UCGIS is a partner in an project to build an "open knowledge network" for spatial decision support technologies. The inspiration for this type of network comes from Tim Berners-Lee's (best known founder of the World-wide Web) vision for the "semantic web," which applies tags with relationships to information on the Internet, allowing computers to do basic reasoning for improving search results and answering questions. Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant all use these technologies. Figuring out how to build effective Open Knowledge Networks was the focus of the project's funding, the Convergence Accelerator program from the US National Science Foundation.

UCGIS is serving key roles in the communications, organizational, and outreach component of the project, given our experiences and engagement with the national geospatial community. We are working together with Individuals across a team of researchers and practitioners from 10 different institutions and organizations.The lead group, the Spatial Decision Support Consortium (SDSC), focuses on spatial decision support (SDS) systems, a systematic approach that improves access to tools for analyzing geographic data. Despite many successful applications, SDS contributions are limited by challenges in integrating information across complex organizational networks and across an array of data and tools developed for narrow (often disciplinary) applications. The project is being led by PI Sean Gordon, research faculty at Portland State University and Vice President of the SDSC. "The proliferation of online mapping technologies has greatly increased access to and utility of these kinds of tools, and a logical next step is increasing our ability to find the appropriate data and tools for your problem and link these together for more complex analyses," says Gordon. Through engaging stakeholders in three applied case studies (the management of wildland fire, water quality, and biodiversity conservation), the interdisciplinary project team will develop and test participatory and automated methods for finding and sharing decision-relevant information using semantic web technologies. 

An additional part of this project involves linking content from UCGIS’s Geographic Information Science & Technology Body of Knowledge (GIS&T BoK, gistbok.ucgis.org) with existing and new networks of knowledge being designed and developed, ultimately through an ontology and knowledge graphs. This will extend the capacity of the GIS&T BoK to provide additional functionality and reach new audiences. 

The new NSF Convergence Accelerator program is named for its focus on bringing together interdisciplinary teams to address one of NSF's 10 big ideas, specifically "Harnessing the Data Revolution." Eighteen other of these phase 1 grants were made, covering areas from molecular manufacturing to tracking potentially disruptive solar phenomena. The "accelerator" part comes from the short time frame for the proposal and its expected deliverables, and the rapid production of a phase 2 proposal for up to $5 million in the spring of 2020.

To learn more, please visit the Spatial Decision Support Consortium website or contact Diana Sinton.