Initiative - Access to spatial data for Research & Education 2

This renewed initiative builds further on an initiative that started in 2009. At that time, a survey was organised among the European NMCA's and AGILE members. It resulted in a report which was published in 2011 by a team of EDINA in Schotland: "The European National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies and Higher Education A Market for Geospatial Information – Myth or Reality" (David Medyckyj-Scott et al., 2011). During the council meeting of March 2012 in Avignon, it was decided to further build upon these initial findings. As a start, it was proposed to prepare a list of spatial data sets of IGN-France that can be used for free for research and educational activities. These data sets will be documented (or existing metadata will be used and complemented), and a quick access point to the data sets will be implemented as part of the new AGILE web site, pointing to the place where the data set can be found/downloaded. This could later be extended with data sets from other providers. Bénédicte Bucher from IGN-France is taking the lead on this and will cooperate with Eurogeographics to take the fist steps.

Council: Bénédicte Bucher, Lead: Bénédicte Bucher, Member 1: IGN-FR


Access of Academic Institutions to the Data of the European National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies

This initiative started three years ago and the first report was published in 2011 and is available at AGILE’s web ( (bottom of this initiatives page). It has been prepared by David Medyckyj-Scott, Emma Sutton, Chris Higgins, Ian Heywood and its title is: The European National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies and Higher Education A Market for Geospatial Information – Myth or Reality. The text below is from the executive summary of the report.
Access to core geospatial data sets (topographic digital map data, administrative units, hydrography, geology, etc.) is critical for academic research and teaching in almost every discipline.
Between January and April 2009, EDINA National Data Centre1, based in the United Kingdom, carried out two surveys to explore ‘Access to Geospatial Data for the European Higher Education Community’. The first survey targeted the network of National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies (NMCAs); the second surveyed the European Higher Education community.
The surveys explored four main themes relating to the provision of data by the NMCAs to the European Higher Education Community. These were: the level of demand for data, data availability, accessibility, and the licensing programmes in place to satisfy demand.

The study revealed that:

  • There is a ‘healthy’ demand for NMCA data from the Higher Education community. This demand is ‘pan European’ with many Higher Education users seeking to access data from countries other than the one in which they live and study or carry out research.
  • The majority of the NMCAs surveyed had arrangements in place for Higher Education. However, for many, this arrangement is the provision of data at a discount and/or free samples of data rather than an agreement for access to national coverage.
  • Around 50% of the Higher Education users found gaining access to NMCA data a problem, with the high cost, licensing and usage restrictions being the main barriers. The majority of users wanted access to data products with national coverage. The main datasets made available by the NMCAs are topographic data, aerial photography and historic maps. In some cases cadastre information is provided. However, there is a perception by the Higher Education community that a great many more types of data could be made available. This has the potential of leading to frustration especially when NMCAs are unable to meet requests for data they don’t hold.

Of the countries who responded, only four countries had national agreements in place: Denmark, Norway, Great Britain and Sweden.
There are many benefits for NMCAs to gain from taking the Higher Education market more seriously. It can provide an opportunity to gather feedback on fitness for purpose of data products, innovative applications and uses as well as unearthing new business areas and applications. It provides a potentially extensive, geo-literate and motivated user base. It is an under exploited market and a potential source of income. Finally, many academic users subsequently enter employment and thus are the customers of tomorrow. However, much more needs to be done to improve the availability of geospatial data for the Higher Education community both within and between countries.

Council: Chris Higgins, Lead: David Medyckyj-Scott, Emma Sutton, Chris Higgins, Ian Heywood

Download the report:
Medyckyj -Scott, D., Sutton, E., Higgins, C., Heywood I. (2011). The European National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies and Higher Education A Market for Geospatial Information – Myth or Reality

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