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Final Letter from the Editor.

As you read these lines, I regret to inform you that this will be the last volume and issue of the URISA Journal. For many of us, it feels as if the Journal has been around forever (or at least as long as URISA itself). In part, this is because URISA was quite academic in character when the organization was founded--the profession, and certainly the notion of a GIS professional, did not exist in the early days. Since URISA's inception, numerous academics, including Bob Aangeenbrug, Will Craig, Ken Duecker, Britt Harris, Edgar Horwood, Bill Huxhold, Joe Ferreira, Barry Wellar, and Lyna Wiggins, served as presidents of our organization, providing the leadership and momentum to create the profession that we now are. Journal editors such as Ben Nieman, Harlan Onsrud, Steve Ventura, board members such as Nancy Obermeyer, and successive generations of the Journal's editorial board provided invaluable service in shaping the quality and reach of the Journal.

The academic intellectual roots that resulted in the creation of our Journal along with its peer-review process provided an academic seal of approval to authors, readers, and URISA members and celebrated high-quality GIS research and practice. URISA originally was modeled after the Regional Science Organization; URISA conferences and later the papers published in the early years of the Journal were products of serious and rigorous scholarship--often practice-oriented, no doubt, but really contributing to what in later years was to be dubbed geographic information science. Even now, the majority of our mission statement's seven bullet points have the word science in them, and two other points use science in the explanatory body of their bullet header.

With the development and growth of the GIS profession, the interests of our readers have moved away from the original focus on foundational concepts of GIScience and towards the plethora of GIS application areas that spans every aspect of humanity. Simultaneously, the academic GIS scene has developed its own range of GIS journals that include many subspecializations. The offerings available to GIS professionals outside of academia also have grown during this time. The dramatic growth of journal offerings as outlets for academic and scholarly work limits the reach of the URISA Journal to academic scholars while simultaneously making it less interesting to GIS professionals who are looking for reports about best practices and case studies associated with the complexities of GIS use, implementation, or policy.

The academic representation in URISA has dropped significantly, now less than 5 percent of the overall membership. This decline has had serious consequences for the viability of the Journal. For a while, the Journal kept its academic profile, and many professional members were proud to belong to an organization that published such highly ranked articles. The next trend was the influx of international submissions. The URISA Journal was and is uniquely positioned to bridge the increasing gap between theory and practice and our friends from AURISA (now SSSI) and a whole cohort of former regional scientists now geospatial infrastructure architects from The Netherlands helped to justify our association's name URISA International. These articles, plus the general themes of building cadasters and how to engage the public (PPGIS), were the hallmark of our Journal in the 1990s and naughts, propelling our journal in 2008 to number 14 out of 84 GIScience journals evaluated in a Transactions in GIS article (Caron et al. 2008). * The next generation of authors reported how these lessons were applied in the developing world, especially the Caribbean, the Middle East, and India.

In 2006, when I took over as general editor, I appealed to the largely professional and U.S.-based membership to submit articles that discussed best practices and lessons learned (and to be shared) that were critical and reflective, in other words, narratives that were qualitatively different from those in trade magazines. In the years since, submitting authors have shown difficulty heeding this request. As I write these lines, one corrective nudge immediately raises its head. Although our membership is mostly U.S.-based, our Canadian brethren contributed more than their fair share to GIS in general, academic contributions, and even articles published in our Journal. It is therefore no coincidence that this last issue is a Canadian one. I am thanking Victoria Fast and Claus Rinner for corralling their colleagues and managing a prolonged review process.

As before, I encourage each of you to send me your feedback, comments, etc. You can reach me at jochen@hunter.

Cheers and tears,


* Caron C., S. Roche, D. Goyer, and A. Jaton. 2008. GIScience journals ranking and evaluation: An international Delphi study. Transactions in GIS 12(3): 293-321.
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Publication:URISA Journal
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 1, 2017
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