Extension’s Community Development Team Facilitates National Conversation Seeking Solutions to Geomatics Crisis

July 3, 2023

Geomatics is critical to everyday living, from cell phone conveniences to our national defense.

Do you truly appreciate the GPS in your smartphone? Yes, it can help you find directions when traveling, but it can also literally save your life (allowing emergency services to find you if needed). Geomatics is the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data relating to the earth's surface. Increasingly, the science of geodesy (positioning, navigating, and timing) is used in everything from your phone’s GPS to air travel, self-driving cars, and especially national defense. Unfortunately, the U.S. has not kept up with training geodetic scientists. There is a critical shortage.

 In June, a team from Glenn College invited our OSU Extension Community Development team to facilitate a 3-day conversation at the Blackwell with approximately 80 scientists, researchers, and leaders from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA). This was part of a $28.5M project addressing the U.S. geomatics crisis.

The facilitation process was complex. The main objective was to help participants engage in deep conversation about the six challenges posed, as well as to develop possible solutions. The CD team invested over a month in outlining a very specific strategic process that would achieve objectives. The facilitation was completed by Stacie Burbage, Gwynn Stewart, Ken Martin, Jerry Thomas, Nancy Bowen-Ellzey, Brian Raison, and Mary Rodriguez (from ACEL). The event resulted in approximately 16 proposals (with federal funding of up to $500,000 each), outlining cross-disciplinary approaches to specific challenges posed.

For additional reading, please see The Geodesy Crisis (Michael Bevis, et al).

Available at: Article Link

The Geodesy Crisis - Executive Summary Excerpt

Geodesy is the fundamental science of geospace. It supports and drives innovation in geospatial technology, the ~ $ 1 trillion/year geospatial economy, and the geospatial systems of nearly all military platforms and activities.

In the early 1990s the U.S. government, especially the Department of Defense (DOD), largely disinvested in academic research and education in geodesy. In contrast, the countries of the European Union (and in the early 2000s, China) began to make large and ever-growing investments in geodetic training and research. China now has more Ph.D. geodesists than the rest of the world combined. During this time period, the greatest national collapse in geodetic capability occurred in the U.S., as its geodesists steadily retired, and most were not replaced.

Averting these dangers at such a late date will require the U.S. to invest in geodetic research and training on an industrial scale. The situation in academia is particularly urgent because if it is not addressed very soon the U.S. will lose its ability to take corrective action at the scale required to avoid permanent disadvantage.