GIS Ethics: Accuracy and Responsibility

Publication Date

Fall 10-1-2008


Ethical questions related to the use of GIS have been an area of importance for many years. The use of GIS for military and surveillance purposes along with concerns about the impacts GIS has on NGOs and the environment have been challenging issues and remain topics of deep concerning for people. Professionals working with GIS should develop a sound grasp of these issues and a thorough comprehension of the concerns impacting the use and development of GIS. However, while most people agree that ethics matters for GIS professionals, we often have great trouble putting ethical issues into practical action. This seminar sets out to bridge this gap and provide a sound basis for future ethical consideration of accuracy and responsibility issues.

This seminar, as part of a project supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and in collaboration with activities at Oregon State University and Pennsylvania State University engages students with a pragmatic approach to examining GIS ethics within the context of GIS professional work. It draws on the work of applied ethicists to approach questions of GIS ethics. This will be done through a series of interviews with GIS professionals from the Twin Cities area and through relevant readings.

The first part of the course consists of a review of relevant applied ethical concepts. This forms the foundation for interviews with area GIS specialists. Preparation, conduct, and evaluation of interviews are followed by a review of relevant GIS ethical issues and codes of ethics before concluding with presentation and a concluding discussion about the role of ethics for GIS accuracy concerns and matters of responsibility.

Material Type


Research Area

Geographic Information Sciences

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

This work was supported by National Science Foundation grant # GEO-0734888.

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