At each bi-annual symposium ISARA awards the Peter Burrough or James Smith medal, alternating between the two medals at each symposium. The selection process for the medal in question will begin following a Spatial Accuracy symposium, with the nomination period closing six months before the next symposium. Nominations must be submitted to the Chair of the Medal Committee. The ISARA Steering Committee, upon the recommendation of the Medal Committee, may choose not to award a medal at any given symposium. The decision of the ISARA Steering Committee is final. The medals were established in 2010 with the first medal awarded in 2012.
The Peter Burrough Medal for senior scientists
Peter was among the first scholars to draw attention to the problem of error and uncertainty in spatial modelling with geographic information systems. He dedicated a full chapter to the topic in Principles of Geographical Information Systems for Land Resources Assessment (1986), and made major contributions to the topic over the following decades. His pioneering work defined the subject, and he was able to enthuse students and fellow scientists and let the subject develop into a major field of research within geo-information science. In doing so, Peter developed computer-based methods for landscape classification and display that led to numerous publications about, among other topics, error propagation in spatial modelling. He contributed a presentation titled “Identification of an error model for quantitative spatial attributes under different models of spatial variation” to the first “Spatial Accuracy” symposium, and was co-chair of the local organizing committee for the 4th symposium.
Peter’s scientific training sensitized him to the implications of the high levels of error and uncertainty present in much geospatial data. His early work about digitizing and scanning errors discussed in the first edition of his textbook merely scratches the surface of the problem, being concerned with the additional errors introduced when maps are converted to digital form. At the end of Chapter 1 in the first edition of his book, in a section about future directions and trends in GIS, Peter writes (p. 11): “the problems of errors and data description [that] arise largely as a consequence of the imprecision of the world in general, coupled with the requirement of current conceptual models to be able to represent natural variation in terms of compartmentalized models and watertight logic . . . we should be looking for better ways in which to describe the vagaries of the world, and new methods for dealing with the imprecision of qualitative judgements that are an integral part of human thought processes.” In June 1994, Peter co-organized a workshop that ultimately produced Geographic Objects with Indeterminate Boundaries (Burrough and Frank 1996), an edited collection of papers about the problem of uncertainty and its manifestation in vague boundaries. The issue had long festered in cartography, but as long as boundaries had to be drawn on paper using a pen, no alternative existed to portraying them as precisely known, despite the obvious falsity of this assumption in such fields as soil or ecological habitat mapping. Concepts of fuzzy and rough sets, the representation of transition zones, and the “egg-yolk” model of a certain centre and uncertain periphery entered GIScience at this time, largely stimulated by this meeting.
Many other significant contributions followed. Peter worked on the problem of error propagation, resulting in a series of techniques, both analytic and computational, for examining how uncertainty in geographic data produces uncertainty in the outputs of a GIS.
Peter passed away in 2009. For his outstanding contributions to the academic interests of the International Symposia on Spatial Accuracy Assessment in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, ISARA established a medal in honour of Peter Burrough.
The James Smith medal for junior scientists
In the Spring of 1992, James L. Smith, then of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, envisioned a conference addressing spatial accuracy that would have special reference to natural resources and GIS. He was motivated by the dismal state of data quality in natural resources databases. His goal was to assemble a critical mass of people whose interests or concerns lay in the spatial accuracy of such databases. This thinking turned into action, and the convening of the first symposium in Williamsburg, Virginia, which he chaired. The purpose of the meeting was to exchange the latest information and to develop communication pathways that would long outlive the meeting, in order to affect real change in the area of spatial data quality for digital georeferenced natural resources. The follow-up symposium two years later, held in Ft. Collins, Colorado, acknowledged Smith’s contribution to initiating an open discussion and considerate, but honest, evaluation of the topic.
For his initial vision and dedicated work to launch the International Symposia on Spatial Accuracy Assessment in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences series, ISARA established a medal in honour of James Smith.
Each member of the Medal Committee will evaluate all submissions by all nominees. First, the Committee must screen nominees for eligibility. Next, evaluation of each nominee declared eligible by the Committee will be on a scale from 0 to 10. The winner of a medal shall be the nominee who receives the most points. The Medal Committee may decide that no candidate received a sufficient number of points, and hence recommend that ISARA not award a medal at its next meeting.
An awardee will be invited as a keynote speaker for the Spatial Accuracy symposium at which s/he will receive a medal. The local organizer will have the opportunity to either include this awardee as one of the standard keynote speakers, or to add him/her as an additional keynote speaker; this decision will be at the discretion of the local organizer. The awardee will have her/his travel, accommodations and registration expenses covered to the same extent as all other keynote speakers. This particular keynote speech will be labeled either “The Peter Burrough Lecture,” or “The James L. Smith Lecture,” whichever is appropriate. A medal will be awarded at the beginning of the lecture, after the introduction of the awardee, but prior to the introduction of his/her lecture title.
Every effort will be made by members of the Steering Committee and the members of the Medal Committee to widely advertise each nomination period. Suggestions of nominees can be entered through the Spatial Accuracy website, upon which the Medal Committee may actively approach scholars to nominate the suggested nominees.
In the event that the Panel of Judges decides that a truly outstanding nominee for, but not recipient of, the Peter Burrough medal merits timely ISARA recognition, it may recommend that this scholar be given a Founder’s Award for substantial and lasting contributions to the foundations of spatial accuracy. This award, which should be made sparingly, will be a plaque acknowledging a nominee’s meritorious contributions. Multiple Founder’s Awards may be given in any cycle. A given scholar cannot receive more than one Founder’s Award. Receiving a Founder’s Award does not preclude a scholar from subsequently receiving the Peter Burrough medal. Because a recipient of a Peter Burrough medal cannot be nominated for a second medal, past medal recipients will not be eligible for a Founder’s Award. The Peter Burrough medal is the highest honor the ISARA bestows.
Peter Burrough medal: Any living person may be nominated. A nomination must take the form of a written letter (of no more than 750 words) from a scholar who is thoroughly acquainted with the nominee’s work, stating in a well-structured, well-argued and convincing manner why the nominee deserves the medal. The letter must be signed by three scholars, one of whom must have attended at least one of the Spatial Accuracy symposia over the past six years.
James Smith medal: Any living person may be nominated who has held a graduate degree (except in exceptional circumstances, a doctorate is preferable) for no more than seven years by the close of the nomination period. A nomination must take the form of a written letter (of no more than 750 words) from a scholar who is thoroughly acquainted with the nominee’s work, stating in a well-argued and convincing manner why the nominee deserves the medal. The letter must be signed by three scholars, one of whom must have attended at least one of the Spatial Accuracy symposia over the past six years.
Founders’ award: A given scholar cannot receive more than one Founder’s Award. Receiving a Founder’s Award does not preclude a scholar from subsequently receiving the Peter Burrough medal. Because a recipient of a Peter Burrough medal cannot be nominated for a second medal, past medal recipients will not be eligible for a Founder’s Award.
At the time of his/her nomination, a nominee must agree to receive the medal in person at the time and place designated by the ISARA Steering Committee, and must furnish a current curriculum vitae to the Medal Committee. The nominee must also agree to give a keynote at the next Spatial Accuracy symposium if awarded with the medal. If the nominee is a member of either the Medal Committee or the ISARA Steering Committee, then s/he must excuse him/herself from that position for the year in which s/he is nominated in order to accept the nomination. The Steering Committee will appoint a replacement member for the symposium in question.
The award of the medals shall not be presented to any one individual more than once. Unsuccessful nominations do not carry over from one nomination announcement to the next (i.e., a new nomination dossier is required).