December is a time for reflection. It’s an opportunity to review the accomplishments and challenges of the past year, and to look toward the coming year with optimism and purpose.

It seems fitting, then, that the organizations serving surveying and mapping professionals are engaged in the task of redefining their roles and vision. That task actually began five months ago during the ACSM Congress meeting in San Diego, when the ACSM governing body voted to disband and work toward merging the three remaining member organizations--the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), the American Association for Geodetic Surveying (AAGS) and the Geographic and Land Information Society (GLIS)--to create a single unified organization that would represent all geospatial professionals.

The work has been arduous at times, marked by disagreements over what the unified organization’s membership structure, goals and name should be. Evidence of the contention emerged just as this issue was going to press, in the form of a letter* from the GLIS board stating its intent to continue as a separate organization at least through 2012 to preserve the organization’s value and best serve the interests of its membership.

“Our vision is to build a strong, unified organization that is inclusive of all of the related disciplines of surveying, mapping and geospatial technologies,” the letter noted in outlining the board’s concerns regarding the proposed realigned organization. “This means equal emphasis on attracting members from various disciplines of the geospatial community and in which all members are made to feel ‘equal’ in terms of their contributions to the goals of the organization and in terms of shaping those goals.” Perpetuating the status quo, it said, is not an option.

The letter further stated, “We envision the creation of a simplified, all inclusive membership structure with reasonably set dues to open the new organization up to all within the geospatial community. Anyone should be able to become a contributing, voting member at any point in their career! That’s what we believe is needed for a successful unified organization. We need new energetic members, partners and affiliates with fresh and forward thinking ideas.”

Does this move by the GLIS indicate that it’s too late to create a single unified organization? Not yet. The GLIS has expressed interest in becoming an affiliate of NSPS and hopes to “improve collaboration in creating an organization that works for all in the geospatial community and one that will put us on the path to a bright future.”

But can surveying and mapping professionals agree on the direction of such a path? Now is the time for reflection.

*  The entire letter is online at GLIS is developing a new website at