ArcGIS Blog

Understanding The Science of Where

By Jack Dangermond.

GIS is about uncovering meaning and insights from within data. It is rapidly evolving and providing a whole new framework and process for understanding. With its simplification and deployment on the web and in cloud computing as well as the integration with real-time information (the Internet of Things), GIS promises to become a platform relevant to almost every form of human endeavor—a nervous system for the planet. This system is now not only possible, but in many ways we believe it’s inevitable. Why?

GIS integrates data about everything—and, at the same time, it provides a platform for intuitively understanding this data as an integrated whole. This GIS nervous system is providing a framework for advancing scientific understanding, and integrating and analyzing all types of spatial knowledge (all the “-ologies” such as biology, sociology, geology, climatology, and so on).

Watch a talk by Jack Dangermond

GIS provides a platform for understanding what’s going on at all scales—locally, regionally, and globally. It presents a way to comprehend the complexity of our world as well as to address and communicate the issues we face using the common language of mapping. At Esri, we refer to this idea as The Science of Where.

Our world is increasingly being challenged by expanding populations, loss of nature, environmental pollution, and the increasing dilemma of climate change and sustainability. My sense is that humans have never been more capable of sharing and addressing these issues. My belief is that GIS not only helps us increase our understanding, but it also provides a platform for collective problem-solving, decision-making, and perhaps most critical of all, collaboration. However, it’s going to take all our best people, our most effective methodologies and technologies—scientists from many disciplines, our best thinkers, all our best design talent collaborating to create a sustainable future. GIS technology and GIS professionals will play an increasingly important role in how we respond to and confront our collective problems.

My hope is that by using GIS to apply The Science of Where, we can discover deeper insights, make better decisions, and take them to action.


This post is excerpted from The ArcGIS Book, Second Edition: 10 Big Ideas about Applying The Science of Where, by Christian Harder and Clint Brown. The twin goals of this book are to open your eyes to what is now possible with Web GIS, and then spur you into action by putting the technology and deep data resources in your hands. The book is available through and other booksellers, and is also available at for free.

About the Author: Jack Dangermond is president and founder of Esri, the world leader in GIS software development and its application in business, health, education, conservation, utilities, military and defense, oceanography, hydrology, and many other fields.

Next Article

Visualize your Mission Responders Activity with Tracklines

Read this article