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The International Coastal Atlas Network: An Emerging Spatial Data Infrastructure Initiative

TitleThe International Coastal Atlas Network: An Emerging Spatial Data Infrastructure Initiative
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2009
AuthorsWright, DJ, Dwyer, N, Longhorn, R, Lassoued, Y, Bermudez, L, Boucelma, O
Conference NameThird INSPIRE Conference, in conjunction with the Eleventh International Conference of the GSDI (GSDI 11)
Date Published15/06/2009
PublisherGSDI, International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructure Research
Conference LocationRotterdam, The Netherlands
Keywordscapacity building, coastal atlas, coastal informatics, information management, interoperability, knowledge exchange, metadata, regional governance, SDI initiative, web GIS

The International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN) is a newly-founded initiative comprised of a partnership of over 30 organizations from more than a dozen nations. It aims to be a global reference for the development of coastal web atlases (CWAs), which are defined as collections of digital, web-enabled maps and datasets with supplementary tables, illustrations, and information that systematically illustrate the coast, oftentimes with cartographic and decision support tools. These atlases are playing an increasingly important role as elements of spatial data infrastructures at state and national scales, and in assisting regional decision- and policy-making across numerous themes including coastal vulnerability to climate change impacts and population presssures, coastal governance (boundaries, protected areas, etc.), coastal hazards mitigation, marine spatial planning, resource availability and exploitation. Many of these atlases offer discovery, view and download services in line with the INSPIRE Directive. Another strategic aim of ICAN is to take advantage of the expertise of its members to find common solutions to CWA development, and to encourage and facilitate global operational interoperability between CWAs for enhanced data sharing, and the translation of coastal science to coastal decision-making. The paper describes the rationale and development of several products that ICAN has been developing for this purpose, such as user and developer guides, handbooks and articles on best practices, information on standards and web services, expertise and technical support directories, education, outreach materials, and workshops. The long-term goal of ICAN is to enable U.S. national and global-level operational interoperability between CWAs, based on the principle of shared distributed information, which will also provide a basis for rationally-informed discussion, debate and negotiation of sustainable management policies for regional governance. This will evolve as the ICAN community strives to increase awareness of the opportunities that exist for increased coastal and marine data sharing among policy makers, resource managers, and other strategic users of CWAs. The paper describes the experiences of and lessons learned by ICAN participants as they have developed the structure and governance of the organization, partnered with similar initiatives, and played leadership roles in forging international collaborations of value to their participating nations. A major long-term goal is to help build a functioning digital atlas of the worldwide coast.