ArcNews Online

Summer 2002
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Placing the Geographic Information Officer Within an Organization

Knowing where to place a manager of geospatial data within an organization can be difficult. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the State of California, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have taken different approaches to solving this problem.

U.S. Geological Survey

According to USGS Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Geographic Information Officer (GIO) Karen Siderelis, "My position is essentially that of a knowledge officer."

  Karen Siderellis
Karen Siderellis

Siderelis' duality of roles has also enabled her to create and facilitate communication between spatial and information technology (IT) focused groups. Examples of such groups include the USGS Enterprise GIS Team, which currently reviews issues including data standards and models; the Enterprise Architecture Team, focused on establishing a systemwide technology infrastructure; and the Enterprise Web Team, which is bringing a common format to USGS Web pages as well as better spatial searching capabilities.

The USGS houses this position within a separate office, the Geographic Information Office. Siderelis reports directly to USGS Deputy Director Kathryn Clement and Director Charles Groat.

Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Assistant Administrator for Environmental Information and CIO Kim Nelson also dons two hats. Nelson's responsibilities fall into four broad categories: collecting environmental information (the majority of which is spatial in context); technology infrastructure; the analysis, public access, and dissemination of environmental information; and improving the quality of organizational decisions.

While designated as CIO, Nelson works within the Office of Environmental Information and reports to EPA Administrator Christine Whitman.

"We took a broad perspective (in creating this position)," says Nelson. "We chose to create a high-level position equal to other Presidentially appointed assistant administrators within the EPA so that this person is in a position to develop policy." (For more information about some of the policies Nelson has spearheaded, please see "Geographic Information Officer.")

"We often think of geospatial issues as a separate matter, but it's part of our core Business process here at the EPA. It's part of everything we do," says Nelson. "We shouldn't look at this as a separate entity--as someone else's job. We should be consistently thinking in a place-space manner."

State of California

California took an entirely different approach to structuring GIS and spatial information governance. The State created a two-tiered architecture that addresses spatial policy needs both within the State government and externally.

  click to see enlargement
California GIS governance process.

In his role as California GIO, Gary Darling serves State GIS executive sponsors such as the California Environmental Protection Agency, Health and Human Services, Secretaries for Resources, and Transportation and Housing Departments.

Darling serves as director of the California GIS Council, the State's second tier of GIS governance. This group was formed to coordinate GIS efforts among State, federal, and local government organizations operating within California. The Council helps facilitate joint initiatives involving the maintenance and sharing of spatial information in a manner accessible to all organizations within the State as well as the public. Members of the council represent the State, federal, tribal, and local levels of government and academic institutions.

The council consists of four groups: operating teams, standing committees, subcommittees, and advisory groups. Project managers for GIS implementation and services make up the operating teams. Standing committee and subcommittee members address matters related to communications, funding, technology, and regional interests.

According to Darling, GIS councils will be created to represent the interests of local and regional government entities including municipalities, counties, and councils of government, as well as the private sector.

"The California GIS governance process is a bit more complex than that of other states because of California's size," says Darling. "Our structure was designed to allow all levels of government to have a voice in California's GIS direction, to facilitate cost-sharing arrangements, and to assure that the technologies we implement meet local, State, and federal policy objectives."

For more information about the USGS GIO, contact Jon Campbell, USGS (tel.: 703-648-4180, e-mail: Visit for more information about the EPA organization or for more information about the State of California Geographic Council.

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