Surveying and GIS: Finding the missing link

Aug 2008 | One Comment

Gary A Jeffress

There still needs to be more dialogue between the GIS industry and the surveying profession so that each group better understands how cooperation can benefit all parties

Surveyors often forget that they are also managers of spatial information

Surveyors collect spatial information in the field, carry out computation so that this spatial information is geo-referenced to the local spheroid and form a local grid system.

Spatial information which is not georeferenced can only be regarded as geographical information. We know the types of information and their uses. But, we do not know the accurate position or location of these information, such that other man-made and natural features can be related and conformed to the local grid system used by all users including GIS professional. Unfortunately surveyors very often forgot that they are also managers of spatial information. Generally the surveyors consider that GIS is not within their scope of works or responsibility. This to me is not correct.

GIS Professionals meanwhile are very keen to manage, analyze and visualize spatial information which very often were not geo-referenced. In order to tap the benefits and optimally use spatial information for national and local projects both surveyors and GIS professional must work together in the public interest. There should not be any double efforts. This will not only save cost, time and resources but also speed up the efficiency in decision making and implementation.

Surveyors and GIS Professionals have no tension or conflict between them. Technology and internet have brought them together. The only problem is that technological development has come too fast and they find it difficult to cope with it. However the situation has now improved very much as considerable efforts are being made and there is good progress towards integrating the two professions into one. But this needs more time. The mindset of both surveyors and GIS Professionals should be to focus on this development. The future is clear and optimistic.

In my view the first thing to do is to introduce GIS syllabi in the surveying course and vice versa until such time that the two professions consider it is the right time to combine them as one course and as one profession. We may give it a name such as “Geomatics”. Meanwhile both professions should sit down and work out what should be done and the ways to move forward to integrate the two professions so that Surveyors and GIS Professionals can work together to put spatial information into optimum use. But, some one has to take the lead. I am very happy to learn that our leader in GIS, Jack Dangermond is taking up the task. I have confidence that FIG, GSDI and ISPRS will fully co-operate and collaborate with Jack in this endeavour. I wish him luck and I urge all Surveyors and GIS Professionals to assist in whatever ways we can to help Jack to realize this.

TN Wong

The Hong Kong institute of Surveyors

Gary A Jeffress, PhD, RPLS Professor of eographic

Information Science Director of the Conrad
Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science at
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
My coordinates
His Coordinates
Steve Berglund
Mark your calendar
May 09 TO DECEMBER 2009

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One Comment »

  • Surveyor @ Canberra said:

    A very thought provoking and balance view of the surveying profession by the authors. I also agree with Gary’s further comments on this “tension”. Well said.

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