Esri Press

The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data

by Joseph J. Kerski, Jill Clark
Paperback: 388 pages
Published: 2012
ISBN: 9781589482449
eISBN: 9781589483170 (2014)

The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data gives users of geographic information systems (GIS) relevant information about the sources and quality of available public domain spatial data. Readers will understand how to find, evaluate, and analyze data to solve location-based problems. This guide covers practical issues such as copyrights, cloud computing, online data portals, volunteered geographic information, and international data. Supplementary exercises are available online to help put the concepts into practice. Students, researchers, and professionals will find The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data a useful desk companion to help them navigate the world of spatial data in the public domain.


Blog extending the book’s themes to the present day, updated weekly with four years’ worth of archival information: 

Ten hands-on activities using GIS to solve problems from local to global scale on the health, environmental hazards, demographic, and other themes of the book: 

 A short video describing these activities and how to access them is here:

Chapter 1 - Spatial Data and the Public Domain

Introduces public domain spatial data and discusses some of the licensing, access, and copyright issues associated with these data sources.

Chapter 2 - Spatial Data Models, Vector Data, and Data Quality

Describes vector and raster spatial data models and then focusses on some of the primary sources of vector data. Includes a discussion of data quality and how this impacts spatial data analysis.

Chapter 3 - Raster Data and Privacy Issues

Focuses on raster data portals, sources, and quality, illustrating the discussion with examples from a variety of data sources including elevation, land cover, and climate data. Includes a consideration of privacy implications.

Chapter 4 - Spatial Data: True Cost and Local Access

Outlines the arguments for and against paying for access to, and use of, spatial data and describes the different approaches to spatial data access adopted by two government organizations.

Chapter 5 - National and State Data Portals and Metadata Standards

Looks at the role played by national and state data portals and metadata standards organizations. Describes how a number of portals manage access to their data and how this affects data users.

Chapter 6 - International Spatial Data Infrastructures

Describes the international context for sharing data and discusses some global data-sharing initiatives.

Chapter 7 - Putting Public Domain Spatial Data to Work

Looks at some of the issues facing those engaged in GIS-based analysis and provides a review of the GIS project planning process. Provides a number of case studies that illustrate the effective use of public domain spatial data.

Chapter 8 - The Data User as Data Provider

Looks at the emergence of volunteered geographic information, the rise of citizen mapping, and the issues associated with crowdsourced spatial data.

Chapter 9 - Public Domain Data on the Cloud

Describes the adoption of cloud computing technologies and the impact on spatial data access and the provision of GIS services.

Chapter 10 - The Future of Public Domain Data in GIS

Concludes with a consideration of the future for public domain spatial data and the emerging issues and initiatives that will affect data quality, access, licensing, privacy, and the choices available to the data user.

UN: Future Trends in Geospatial Information Management:

On Geospatial Information and the Sustainable Development Goals:

UAV/UAS: The Next Influx of Spatial Data:

Esri’s Living Atlas of the World: New Source and Method of Obtaining and Using Spatial Data: