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The GIS Professional Ethics Project: Practical Ethics Education for GIS Professionals

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  • Teaching GIS involves teaching ethical and moral thinking as a distinct engagement with the use, applications, and responsibilities of GIS professionals. Over the past 20 years scholars (particularly those affiliated with the discipline of Geography) have contributed critiques of the instrumental nature of GIS as well as reflective case studies that seek to demonstrate how the technology can be used to promote social justice. During the same period a profession of GIS developed as governmental and private use of GIS burgeoned; a marker for the professionalization of GIS in the United States can be found in the observation that by mid-2009 over 4,500 individuals had earned certification as GIS professionals. Requirements for professional certification in the U.S. include practitioners’ commitment to adhere with a formal Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct. Meanwhile, U.S. higher education institutions have rushed to develop practice-oriented certificate and degree programs in response to the increasing demand for qualified GIS professionals in industry and government. Professional programs differ from academic degree programs in that most are designed to produce practitioners rather than scholars. In general, the rich literature in GIS and Society and Critical GIS is more useful to students and instructors in academic programs than those in professional programs. The objective of the National Science Foundation-funded GIS Professional Ethics Project (http://gisprofessionalethics.org) we describe in this chapter is to provide pedagogical practice and resources for American students and academics. The project combines the perspectives and experience of GIS educators and applied ethicists. The project has produced open educational resources (especially formal case studies with explicit linkages to the Code and Rules) to help professional GIS higher education programs prepare current and future practitioners to recognize and engage ethical problems.
  • This is an author's manuscript, as accepted by the publisher. The published chapter [14] is copyrighted by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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  • DiBiase, D., Harvey, F., Wright, D., and Goranson, C. The GIS professional ethics project: Practical ethics education for GIS professionals, in Unwin, D., Foote, K., Tate, N., and DiBiase, D. (eds.), Teaching Geographic Information Science and Technology in Higher Education, London: Wiley and Sons, 199-210, 2012.
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  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) supported the research and development reported here (award #0734888).
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