February 10, 2003
GIS Report from Europe - An Interview with Jeff Thurston
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor

Welcome to GISWeekly! This week we were rocked by the sad news of the loss of the Columbia Space Shuttle. A tribute, plus links to various articles on the topic are listed in this newsletter. We also have a special interview with Jeff Thurston, MSc., of VectorOne, in Berlin, Germany about the state of GIS in Europe. Jeff Thurston wrote many articles for GISVision Magazine and is a scheduled keynote speaker for our VirtualGISCafe conference coming up in April.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature “GIS Report from Europe - An Interview with Jeff Thurston,” Industry News, Alliances/Acquisitions, Awards, Announcements, New Products, Around the Web, and Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Ultimately, we would like to include a Letters department at some point in the future. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Goodbye, Columbia

special/Space Imaging

This satellite photo of Nacogdoches, Texas, was taken by Thornton-based Space Imaging three hours after Columbia broke up

"They were on a normal approach. We had no indication of any problems. We simply lost data."
Eileen Hawley, a NASA spokeswoman.

I'm sure every one of us has some personal connection with the space shuttle - whether you knew the astronauts or those involved personally, or simply have watched on your television the evolution of the space program. My father was intimately involved with the space program during my youth. He was a research engineer for Lockheed, and was part of a team testing rocket and missile engines in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. Once a year, Lockheed invited the employees' families to an event at which they would show us the test areas-a look-but-don't-touch experience. As a child I recall being woken up at some ungodly hour to watch a missile takeoff -- this was what we were a part of.
Being able to see it in our own living rooms made all of us Americans part of the exploration into space; it has become part of our national consciousness. And the loss of these brave explorers has been a tearing of that consciousness.

We grieve deeply for those lost, for their families, for the mission which came to such an abrupt and tragic end. We have faithfully watched launches and touchdowns with breathless anticipation; it is often the one piece of “good news” in an otherwise disaster-fraught day. The space program offers up great wonder and hope to our world. The space program is an exploration into an unknown geography. Every space mission brings us that much closer to that vast studded swirl of stars, planets and galaxies still just beyond our reach.

To those who lost loved ones on the Columbia Space shuttle, to anyone whose life has been touched by this tragedy -- our hearts and prayers are with you.

Denver Post

CNN.com has interactive maps, audio slide shows on the tragedy. “From the final bits of data from the sky to the tiniest fragments on the ground, every virtual and real scrap from the space shuttle Columbia is being scrutinized to figure out why seven astronauts died 16 minutes from home.”

USA Today has expanded coverage, audio slide shows and maps.

Time interactive graphic -

New York Times, Wednesday, February 5, 2003

GIS Report from Europe - An Interview with Jeff Thurston

A Canadian, Jeff Thurston lives in Berlin, Germany and is Director of his company Vector One Consulting. He holds a MSc. in GIS and has written internationally for several publications. His work has appeared in GeoWorld, GeoEurope, Geoinformatics, GIS India and online previously at GISCafe.com for GISVision Magazine. Currently he is completing a book for Wiley Publishing entitled Integrated Geo-Technology - to be published in 2003.

Jeff specializes in the area of integrated geo-technology - how spatial technologies all come together. He comments upon the GI marketplace, assessing growth and application opportunities in numerous fields and has been invited speaker for numerous conferences, roundtables, and expositions internationally in both the government and private sectors of the GI industry.

Jeff is also a good source of information on the state of GIS in Europe, from a North American transplant's point of view. In the following interview, he touches on a broad tapestry of issues that are important to the European GIS user.

In the U.S. “Homeland Security” is the predominant buzz phrase in GIS and other technology industries. What do people in Europe think of this?

While there is much talk of 'Homeland Security' in the US and probably Canada, there is very little here. Europeans have been involved in a history of conflict and strife and are sensitive to the issues. It is apparent that Homeland Security appears to be a key a driver in the U.S. geo-spatial industry. That is not the case in Europe.

The focus at this time is 'European' data. There are several movements towards Pan-European Data including the EU Commission and National Mapping Agencies. The INSPIRE project of the European Commission seems to be leading the advance, but this has triggered more recently some open debate about 'charging or not' for data. This is issue one it seems. It is interesting to watch as the American system of 'free use' and the debate surrounding it is continually mentioned.

What are some of the arguments for and against?

I find the discussions about charging for data interesting internationally. The arguments for 'pay or free' data in Europe parallel what North Americans have been debating for some time. Though it is a rather complex issue, particularly in Europe. In the case of the U.S. some would say that while much data is free, there is no seamless database for the whole country and there are issues regarding the quality of that data - much is outdated. Apparently the states and counties fend for themselves, often creating their own spatial information since there is no national funding for that mapping. Yet, the U.S. National Map, which is getting rolling, is designed to integrate many sources of
information, however, it too does not have a budget as far as I am aware. So there is data in the U.S. but it mostly exists at 1:24000k and much is outdated. Recently I tried to acquire DEM data for Canada, I found that only data from the Yukon Territory was available freely. I have also been working on a project in Australia and found that there is a growing trend toward lower cost, more freely available spatial information through GeoScience Australia.

In Europe, each country has their national mapping agency. In the U.K. the Ordnance Survey has discussed 'charging' at length and that information is available on their website. They do charge for data and operate as a Trading Fund - essentially, a government agency that must return a positive balance. In Sweden data is charged for as is the same in Finland. It is when we start to talk about issues of pan-European data sets that things become more interesting. While those in North America - 'space and distance' are large, they are smaller in Europe. Yet, to really effectively talk about continental climate, hydrology, environment and social issues in a European context one needs
pan-European information. Subsequently, the EU Commission has funded a project called INSPIRE that is designed to bring all the agencies together to achieve this goal.

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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.


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