Communities of Use
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is the Nation's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian topographic mapping agency. Topographic mapping was undertaken at the USGS more than 125 years ago for the purpose of providing a base for scientists to map the Nation's geology. Over the decades the topographic products and services offered, and the means by which they were developed, have changed many times based on changing expectations by users, societal and mission needs, new technologies, and other factors.
An ongoing challenge is to prioritize the myriad user needs in order to develop products and services
that best meet USGS and Department of the Interior science objectives and that create the greatest
value and impact for the Nation. To address this challenge, the National Geospatial Program strategic
plan calls for an increased focus on identifying and meeting user needs and for anticipating new needs, with special attention on the priority "communities of use" for The National Map:
Throughout the past and yet today, USGS topographic maps and data are designed for scientists and other governmental users, but they have value for a broad spectrum of users, including professionals such as resources managers and planners, and private citizens such as recreationists and students from elementary through graduate school completing school projects.
Technical Committees for each Community of Use (COU) assist the COU coordinators in
understanding and prioritizing enhancement requests submitted by users. Initially USGS mission areas are heavily represented within the COU technical committee, however as the process matures more external users will be included representing other Federal agencies, state and local users, academia, and private sector users as appropriate.
Discussions with users in each COU have highlighted 1) the variety of applications supported by NGP products and services (or similar services from other sources) and 2) three broadly similar classes of use that cross the COUs - cartographic context, large-scale data interpretation, and modeling.