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What is authoritative geospatial data?

authoritative geospatial data

National mapping and cadastral agencies (NMCAs) routinely claim that their geospatial data is ‘authoritative’ or that it has been created from authoritative sources. The term certainly has an impressive ring to it. But what does it actually mean?

In the geospatial context, the term authoritative geospatial data can be traced back to land surveyors. They define authoritative as data that contains a surveyor’s professional stamp and that can be used for purposes such as engineering design, determination of property boundaries, and permit applications. In essence, the term carries a certification of positional accuracy.

For decades, government organizations have been recognized as the official source of geographic information. And being able to label their information as authoritative is important for these agencies not only because users give such information greater credit but also because it helps secure government investment to ensure that the data they are providing is updated, supported, and used by public services.

However, in today’s world, there are a number of geospatial data, information, and service producers/providers that are serving different needs and purposes of both private and publicly oriented users. These new data, information, and service producers/providers hail from the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors alike. So, to maintain their status as the providers of authoritative geospatial data, what are some of the characteristics that NMCAs must focus on?

To find out, not-for-profit geospatial data advocacy organizations European Spatial Data Research (EuroSDR) and EuroGeographics, along with Dutch research university KU Leuven, talked to researchers and practitioners in NMCAs across Europe. From the discussions, numerous characteristics of authoritative data emerged, including:

  • Legally binding: Meaning that the term authoritative should only be applied to data that is legislated or regulated
  • Accountability: The organization claiming to provide authoritative data must be legally accountable for the data production, provision, high-quality, and/or maintenance of said data
  • Uniqueness: The dataset should stand out from other datasets by its characteristics, which could also mean that one organization gets the sole rights to produce and/or provide that data for wider use
  • Mandate: Linking strongly to the legally binding characteristic discussed above, mandate refers to the legal mandate by authority, produced, processed and issued by the author
  • Mandatory use: Meaning that other (public) authorities or other stakeholders are legally obliged to solely use authoritative data and no other data
  • Liability: Though the participating NMCAs did not completely agree if liability is a full characteristic of authoritative data, some participants strongly stated that their organizations are liable for their ‘authoritative’ actions and products with all the consequences, meanwhile others are not
  • Official: Official could refer to the data itself or to the organization that produces, provides, and/or maintains it, but it should be set by the law.
  • (Public) authority provision: Referring to data provided by or on behalf of a (public) authority body. Some participants feel that authoritative data could be also provided (produced, maintained) by private companies (e.g. by means of outsourcing)
  • Reference data: A preferred term in some countries that includes the obligation that it is mandatory for everybody to use this data
  • Trusted: It is crucial to provide data that can be trusted by the users in the long term or to build a lasting organizational trust
  • Standardized: The production and maintenance processes/procedures/protocols should be specified according to international standards
  • Continuity: Building up a tradition in the production, maintenance and/or provision of highly qualitative data that are backed up by legislation
  • High quality: The quality of authoritative data is higher than the quality of competing data and that correct data enhances the appetite for more quality of data
  • Quality management system: It is important that the validation of high quality of authoritative data is assured as authorities are often liable for their data produced, provided or maintained
  • Certified: When data are produced by third parties, the data must be validated on the basis of a set of standardized criteria
  • Traceability: The data generation has to be fully traceable with clear documentation of the process of how the data has been created and/or maintained
  • Maintained: It is crucial to communicate how the authoritative data is maintained and how it will be updated in the future
  • Usage: The usage could differ by size (used by everyone, all public authorities, a selected group of public authorities), purpose (for public policy, noncommercial or enhancement of public values), obligation to use or not to use, and degree of usability (is it easy to use or not necessary to use)
  • Accessibility: Since accessibility increases the usage of the data and makes it more trusted, there should be easy means to provide authoritative data via geoportals or other relevant platforms
  • Understood: All the stakeholders must understand the meaning and value of using authoritative data

Accordingly, EuroGeographics has proposed this working definition of authoritative geospatial data: “Authoritative data is data provided by or on behalf of a public body (authority) which has an official mandate to provide it, that is based on a set of known criteria to ensure (inter alia) high data quality, and that is required to be used or aimed towards extensive use and reuse within the public sector and society as a whole.”

What are your views? Do you think there is a need for organizations within the public sector to take up a central role in the governance of authoritative geospatial data?

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Universities for Master’s in Geo-informatics/GIS

[First published: July 14, 2017; Last updated: March 3, 2020]

Are you thinking about pursuing Master’s in GIS, Remote Sensing or Geoscience? Never think twice, we have made a comprehensive list of many universities for Master’s in GIS, Geo-informatics, and related fields. The courses form a spectrum ranging from GIS to Geoengine or from Applied Science to Geoscience.

Master's in GIS, Geo-informatics

To make things much simpler, we have mapped them across the globe. Check the interactive map below and get to know the name of universities, the course offered, location, and the link to the course site. Interested in programming? A widget on the right side of the map can help you filter courses containing programming and non-programming subjects. Country-based filtering is also facilitated by the Country’s widget.

Recommended: Free online GIS courses to help you upskill during COVID-19 lockdown

What are you waiting for? Go on, stop peeping, and jump into the map. You can also view the map here, for a whole window view.


If you think we missed out listing a particular masters’ program. Please do get in touch with us at Geoawesomeness contact page.

List of Universities for Master’s in GIS/ Geo-informatics

The universities and the programs are listed randomly and the order isn’t a ranking 🙂

University Course Title Location Programming Courses Country
Warsaw University of Technology Master of Mobile Mapping and Navigation Systems Warsaw Yes Poland
University of Southern Queensland Master of Spatial Science Technology (GIS) Toowoomba No Australia
The University of Western Australia Master of Geosience Perth No Australia
University of Western Austarlia Master of Geography Information Science Perth Yes Australia
Flinders University Master of Geospatial Information Science Adelaide No Australia
University of Colorado Denve Master in Geographic Information System Denver, Colorado Yes United States
Michigan Technological University Master of Geographic Information Science Houghton, Michigan No United States
California State University Long Beach  Master of Science in Geographic Information Science Long Beach, California Yes United States
San Francisco State University M.S in Geographic Information Science San Francisco No United States
North Carolina State University Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology Raleigh, North Carolina Yes United States
Sam Houston State University  MS in Geographic Information System Texas No United states
Georgia Tech MS in Geographic Information Science and Technology Atlanta, Georgia Yes United States
University of Texas at Dallas MS in Geospatial Information Sciences Dallas,Texas No United States
University of Arizona MS in GIS Technology Tucson, Arizona Yes United States
University of Maryland Baltimore MS in Geographic Information System Baltimore Yes United States
University of Maryland Master of Professional Studies in GIS College Park Yes United States
Universtity of Redlands Master of GIS Redlands Yes United states
University of Denver MS in Geographic Information Science Denver, Colorado No United States
Universtity of Illinois Professional Science Master’s in Geographic Information Sciences Champaign, Illinois No United States
Eastern Michigan University MS in GIS Ypsilanti, Michigan Yes United States
The University of Alabama MS in Geogarphic Information Science Tuscaloosa, Alabama Yes United States
Florida State University Master in GIS Tallahassee, Florida Yes United States
Johns Hopkins University MS in GIS Online, Northwest, Washington Yes United states
Arizona State University Master of Advanced Study in GIS Tempe, Arzona Yes United States
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis MS in GIS Indianapolis Yes United States
University of Minnesota Master of Geographic Information Science Minneapolis Yes United States
Central Michigan University  MS in Geographic Information Sciences Michigan Yes United States
George Mason University  MS in Geoinformatics and Geospatial Intelligence Farifax, Virginia Yes United States
Pennsylvania State University MS in GIS Online, University Park, Texas No United States
Salem State University MS in Geo-information Salem, MA Yes United States
University of Leeds, School of Geography MSc in GIS Leeds No United Kingdom
Ulster University MSc in GIS Coleraine Yes United Kingdom
The University of Edinburgh MSc in Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management Edinburgh Yes United Kingdom
University of Portsmouth MSc in GIS Portsmouth No United Kingdom
The University of Edingurgh MSc in Geographical Information Science Edinburgh No United Kingdom
University of Southampton  MSc Applied GIS and Remote Sensing Southampton Yes United Kingdom
Aberystwyth University MSc Remote Sensing and GIS Aberystwyth No United Kingdom
Sheffield Hallam University  MSc in GIS Sheffield No United Kingdom
Kingston University MSc in Geographical Information System and Science London No United Kingdom
University of Leicester  MSc in Geographical Information Science Leicester Yes United Kingdom
The University of Manchester MSc in Geographical Information Science Manchester No United Kingdom
Birbeck University of London  MSc in Geographic Information Science Central London Yes United Kingdom
Technical University of Ostrava M.Engg in Geoinformatics Ostrava No Czech Republic
Aalborg University MSc in Geoinformatics Copenhagen No Denmark
Utrecht university MSc in Geographical Informationanagement and Applications Utrecht No Netherlands
Samara University Master of Space Geoinformatics Samarskoye No Russia
Wageningen University MSc in Geo-information Science Wageningen Yes Netherlands
Lund University  MSc in GIS Online, Lund Yes Sweden
Umea University MSc in Human Geography and GIS Umea Yes Sweden
Universität Münster MSc in Geoinformatics Munster Yes Germany
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam MSc in Geographical Inofrmation Science Amsterdam Yes Netherlands
Yildiz Technical University  MSc in Geomatics Istanbul No Turkey
University of Zurich  MSc in Geographic Information Science Zurich Yes Switzerland
Stockholm University MS in Geomatics with Remote Sensing and GIS Stockholm No Sweden
ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology  MSc in Geomatic Engineering and Planning Zurich No Switzerland
Carinthia University of Applied Sciences MSc in Spatial Information Management Spittal an der Drau No Austria
University of Stuttgart MSc in GEOENGINE Stuttgart No Germany
Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)  MSc in Geomatics Delft Yes Netherlands
Jaume I University MSc in Geospatial Technologies Castellón de la Plana Yes Spain
Maynooth University MSc in GIS and Remote Sensing Maynooth No Ireland
University College Cork  MSc Applied Science in GIS and Remote Sensing Cork Yes Ireland
Aalto University MSc in Geomatics Helinski No Finland
Universiti Sains Malaysia MSc in Geographical Information Science George Town No Malaysia
Wuhan University of Technology  MS in Geomatics Wuhan NA China
Indian Institute of Remote Sensing MSc in Geo-information and Earth Science DehraDun No India
Geomatika University College MSc in GIS Kuala Lumpur No Malaysia
Kyoto University MSc in Geoinformatics Kyoto No Japan
Asian Institute of Technology Masters in RS and GIS Pathumthani No Thailand
University of Nairobi MSc in GIS Nairobi Yes Kenya
University of Pretoria MSc in Geoinformatics Hatfield NA South Africa
University of Calgary MGIS Calgary, Alberta No Canada
University of Canterbury MGIS Christchurch Yes New Zealand
University of Otago  MAppSc in GIS Dunedin Yes New Zealand
University of Otago  MSc in GIS Dunedin Yes New Zealand
University of Tasmania MS in Geomatic Engineering Hobart, Launceston NA Australia
University of New Brunswick Graduate program in Geodesy and Geomatic Engineering Fredericton, NB NA Canada
Anna University M.E in Remote Sensing and Geomatics Chennai Yes India
UNIGIS – University of Salzburg MSc in GIS Online, Salzburg Yes Global
University of Twente  MSc in Geo-information and Earth Observation NB ENSCHEDE (NL) Yes Netherlands
University College London MSc Geographic Information Science Gower Street, London Yes UK
University of Glasgow MSc in Geoinformation Technology and Cartography Glasgow No UK
State University of New York MS in GIS Buffalo Yes USA
University of Florida MSc in Geomatics Gainesville, Florida No USA
Université Laval Master’s in Geo-informatics *Courses and description are in French Quebec Yes Canada
Hong Kong Polytechnic University  MSc Geomatics Hong Kong Yes China
University of Salzburg MSc Applied Geoinformatics Salzburg No Austria
Northwest Missouri State University MS in Geographic Information Science Maryville, MO Yes United States
University of Melbourne Master of Engineering (Spatial) Parkville Yes Australia
University of California, Santa Barbara MA in Geography Santa Barbara Yes United States
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Master of Science in Geoinformatics Johor Bahru, Malaysia Yes Malaysia
Université Rennes 2 Master’s in Geomatics Rennes Yes France
Université de Toulouse 2 Master’s in Geomatics Toulouse Yes France
Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée with the national school of geographic sciences Master’s in Geomatics Paris Yes France
NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS) Master’s in Geographic Information System and Science Online & Lisbon (b-learning) Yes Portugal
NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS) with the Institute for Geoinformatics (IFGI) of the University of Münster (WWU), in Germany, and the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) Master’s in Geospatial technologies Lisbon No Portugal
Université Saint-Etienne Master’s in Geomatics Saint-Étienne Yes France
FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland Master in geoinformation Technology Muttenz, Zürich Yes Switzerland
Institute of Space Technology MS in GIS and Remote Sensing Islamabad Yes Pakistan
National University of Singapore MSc in Applied GIS Singapore Yes Singapore
Jahangirnagar University MSc in Remote Sensing and GIS Dhaka Bangladesh
University of Ghana, Legon MS in Geoinformation Science Accra Yes Ghana
Stellenbosch University MSc in Geoinformatics Stellenbosch South Africa
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