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NCGIA Overview
The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis is an independent research consortium dedicated to basic research and education in geographic information science and its related technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS). The three member institutions are the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University at Buffalo; and the University of Maine. The consortium was formed in 1988 to respond to a competition for funding from the National Science Foundation, and continues to receive much of its funding from that source. Total funding to the consortium amounts to approximately $5 million per year.

Topics of current research within the NCGIA consortium include:

Accuracy and uncertainty in spatial data. Adopted as the first topic when the consortium was formed in 1988, uncertainty has emerged over the past decade as a problem of critical significance for geographic information and GIS. Many important research results have been published by consortium members, and much useful technology has been developed to deal with the problem.

Cognition. Research on this topic within the consortium is motivated by the need for a better understanding of how the human mind and computer can work together to solve problems that have geographic dimensions, using GIS. Much GIS software has been criticized as too difficult to learn and use, and as lacking interoperability. NCGIA research on cognition examines how people think about and reason with geographic concepts, and how the design of systems can be made more consistent with these principles.

Modeling and representation. Although GIS has its roots in the art of making paper maps, its capabilities go far beyond what can be done with traditional products. GIS databases can represent phenomena that change through time, or objects that have three-dimensional form. Research in these areas addresses the modeling of new kinds of information that could not be dealt with on paper maps, and associated methods of analysis and decision-making.

Today, NCGIA stands as an international focus for basic research. Its three sites attract short- and long-term visitors from around the world, and its educational programs address the needs of students at all levels.