Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have become an essential component of our modern-day lives, with applications ranging from smartphones to scientific research. GIS is a computer-based tool that organizes spatial data by layering information about roads, topography, weather conditions, landmarks, businesses and more on maps. This allows us to easily visualize and analyze the data, making it a critical component of our everyday lives.
The ubiquity of GIS extends far beyond our smartphones, reaching various scientific applications and industries. For example, epidemiologists use GIS to map the spread of disease while ecologists use it to understand wildlife movement. Climate scientists also rely on GIS to comprehend changes in glaciers, sea levels and regional weather patterns. Furthermore, GIS assists social scientists in studying global conflict and immigration as well as urban planners and engineers in determining the best places for new development and infrastructure.
The U.S. National Science Foundation has played a central role in the development and growth of GIS-related technology and science by awarding about 180 grants totaling more than $83 million in the past two years to support research related to GIS in fields such as geography, math, computer science, geology, anthropology and education. This continued support demonstrates the importance of GIS in our modern world and its ongoing relevance to a wide range of fields.