Connecticut GIS User to User Network

June 4, 2002 Meeting Notes

Eric Snowden of Capitol Region Council of Governments welcomed the attendees to the meeting. Afterwards, Barbara MacFarland of Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) made announcements and called for subcommittee reports.

MacFarland announced that a new continuously operating reference station (CORS) began operation on the University of Connecticut campus. The information collected at the station can dramatically improve GPS measurements accuracy, especially in locations near Storrs, Connecticut. John Bean of Central Connecticut State University headed the project. The web site,, provides more information about the station and offers the station's data for download.

Sandy Prisloe gave the report for the communications subcommittee. Sandy reminded those knowledgeable about municipal GIS in Connecticut to complete the Connecticut Municipal GIS Survey, which examines the status of GIS in Connecticut's municipalities. In addition, Sandy announced the development of a "User-to-User Network Contact Database" to facilitate communication in the GIS community. Scott Roberts of Fuss O'Neill is putting together the online resource.


MacFarland requested new volunteers for the GIS Day Committee. Jeffrey Roller from the Town of West Hartford and Paul Rooney from ESRI agreed to join the committee. MacFarland asked that any other interested persons can contact her directly to volunteer. MacFarland stated that the committee has a head start because Gwen Carter of the MDC already reserved the concourse at the State Legislature for the entire month of November.


John Skull of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection introduced the following speakers: Tim Chase of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Raymond Redniss of Redniss & Mead, and Jay Doody of Connecticut Department of Transportation. The speakers discussed two professional issues in the GIS field: GIS certification and GIS workers surveying without a license.

Chase led a brief discussion of GIS professionalism. Participants indicated that GIS professionalism is marked by education attainment, technical skills, professional experience, and ethical behavior. The discussion also raised questions about the definition of GIS, and whether or not the GIS field encompasses GPS, aerial photography, database management, and other areas of expertise.


Redniss gave a very detailed history of land surveying licensure in the State of Connecticut. Beginning in 1942, land surveying began to separate from the field of engineering. The initial surveying standards were released in 1945. In 1967, the Connecticut Association of Land Surveying (CALS) formed as a professional association and lobbying organization. This group successfully lobbied the state legislature to make surveying standards statutory and make it illegal to practice surveying without a license. The Department of Consumer Protection enforces the surveying license. As a consequence, land surveyors became liable for their work.


Chase discussed the evolution of GIS certification. In the early 1990's, professional organizations and universities began discussing GIS certification. In 1994, the American Society for Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing developed a certification program for photogrammetrists. The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) began to develop their own GIS certification program with the input from other groups. Chase described the proposal later in the program.


Doody pointed out that surveying, photogrammerty, and GIS all map the Earth's surface, but only surveyors are licensed professionals. This licensure exists because CALS successfully lobbied for the surveying legislation. Doody urged the audience to develop a GIS organization that can advocate their interests in the legislature.


Doody and Redniss presented Connecticut Statutes that define surveying. The laws state that surveying includes measuring and mapping specific natural and man-made features on the Earth's surface, determining map accuracy, and general and detailed representation of parcels. GIS professionals, especially those in municipal GIS, often prepare maps of parcels and may be practicing surveying without a license. In New York State, a GIS worker was cited for practicing surveying without a license for making measurements normally done by photogrammetrists and licensed surveyors.


Doody noted that the surveying statutes are broad and practically engulf the GIS field. However, the surveying statutes are in the process of being revised to make a clear distinction between the two professions. In short, GIS workers can collect measurements and prepare maps that are not used for authoritative location. He suggested that GIS professionals place the following disclaimer on maps: "This data should be used for general planning purposes only." This disclaimer reinforces the difference between general mapping and surveying and helps protect GIS workers from liability.


Only licensed surveyors can mark boundary lines, produce maps for land records, collect field data for geodetic control, and certify the positional accuracy of maps or measured survey data. For liability reasons, licensed surveyors should be the only ones to collect data and prepare maps for site plans and land records. For example, Doody told a story where a licensed surveyor failed to identify a manhole on a map. Unaware of underground infrastructure, the developer spent thousands of dollars on site design. When building began, the construction company noticed the manhole and discovered a 48" main crossing the property. The developer scrapped the project and sued the land surveyor. The land surveyor lost the court case and had to pay damages to the developer. Hence, GIS professionals should avoid the domain of surveyors who assume the possibility of expensive litigation.


Doody reviewed the likely changes to the surveying statutes. The statutes formalize the policy that licensed surveyors are the only ones that can provide authoritative location of features and exempts several activities from surveying practice. The exemptions include general transportation maps, atlases, tax maps, zoning maps, maps prepared from data created by any federal agency, inventory maps, and certain map products created by law enforcement agencies.


Afterwards, Chase went into more detail about the URISA GIS Certification proposal. The goals of the certification program are to raise the stature of current GIS professionals, help those new to the GIS field, and to establish standards and ethics in the profession. More people are coming into the GIS field from various backgrounds, and it is difficult for employers to determine one's skill level from his or her resume. In addition, higher education facilities want to make sure that their GIS programs adequately prepare students for the profession. The certification program is portfolio-based rather than examination-based. The main reason for this approach is because there is not a consensus about the profession's body of knowledge. Therefore, applicants must demonstrate that they acquired enough points in the following three areas: education attainment, professional experience, and contributions to the profession. Chase reviewed the point system in detail.


After Chase finished his presentation, an interesting discussion followed. Some of the audience complained that the proposal favors traditional learning versus non-traditional learning and that the proposal is quantitative instead of qualitative. For example, the educational points are based upon degree, academic certification, and amount of coursework in geospatial technologies at higher education institutions. Some of the audience complained that they would not meet the education attainment requirements because they are self-taught. Furthermore, some said that they might not benefit from expensive course work necessary to meet the educational requirements of the certificate. In a similar fashion, the experience points only consider the number of years of employment instead of the quality of work and skill level. Furthermore, some of the audience questioned whether employers would accept the URSIA GIS certificate as proof of GIS skills. Chase defended the proposal and stated that many people and interest groups have scrutinized it and that it may mark an important step toward formal GIS licensure. Chase encouraged people to review the proposal on the URISA web site and provide feedback to the committee.


The meeting adjourned around 12:00 pm.

Summary prepared by Daryl Scott on July 1, 2002

South Western Regional Planning Agency
Stamford Government Center
888 Washington Blvd, 3rd Floor
Stamford, CT 06901