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Proceedings of the Symposium on Global and Environmental Monitoring

Hedy J. Rossmeissl
Karen A. Irby
U.S. Geological Survey
510 National Center
Reston, Virginia 22092 U.S.A.
Significant developments have occurred in the disciplines of cartography and geography in
recent years with the advent of computer hardware and software that manipulate and
process digital cartographic and geographic data more efficiently. The availability of
inexpensive and powerful software and hardware systems offers the capability of displaying
and analyzing spatial data to a growing number of users. As a result, developing and
using existing digital cartographic data bases is becoming very popular. The absence of
uniform standards for the transfer of digital spatial data is hindering the exchange of data
and increasing costs.
Both the Federal Government and the academic community have been working over the
last few years to develop a transfer standard for digital spatial data that includes definitions
of terminology, a spatial data transfer specification, recommendations on reporting digital
cartographic data quality, and topographic and hydrographic entity terms and definitions.
This proposed standard was published in the January 1988 issue of The American
This paper will outline the contents of the standard; describe efforts to test and promote
the standard; summarize activities to review and finalize the standard by a Technical
Review Board composed of Federal Government, private sector, and university representa
tives; outline the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) review and approval
process; and discuss user interfacing with the standard.
Empirical testing of the standard was completed in early 1989. The standard underwent
revision by the Technical Review Board as a result of the testing and peer review, and was
submitted to the National Institute of Standards and Technology for approval as a FIPS
publication in June 1990.
This was a national effort to develop a spatial data transfer standard for use throughout the
Federal Government that will have wide-ranging implications to the GIS community. Since
the use of the standard makes it easier to transfer geographic information, there will be
benefits in a much broader arena.