North American Data Model Steering Committee

Notes of meeting May 16-17, 2000, Lexington, Kentucky




  1. Discussion of the RATT Opinion Poll:

    The poll was advertised in the March issues of Geotimes, GSAToday, AAPGExplorer, and in a letter from the USGS Chief Geologist to Division staff. So far, we've received 52 responses to the poll. Respondent's comments have been generally what we expected; no real surprises in the comments received, but rather an affirmation that our preexisting understanding of the issues was realistic. Admittedly, this assumption is somewhat uncertain, given the small sample size. The Committee decided to continue the poll indefinitely. Based on the responses, minor changes to the poll were debated, but it was decided not to revise any of the questions.

    The discussion then focused on strategies for advertising the opinion poll. The Committee agreed to try the following:

    1. state geological surveys -- Tom will send each state geologist a short e-mail that announces the poll and includes the poll URL, and ask them to forward the message to their staff
    2. DMT'00 attendees -- Dave will send a message similar to Tom's
    3. AAPG Energy Minerals Division -- Scott will ask that they send a similar message to their membership
    4. AGU annual meeting -- can we put a notice at the USGS and/or AASG booths? Dave and Tom will check on this.
    5. GSA -- Dave will ask them to send a message to the members.
    6. AIPG -- Tom will consider whether to send a message to the members; Scott knows their e-mail administrator, and should coordinate with Tom.

    Here is some suggested text, which might be used in the messages noted above (it's adapted from the GSAToday article):

    "Geologic maps contain information that is crucial to a broad spectrum of societal concerns. The increasing use of geographic information systems (GIS) for decision support holds the potential for even wider and more effective use of geologic maps. To respond to the increasing need for digital geologic map information in more standardized format, the federal, state, and provincial geological surveys of the United States and Canada have begun building a standard geologic map data model. This work is being undertaken by the North American Data Model Steering Committee. The Committee, and its participating agencies, need guidance and comments from both producers and users of geologic maps, and they have created an opinion poll for this purpose. We ask that you consider helping them by giving a few minutes of your time to this poll, which is found at <>. For information about the Steering Committee, please see <>."
  2. Presentation on Canadian Geoscience Data Model Working Group (by Peter Davenport):

    Peter described development of the Canadian Geoscience Knowledge Network (CGKN), which is the Canadian geoscience community's response to the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI). The CGDI is similar to the U.S.'s NSDI. CGKN began to be defined in late 1998. In Spring, 1999, the Canadian Geoscience Data Model Working Group (CGDMWG) was formed to coordinate among agencies on issues related to defining a geoscience data model, tool development, and preparation of digital information to become available through the CGKN. The activities of these committees was significantly encouraged by the Canadian "Government Online" program, which mandates that agencies "get their information online by 2004".

    The CGDMWG has planned a June, 2000 workshop in Calgary, to discuss a funded survey of the various publicly-available data models, and to set priorities for committee activities. It is anticipated that the Group may decide to adopt, perhaps with modifications, an existing standard data model, and focus development of software tools and digital map data around that standard. It was suggested that the NADMSC's data model (commonly referred to as "NADM") may be the data model of choice, which would significantly increase the opportunities for collaboration between the NADMSC and the CGDMWG. For example, if NADM is accepted by the CGDMWG, then increased participation in each other's meetings, and integration of technical teams (especially the Science Language and Data Interchange Technical Teams) is likely.

    Peter's presentation was followed by a general discussion of similarities and differences between the two committees. Each labors to conduct its work without benefit of adequate staffing to achieve objectives within a reasonable time frame. Therefore, discussion ensued about ways to secure more management buy-in and support. Various approaches were discussed (e.g., lobbying USGS, AASG, FGDC), but no clear course of action was identified. Rob, Peter, Dave, and Tom will discuss the possibilities and suggest a plan of action if appropriate.

  3. Progress reports from the Technical Teams:
    1. Requirements Analysis Technical Team (RATT) -- the continuation of the opinion poll was discussed earlier (#1, above). At the next meeting, the status of the poll, and any additional tasks for the RATT, will be discussed.

    2. Science Language Technical Team (SLTT) -- according to the Chair (Jon), the Team currently has about 45 members, reasonably well-balanced across the scientific disciplines. The need for more Canadian members was expressed (pending decisions at the CGDMWG workshop, this may be addressed soon). Also, a few more state members could be added if desired. Jon reviewed the "20-queries" exercise, and it was agreed to be a worthwhile method for generating ideas and enthusiasm for the process. Significant discussion ensued on the SLTT's strategy for reaching consensus on a product within one year, as their task is daunting. It was recommended that in the first year (ending about 4/01) the Team focus on developing a hierarchical classification for rock lithology and genesis. The Committee further recommended that Team members bear in mind that the issues of stratigraphic relations and spatial resolution are important, and should be addressed after the first task has been completed. The Team will begin with the assumption that its product should be compatible with NADM v.4.3. Then, the Team should develop its rock classification and determine whether it is indeed compatible with v.4.3. If not, the Data Model Design Technical Team will be informed, and requested to provide guidance and/or modify the data model as needed.

    3. Data Model Design Technical Team (DMDTT) -- the focus of the data modeling effort was briefly discussed; are we developing a data model that addresses: 1) cartographic aspects of the map, 2) common elements on the map, or 3) information that can lead to development of a map? The consensus was, unanimously, #3. This Team has begun their work with a review of existing data models, to generate discussion about the NADM. The Committee then discussed the degree of data model revision needed before a new version number is declared. What constitutes a change sufficient to generate a new version number? Bruce indicated that addition of a new table or field to the model would not be sufficient cause to generate a new version number; the additions could be specified as an extension to the current model. This suggested approach may generate some confusion among data model developers who are implementing subtly different versions of v.4.3. Consensus was not reached on this issue, and it was decided that when the Team senses that the number and complexity of model revisions is sufficient, they will notify the Committee and request approval for a new version number. Finally, there was a brief discussion of the object-oriented version of the data model (v.5.2), which was lead-authored by Boyan. This informal version has been implemented by the Canadian Cordlink project. V.5.2 may at some unspecified date be reconciled or merged with v.4.3.

    4. Documentation Technical Team (DTT) -- Team members have recently met, and they propose development of a web site to manage data model documentation, FAQs, and communication among the Team and the general public. The Committee enthusiastically approved of the idea, and asked the Team to proceed. The prototype site will be developed on a Team member's web server, and will be transferred to the Committee web server after it is approved for public access. Because of the initiative and expertise of a new Team member, David Collins (Kansas GS), Loudon asked to be replaced as Chair, by Collins. Again, the Committee enthusiastically approved the suggestion. Tom will contact David Collin's supervisor, Lee Allison, to get his approval for David to participate. At some time in the future, the Committee will consider whether to nominate David Collins for Committee membership.

    5. Data Interchange Technical Team (DITT) -- Peter and Bruce recently attended a XML training class. They suggest that interchange of map data among various "flavors" of the data model may be accomplished by writing software or using a configuration file to convert the map data to a standard-format XML file, which then can be exhanged among agencies and written into each agency's preferred data model format. They will examine this idea in detail once map data, in various flavors of the data model, are available. When these data become available, Committee members will send them to Bruce for evaluation. At that time, the Team may need someone to write software. The Committee decided to await development and delivery of map data to Bruce, and to reconsider personnel needs at the next meeting if sufficient progress is made. At the next meeting, therefore, the Committee may consider a request for funding.

    6. Tool Development Technical Team (TDTT) -- This Team is waiting for some progress to be made on other Teams and in the Committee deliberations before it can extensively plan for software tool development. In the long term, tools for data analysis and output will be useful. However, it was agreed that the highest short-term priority is data-entry tools. Discussion turned to the continuing development of "Geomatter II", a data-entry tool developed by the GSC and funded by GSC and USGS. This tool is nearly ready for general use, but first will require some additional programming (in the Delphi language). There is a shortage of available Delphi software experts, and the Committee will need to identify both personnel and funding if Geomatter is to become a stable, widely-used tool. It is expected that 2-3 months of full-time programming will be required, followed by several months of part-time work. Within the next two weeks, Peter will consider whether he has the time to learn Delphi and serve as the programmer. If not, the Committee then must decide how to proceed. It was recognized that a full-time programmer, working with the Committee and funded and staffed probably by the USGS, would be a useful addition to the overall effort. Various strategies for obtaining a programmer were discussed, but resolution was not reached. Rob, Tom, and Dave will discuss ways the AASG might lobby the USGS to support this need.

  4. GSC/USGS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU):

    A MOU would assist the Committee in its data model development. Within one month, Dave will write a first draft and send it to Boyan and Peter D. for comment. The revised version then will be circulated to the Committee for comment, before it is transmitted to GSC and USGS management. The MOU will include an estimate of needed funds and personnel, mostly for software development.

  5. Data Model Authorship:

    Appropriate credit must be given both to authors and to other participants in the data model development process. The Committee asks the authors of v.4.3 to publish the model under their names. Subsequent versions will be authored by the Committee.

  6. Next meeting:

    The next meeting will be held during the week of the GSA meeting, in mid-November, in Reno, NV. This summer, Dave will set up the meeting. A Spring, 2000 meeting may be held in conjunction with the Digital Mapping Techniques meeting, in Tuscaloosa, AL.