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Can a seminal Canadian GIS Conference held more than 30 years ago still produce valuable benefits?

In 1983, Dr. Barry Wellar was Program Chair of the AutoCarto Six Conference in Ottawa. It turned out to be a break-through event where many of the principles of today’s geographic information systems and GIS applications were laid out. In 2013, Dr. Wellar arranged for 38 of the original proceedings authors to produce a commemorative book celebrating the 30th anniversary of the AutoCarto Conference with international perspectives on achievements and challenges. Now, Dr. Wellar is organizing a research colloquium in February, 2015 and a conference to be held at a later date, which will search out further GIS advances based on a “Retrospective Approach”.

Dr. Barry Wellar, Professor Emeritus at the University of Ottawa and longtime URISA, AAG, and CAG supporter, has taken the initiative to advance thinking in the GIS community by organizing a unique research colloquium and subsequent conference at the Esri campus in Redlands, California.  The colloquium is scheduled for February, 2015, and the conference will be held in late 2015 or early in 2016.  The event is titled, “Using the Retrospective Approach to Mine for GIS Nuggets”, and will build on ideas arising from the AutoCarto Six Retrospective commemorative book project, which was completed for the 30th anniversary of the AutoCarto Six Conference held in Ottawa in 1983.

The commemorative book project in which 38 authors from around the globe re-examined the AutoCarto Six papers they had published 30 years earlier, showed that much of the thinking that was done at the Ottawa conference had in fact come to fruition. ArcGIS today has many concepts that were first revealed or confirmed at that conference many years ago. However, there are still many ideas and concepts that were published in the 1983 conference proceedings which could improve the processes and outputs of present day GIS installations and applications.

The upcoming colloquium and conference are designed to determine, itemize, and publicize these “nuggets”, which Dr. Wellar has defined as findings from the literature or other sources which serve:

  • The design and development of GIS technology
  • The definition and elaboration of GIScience
  • The uses of GIS technology and GIScience

A Call for Papers as well as detailed instructions on preparing papers for the “Conference on Using the Retrospective Approach to Mine for GIS Nuggets” are now available.

Can ideas arising from an unassuming conference held in Ottawa over 30 years ago still enhance today’s GIS knowledge, and advance the body of science spawned by GIS technology? We think so.

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About the Author

Gordon Plunkett is the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) Director at Esri Canada. He has more than 30 years of experience in GIS and Remote Sensing in both the public and private sectors. He currently sits as a member of the Community Map of Canada Steering Committee, GeoAlliance Canada Interim Board of Directors, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Committee on Geomatics, the University of Laval Convergence Network Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board to the Carleton University Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre. During his career, Gordon has worked on projects in more than 20 countries and has contributed to numerous scientific conferences and publications. At Esri Canada, he is responsible for developing and supporting the company’s SDI vision, initiatives and outreach, including producing content for the SDI blog.

Profile Photo of Gordon Plunkett