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URISA Board Approves a GIS Code of Ethics 4.28.03

April 28, 2003
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On April 9, 2003, the URISA Board of Directors unanimously approved a "GIS Code of Ethics" proposed by the URISA Ethics Task Force. The Code of Ethics is intended to provide guidelines for GIS professionals. It should help professionals make appropriate and ethical choices. It should provide a basis for evaluating their work from an ethical point of view. By heeding this code, GIS professionals will help to preserve and enhance public trust in the discipline.

The text of this code draws on the work of many professional societies. A few of the guidelines that are unique to the GIS profession include the encouragement to make data and findings as widely available as is feasible, to document data and products, to be actively involved in data retention and security, to show respect for copyright and other intellectual property rights, and to display concern for the sensitive data about individuals discovered through geospatial or database manipulations.

The Code of Ethics document is the result of extensive public review. Dozens of people provided useful feedback and suggestions during two periods of open public comment in 2002. All comments were reviewed and considered carefully. The Code consists of these four primary categories:

  • I. Obligations to Society
  • II. Obligations to Employers and Funders
  • III. Obligations to Colleagues and the Profession
  • IV. Obligations to Individuals in Society

Will Craig, University of Minnesota and Chair of the Task Force feels it is important for a profession to have a Code of Ethics. "It's not that we expect the Code will be a front-line of defense against wrong-doing. Instead, the Code provides a touchstone for members to identify and resolve ethical dilemmas that they encounter in their work."

The Code of Ethics Task Force is a subcommittee of URISA's Certification Committee. When the GISCI Certification Program is finalized, sometime during the next five months, individuals seeking certification must also certify that he or she has read and agrees to conduct professional activities in conformance with the professional Code of Ethics. Thus,conducting professional activities in an ethical manner is part and parcel of the GIS Certification Program. All are encouraged to visit the URISA website, to read the complete detailed Code of Ethics document.

Founded in 1963, the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) is a nonprofit association for professionals involved in improving urban and regional environments through the use of information technology.

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