic features are of particularly high value and should have priority in building gazetteers for information systems.
  9. In the world of natural history museums, there are community-developed gazetteers that are developed for the particular purposes of that community. Professionals working in that environment create place name definitions as part of their activities but probably are not aware that they are in fact creating gazetteer data. We should develop ways for this information to "migrate to" or be "harvested by" gazetteer systems.
  10. Historical place names and historical footprints are very important for inclusion in digital gazetteers.
Everyone in the group indicated that they would like to continue as part of the working group to put together a proposal for development of a Digital Gazetteer Information Exchange (DGIE) project. In particular, we will aim for a proposal to submit to the NSF Digital Government Initiative by their March 1 deadline. Roger Payne will chair the Working Group as head of the Board on Geographic Names. The next meeting of the DGIE WG is scheduled for the morning of January 8th. Between now and then, proposal documents will be developed and distributed for comment.

In particular, the following comments were recorded by agency:

Census: Fred Broome will be the initial contact but as the structure and focus of the WG is developed either the technical or the taxonomic Census group will be the primary contact. The Census role is seen to be as a data contributor with limited personnel involvement. They will be both a contributor and a user.

Smithsonian: Can contribute small gazetteer data sets, user requirements, user testing and evaluation. Janet Gomon is primary contact.

Board on Geographic Names: Includes NIMA (Randy Flynn), USGS/BGN/GNIS (Roger Payne), and Library of Congress (Ron Grim and Elizabeth Mangin).

USGS: USGS/NMD (Beth Duff), USGS/FGDC (Barbara Poore)

NASA: Karen Moe will be the primary contact. NASA interested primarily as a user of gazetteer data and in querying gazetteers as part of the EOSDIS project.

NBII/BRD: The National Biological Information Infrastructure and the Biological Resources Division of the USGS in interested in developing testbed sites, developing user requirements, and in proposal development.

National Park Service: Leslie Armstrong will be the primary contact.

NOAA – Will have to discuss involvement further.

GeoRef (Sharon Tahirkheli) will continue as an observer.

Attendees: Initial Meeting of Digital Gazetteer Information Exchange (DGIE) Working Group, 12/11/98
First Name
Last Name
Contact Information
Fred Broome Census 301-457-1056

Bonnie C. Carroll USGS/BRD consultant 423-481-0388

Beth Duff USGS/NMD 703-648-4621

Gyorgy (George) Fekete NASA Code 935/GST 301-286-3751

Randall Flynn NIMA/US BGN 301-227-3050

Michael Frame USGS/BRD 303-202-4260

Anne Frondorf USGS/BRD 703-648-4205

Janet R. Gomon Smithsonian Inst. 202-357-2015

Linda  Hill UCSB/Alexandria Digital Library 805-893-8587

Gail Hodge USGS/BRD/NBII consultant 610-789-6769

Ben Kobler NASA 301-614-5267

Elizabeth Mangan Lib of Congress/Geog & Map Div & BGN 202-707-8520

Karen Moe NASA/GSFC 301-614-5276

Lola M. Olsen NASA/GCMD 301-614-5361

Roger Payne USGS/US BGN 703-648-4544

Lisa Peoples NOAA/NESDIS/EIS 301-713-1852

Barbara Poore USGS/FGDC 703-648-5971

Fred  Rohrer NIMA 301-227-3059

Tammy Stidham National Park Service 202-342-1443 ext.216

Sharon Tahirkheli AGI/GeoRef 703-379-2480

Ronald Vogel NASA/GCMD 301-441-4206

Lou Yost USGS/BGN 703-648-4552

Abbreviations you might not know

AGI = American Geological Institute

BGN = Board on Geographic Names

BRD = Biological Resources Division

FGDC = Federal Geographic Data Committee

GCMD = Global Change Master Directory

GSFC = Goddard Space Flight Center

NBII = National Biological Information Infrastructure

NESDIS = NOAA Earth Science Data and Information System

NIMA = National Imagery and Mapping Agency

NMD = National Mapping Division

UCSB = University of California, Santa Barbara