Chapter 8: The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis

“The proposal for the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) was the first major proposal where almost the entire Department was involved in writing it,” said Church, who was Chair at the time.1 Even Simonett, who was Dean of Graduate Studies, was a strong member of the team. He believed GIS was the wave of the future. Terry Smith remembered, “Dave orchestrated and pushed and dreamed for NCGIA establishment. He worked on weekends, papers spread across the room.”14 Joel Michaelsen remembered Simonett averring, “GIS will do for human geography what remote sensing did for physical geography.” Simonett sold the UCSB Administration (pointedly, Chancellor Huttenback) on the importance of winning the NCGIA grant. And that to succeed, we needed a Senior GIS faculty position. The Administration granted Geography that position.8

The NCGIA grant was the first time the National Science Foundation (NSF) offered to fund a center that involved social science. UCSB Geography faculty believed a number of universities had a possibility of being selected. To increase their chances of winning the grant, they decided to collaborate with other universities – the University at Buffalo and the University of Maine. Buffalo, especially, had faculty with expertise that complemented that of UCSB. It had a good-size group in GIS and human geography, while UCSB was a little heavier on the physical side. Bringing Mike Goodchild to UCSB from Ontario, Canada, was an essential part of the strategy. He was a major hire in GIS and would be an ideal first director of the center.1

They had several writing sessions in Santa Barbara and one in Buffalo. Professors Simonett, Terry Smith, Estes, and Church flew to New York from Santa Barbara, and Goodchild joined them from Canada. It took a good three months to put together the proposal. UCSB, Buffalo, and Maine’s proposal was chosen, and the consortium was formed in 1988.1

Chapter 9: Ray Smith’s Years as Chair: Geography Stands Up »