| Project Description

The National Science Foundation provided support needed to develop and institute graduate seminars at Penn State, Oregon State, and the University of Minnesota that rigorously explore ethical implications of geographic information science and technology (GIS&T). Open Education Resources designed and produced by a team of professional ethicists and GIS&T educators are available from the Case Studies section of this site.

Dawn Wright Dawn Wright (Co-PI) is Chief Scientist at Esri. During this project she served as Professor of Geography at Oregon State University, where she directed OSU's GIScience Certificate program. David DiBiase David DiBiase (Co-PI and project manager) is former Director of Education of Esri's Education Team and former Director of Penn State's Dutton e-Education Institute. He founded Penn State's online professional Certificate and Masters degree programs in GIS, and contkinues to teach professional ethics there.
Francis Harvey Francis Harvey (Co-PI) is Francis Harvey, PhD, is Head of the Department of Cartography and Visual Communication at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography and Professor of Visual Communication in Geography at Leipzig University in Germany. During this project he served as Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota, where he supervised ethics seminars for Minnesota's professional Master of GIS degree program. Michael Solem Michael Solem is is Professor of Geography at Texas State University. He also serves the American Association of Geographers as Senior Advisor for Geography Education and Co-Director of the National Center for Research in Geography Education. For this project, Michael was responsible for project evaluation.
Michael Davis Michael Davis is Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions and Professor of Philosophy, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Chuck Huff Chuck Huff is Professor of Psychology at St. Olaf College. He was a member of the panel that designed the curriculum standards in Social and Professional Issues for the ACM/IEEE Computing Curricula 2001.
Matthew Keefer Matthew Keefer is Associate Professor and Chair of the Division of Educational Psychology, Research and Evaluation at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

GIS&T is a large and rapidly-growing multidisciplinary field concerned with the nature, use, and societal impacts of information derived from geospatial technologies. Technologies such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS) enable analysts to track people and things, to evaluate natural resources and monitor land uses, to identify optimal sites and routes, and to target areas for further investigation or intervention. The variety of applications of GIS&T has led the U.S. Department of Labor to highlight “geospatial technology” as a key high growth job field for the 21st century. While the potential benefits of geospatial technologies are becoming well known, the ethical issues they pose are less widely appreciated. For instance:

  • Geospatial technologies are surveillance technologies. The data they produce may be used to invade the privacy, and even the autonomy, of individuals and groups.
  • Data gathered using geospatial technologies are used to make policy decisions. Erroneous, inadequately documented, or inappropriate data can have grave consequences for individuals and the environment.
  • Geospatial technologies have the potential to exacerbate inequities in society, insofar as large organizations enjoy greater access to technology, data, and technological expertise than smaller organizations and individuals.

Society will rely upon future leaders of GIS&T professions to ensure awareness of ethical issues and compliance with the Codes of Ethics and Conduct, such as those established by the Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute (GISCI).

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 0734888, 0734903, and 0734824.