Ethics Education for Geospatial Professionals - About

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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 educational resources designed and produced by a team of professional ethicists and GIS&T educators are available from the Products section of this site.

Dawn Wright Dawn Wright (PI) is Professor of Geography at Oregon State University. She directs OSU's GIScience Certificate program. David DiBiase David DiBiase (Co-PI and project manager) is Director of Education of Esri's Education Team and former Director of Penn State's Dutton e-Education Institute. He teaches in Penn State's online professional Certificate and Masters degree programs in GIS.
Francis Harvey Francis Harvey (Co-PI) is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota. He will supervise ethics seminars for Minnesota's professional Mater of GIS degree program. Michael Solem Michael Solem is Educational Affairs Director at the Association of American Geographers (AAG). Michael is 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).

Complete Project Description
(15-page PDF file)