In today’s world, spatial data is an essential tool that we rely on in our daily lives. It is used to check the news and weather on our smartphones, to ensure products reach their destinations using industry systems, and to visualize and analyze geographic data using geographic information systems (GIS). These computer-based tools are critical for organizing layers of information about roads, topography, weather conditions, landmarks, businesses, and more.
The use of GIS extends beyond our personal devices and reaches various scientific applications and industries. Epidemiologists use it to map the spread of disease, ecologists to understand wildlife movement, and climate scientists to comprehend changes in glaciers, sea levels, and regional weather patterns. Social scientists also use GIS to study global conflict and immigration, while urban planners and engineers determine the best places for new development and infrastructure.
The U.S. National Science Foundation has played a central role in the development and growth of GIS-related technology and science. In the past two years, the foundation has awarded about 180 grants totaling more than $83 million to support research related to GIS in fields such as geography, math, computer science, geology, anthropology, and education. This continued support demonstrates the importance of GIS in our modern world and its ongoing relevance to a wide range of fields.