GLIS: an interview with GLIS president Coleen Johnson

The Geographic and Land Information Society (GLIS)

On April 18th, the Geographic and Land Information Society (GLIS), until recently a member organization of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), announced that it is reinventing itself as an organization.  The GLIS press release says it’s “entering into a new era” with the goal of “building our organization to be the national premier surveying and mapping organization for all that have an interest in promoting and working with geospatial data for the professional land surveying, geographic information systems, and engineering industries.”  We conducted the following interview with GLIS president Coleen Johnson shortly after the announcement.

PSM: For our readers who may not be familiar with GLIS, could you provide a brief history of the organization?

Coleen:  GLIS is a 501(3)(c) corporation that was founded in 1992 and incorporated in 1993 precisely for the reasons we exist today—to encourage the appropriate use of surveying and mapping technologies in the development and use of geographic and land information systems.  We have promoted the collaboration among geospatial professionals as a society within ACSM and, after the reorganization of ACSM in 2004, continued our efforts as a member organization. 

PSM: These are challenging yet, at the same time, exciting times for surveyors and geospatial professionals.  What do you intend to offer prospective members that they can not currently obtain elsewhere?

Coleen: Currently, the main benefits of membership include discounted rates on our new online courses, as well as a free two-hour online ethics course (additional courses will be added over time), access to posting on our website, links to other e-publications (which may include books, articles, datasets, and related regulation publications), access to the SaLIS journal digitally, links to various free software, examples of professional land surveying exam questions for study purposes, and an “Ask an attorney” feature on our website for specific legal questions relating to the geospatial world.  Future benefits will evolve with the growth of the organization.

GLIS recognizes the value of diversity and offers full membership to all individuals and organizations that have an interest in the geospatial industry, regardless of what they do or where they are in their career.  Our vision for GLIS is that it establishes itself as the go-to organization for any national survey-related GIS issue or concern, that we are successful in establishing relationships and affiliations with many other national geospatial organizations, that we provide for the professional and educational needs of anyone involved in the geospatial industry, and that we remain flexible enough to change with the advances in technology and the evolving interests of our members. 

PSM: The breakup of ACSM’s four member organizations, of which GLIS was one, has been in the works for some time.  What have you and fellow GLIS board members learned about what works and doesn’t work as a membership organization for surveyors with an interest in GIS?

Coleen:  There are currently three ACSM member organizations: AAGS, NSPS, and GLIS.  With the impending merger of ACSM into NSPS, both AAGS and GLIS have chosen not to merge and will remain their own separate organizations.  The Cartographic and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) was a member of ACSM at one time but withdrew a couple of years ago. 
The GLIS board members realize the need for closer collaboration with other related geospatial organizations, and we are looking to establish close affiliations with those organizations.  The GLIS board is excited about the wealth of opportunities ahead of us as we move forward, including the educational opportunities that result with more and more people realizing the importance of accurate geospatial data.  

PSM: In addition to two free hours of online ethics training, what other courses will be offered?

Coleen:  The GLIS board is currently working to finalize an agreement with another party to develop and offer online courses for GLIS members at a discounted rate.  Examples of the types of courses likely to be offered include Introduction to GIS, GIS Practical Knowledge, and Basic Spatial Analysis.  Additional courses will be developed based on our members’ needs and feedback received.

PSM: Can you tell us more about the surveying and mapping software portal that GLIS has announced?  For example, is the software solely developed by, and available to, GLIS members?

Coleen:  Initially our plan is to offer our members easy access to the various surveying and GIS-related free software that’s out there.  As GLIS grows, we envision adding other software links that may include software that’s been developed by our members themselves.

PSM: We’re glad to hear that GLIS will continue producing its peer-reviewed SaLIS journal [Surveying and Land Information Science].  How do you see the content of SaLIS being of help to surveying professionals, and will the content change from what it has been in the past?  Will there be a different focus?

Coleen:  The SaLIS journal is currently jointly owned by and will remain jointly owned by GLIS, AAGS, and NSPS.  GLIS will continue to contribute interesting and pertinent articles and will support an improved journal.   All three owners have agreed to provide the journal in digital format to their members (as opposed to printed versions) beginning with the soon-to-be-released double issue that will contain the “Surveying Body of Knowledge.”  The body of knowledge is a collaborative initiative by a subcommittee of ACSM’s CARE committee and, in my opinion, will provide a renewed interest in SaLIS for all who receive it.

PSM:  Some may view GLIS as being somewhat in competition with its former sibling organization, the National Society of Professional Surveyors.  Do you see it that way?

Coleen:  GLIS is different from NSPS in that we are focused on the GIS and LIS discipline within the surveying and geospatial world.  While many current GLIS members are registered professional surveyors, there are many others who are geospatial professionals and/or students.  They have joined GLIS because they are interested in GIS and either want to promote sound surveying and mapping principles in the development and use of land information systems or better understand how surveying professionals fit into the geospatial industry. 

PSM:  Will GLIS do any lobbying at the national or state level? 

Coleen:  Since GLIS is a 501(c)(3) organization, we are limited in regards to lobbying activities. 
We will keep members apprised of any proposed legislation that is of interest to them at both the state and national levels and will involve ourselves in any survey-related GIS public policy issues that arise.

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