Map production has long been a core practice of cartography. Based on geodetic, photogrammetric, remote sensing or laser scanning based methods, topographic map production is a part of the surveying process. In each country, topographic mapping has its own traditions, including selection of the map projections and datum. Nowadays in many countries the geocentric WGS84 based systems are applied, but it is still an important part of cartography to know the properties and applications of various projections and manage their application and the conversions between them. In practice many GIS software tools offer transformations from projections and coordinate systems to others, while mobile and ubiquitous applications might sometimes require transformations on the fly. Map projections and transformations, along with associated mathematical studies of distortion, are valid areas of cartographic research. It is noteworthy that it is not only topographic mapping which must address these issues: the importance of reference frames to mobile applications, and the study of transformations of raster imagery (from satellite, aerial platforms and ground-based) are also essential, as is the reference system adopted within GI layers.
Map production technology is a rapidly developing field. The new mapping technologies of satellite remote sensing, laser-scanning technologies and advanced global navigation satellite system technologies offer both fast and accurate acquisition of topographic data. However they also give new challenges for research and development as well as innovations for several application areas. A continuously developing range of field and remote data collection techniques ensures that map production flow lines must be able to handle spatial data varying in source, format, scale, quality, reliability and area of coverage.
The role of cartographic knowledge as applied to map production is still important. Map design, already mentioned in connection with usability, covers issues such as symbolization, text and label placement, generalization, colour selection and layout design. Such tasks always require understanding of the data compilation, the information compatibility and skills for aesthetic design. In cases of multi-lingual countries and production of printed maps, label placement is a challenging subtask in map design. Collection and standardization of place names as such is an important part of map production and has important links to ontology and information management issues.
The applications of map production processes and their development are core topics for public and private mapping organizations. There is a continuous interest in rationalizing and modernizing the production of maps and geospatial data sets. Such processes can differ depending on the map type: topographic or thematic, large or small scale, printed or digital. In topographic map production processes, the actual problems can come from quality management and harmonization needs, whichmay themselves be guided by the requirements of geospatial data infrastructures. In many countries there are attempts to rationalize and synchronizemunicipal and national mapping by trying to harmonize the data contents and take care about the quality management of production. Quality models, up-to date metadata descriptions and associated process documentation are central issues.
An enormous number of different categories of maps can be, and are, produced by a variety of methods. Thematic maps address particular concerns and portray specific data. Each category may have research issues associated with it. Some examples from specific ICA Commissions include: mountain maps, which must efficiently portray threedimensional representations; marine charts, which must incorporate ongoing developments in electronic nautical charting; environmental maps, which are valuable contributors to risk mapping for early warning applications; military mapping, which can also assist in civil crisis management, but is also responsible for planning and execution of complex, technologically advanced military manoeuvres and campaigns, both in real-time and in simulators. Examples of other thematic map categories which could benefit from applied research work include tourist maps, orienteering maps, advertising maps, artistic maps, fantasy maps, geological and geophysical maps, cadastral maps, personalized maps, aeronautical maps, poverty maps, maps in text books, and mass media maps. Some thematic maps have global relevance because of the application: maps supporting scientific investigations into immediate problems, such as climate change and sealevel rise, are among the most important of these.
Other mapping functions for which production (perhaps as well as compilation and design) is a major issue include atlases and atlas information systems. The future of atlases has been debated for a long time, since the first versions of digital and interactive atlases were introduced. Multimedia atlases came soon after and now the concepts of Atlas Information Systems and web-atlases have been introduced and supplemented, supported by geobrowsers such as Google Earth and Wikipedia. Technologies to support the cartographic and GI data handling requirements of such products have to develop. Tactile and audio maps need special design and production technology; they cannot be side products of regular maps and are often not easily derived from the data.
The established tasks of map production, in addition to being subject to variability in data handled, method of representation and application area, are subject to overriding practical issues such as economic, legal and security matters (including confidentiality). Legal issues include copyright, privacy, liability and illegal use detection (using cartographic traps). Economic issues which can be researched include production models and map marketing. Finally, once the maps have been produced or the databases have been implemented, there is a need to manage the archive which they represent. This covers areas such as archiving, updating, metadata extraction and recording and further librarianship issues. As unique documents which need specialist curators and library resources for acquisition, storage and consultation, the role of maps in the contemporary library is changing. And as spatial data becomes increasingly available in non-standard media, the role of the curator must expand to incorporate new skills.