On April 27, the board of the National Society of Professional Surveyors voted to initiate withdrawal from the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. The move starts a two-year time clock; NSPS can’t withdraw as an ACSM member organization until two years after the official notice, and the notice can be rescinded anytime before that deadline. But the action sparked concern among members of NSPS and the other ACSM member organizations. The Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) is already on its way out, with plans to become an independent organization by Jan. 1, 2011. If NSPS also exits, what will become of ACSM? And, perhaps more importantly, what organization will play the key role of pulling together the various professionals that fall under the umbrella of the “geospatial community”?
Some would argue that ACSM has not performed that umbrella function successfully; in fact, a lack of practical cohesion among the member organizations is one of the reasons mentioned for the NSPS decision. A recent independent study conducted to determine how ACSM could improve outreach and marketing efforts concluded that there is a general lack of awareness about what ACSM is and does, that there is a lack of perceived value, and that internal conflict exists between the member organizations. The report suggested that another restructuring effort is needed.
A task force has been formed to evaluate ACSM’s structure in light of the report. Chaired by Dan Martin, American Association of Geodetic Surveying (AAGS) delegate and ACSM chair-elect, the task force will comprise members from all four member organizations, including CaGIS and NSPS, and will provide recommendations by September 1. NSPS has also formed a separate committee to evaluate the feasibility of operating NSPS as a separate organization; that committee will issue its report by September 15.
In the meantime, surveying and mapping professionals have an opportunity to reflect on the importance of these organizations and the roles they do or should play in advocacy, education, support and outreach. At a time when discussions about a national cadastre and a national map are heating up, does it make sense to fragment the professions involved? Would surveyors really be better served by focusing exclusively on surveying, or is there potential value to be gleaned by working within an organization that actively promotes intellectual cross-pollination? What type of structure would be needed to make ACSM truly successful at facilitating interoperability among the various geospatial professions?
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