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Welcome to the website of the International Cartographic AssociationGet to know the new ICA Executive Committee for the term 2023-2027Get to know the ICA Commissions for the term 2023-2027
Welcome to the website of the International Cartographic Association
Get to know the new ICA Executive Committee for the term 2023-2027
Get to know the ICA Commissions for the term 2023-2027

ICA Research Agenda

The ICA research agenda is a basic document for the research work in the Commissions and Working Groups of the ICA. The current version can be downloaded below or explored on the this website. As the research agenda is not set in stone you are encouraged to leave comments on the following pages!

  • ICA Research Agenda (929kB)
    Virrantaus, Kirsi; Fairbairn, David; Kraak, Menno-Jan. In: The Cartographic Journal, Volume 46, Number 2, May 2009, pp. 63-75(13), Publisher: Maney Publishing


Maps and geographic information (GI) have special power through their ability to connect and integrate data sets by the inherent geographical location, and present the information contents in a user-friendly and understandable visual and tactual way. Such ability has long been recognized as an intrinsic property of the map artefact, as well as contemporary geodatabases. The power of maps and geographic data handling has been recently recognized in many real world applications and strategic decision making situations related to current topics like crisis management, early warning systems, efforts for supporting sustainability and decreasing global poverty.

The international cartographic association (ICA), as a globally well represented and internationally visible organization, has a special position and role as a promoter of the development of cartography and GI science. Research and development in ICA aim in general to create theory and methods for cartography and GI handling. By applying theories and methods in various fields, new tools can be created for cartographic and GI practice. Such topics are addressed at the main work-forums of ICA, its Commissions. These organizations are formally established by vote at the quadrennial ICA General Assemblies, although interim Working Groups can also be established between General Assemblies by the ICA Executive Committee (EC) to address specific short-term issues.

The idea of the ICA Research Agenda on Cartography and GI Science was initially considered at ICA Executive Committee meetings during the 1990s but the specific decision to work on a structured Research Agenda was taken at the London EC meeting in 2001, with a plan to organize a session on the issue at the International Cartographic Conference in Beijing in 2001. This session included several valuable presentations (including those from Professors Gruenreich, Meng, Mullen and Ormeling). The work plan for the Research Agenda development was made during the Mexico City EC meeting in 2005. It was realized that several ICA Commissions had overlapping research concerns while some new challenging topics were outside of any Commission’s field. A formal Research Agenda would have a significant role in informing Commission members, General Assembly Delegates and ICC attendees, of the integrated nature of research activity in Cartography and GI Science, the expanding scope of research and the role of ICA in promoting such activity. It should be realized that the content of the agenda represents a snapshot in time. Agenda like these should anyhow be considered to be living documents adapting to new technological and methodological developments over time. This paper consists of two major parts, the content of the research agenda and the current ‘implementation’ by the ICA’s Commissions and Working groups.


The goal of this agenda is primarily to give some guidelines for the Commissions’ work as well as to lead to tighter cooperation between Commissions. The agenda can also support the development of the flexible Commission structure of ICA. From a practical point of view the agenda may outline the future contents of the proposed International Yearbook for cartography and GI science.

More widely, the agenda is written in order to show ICA’s actual and potential contribution to scientific research within our global society, and to serve as a moderator for discussions in that forum. In order to implement its own strategic mission, ‘to ensure that geospatial information is employed to maximum effect for the benefit of science and society’ (ICA Strategic Plan, 2003), ICA must have a clear agenda for research covering all fields and topics under the title Cartography and GI Science. This agenda, therefore, documents current research activity in these fields, suggests areas where more intensive or renewed effort is required, and also discusses the methods by which some of this research can be undertaken – within ICA Commissions, through international collaboration with sister societies, and under suggested programmes of integrated research stimulated, we hope, by the presentation of this summary. It also reveals the gaps, e.g. items important for the agenda but not intensively covered by the research activities of the Commission and Working Groups.


The first preliminary study on research topics within the remit of ICA was made in the 2003 Budapest meeting of the EC and Commission chairs, who tried to outline the topics of interest to each Commission. The work was continued in 2005 in the Mexico City EC meeting as well as in A Corun˜a in 2005 in two brainstorming sessions for Commission and Working Group chairs and co-chairs, and the first draft documents outlining the research interests of Commissions were created. In the meetings the Mind Map technique was used and, based on that work, the first draft document was written, presented to the 2006 Moscow EC meeting, discussed and subsequently sent to the Commissions for comments. Commissions have been asked to provide additional text with relevant literature references on the topics that they feel important. The second draft was discussed in the EC meeting in Brno in 2007 and the plan for finalizing the agenda as well as publishing it in the Moscow ICC Proceedings was made. Before presentation, another round of comments among the Commission chairs has been organized. After the Moscow conference the new Terms of Reference of the Commissions and Working groups were analyzed based on their ‘relevance for research’. Via an online survey among the chairs of the Commissions and Working Groups these were matched with the content of the research agenda, revealing gaps and overlap among Commission and Working Group research activities.

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