AGI goes for the Big 5

In a somewhat retro mood I was thinking of Bob Dylan when I heard about AGI’s plans for their 2014 events program

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’



It’s good to see my friends at AGI recognising the changing landscape of geo in the UK. The last couple of years have been difficult for anyone trying to run a self funding let alone surplus generating geo events program, particularly for an organisation that is very public sector centric during the ‘age of austerity’. The agenda has moved on from the peak of excitement of the 90s just because we could map a spreadsheet or a database table and even those heady paleo/neo debates of a few years ago seem old hat now. A team led by Rollo Home and Abi Page (both of whom were big contributors to FOSS4G 2013) have come up with a new program called The Big 5 which breaks with the previous pattern of events and focusses on 5 (well 6 actually but more on the 6th of the Big 5 in a bit) big issues for geospatial in the UK as part of the AGI’s 25th anniversary celebrations in 2014.

The Big 5 breaks with the London centric pattern of topic based events counterbalanced by regional conferences and offers events on Future Cities in March in Glasgow, Open Geo in May in Belfast, Building and Infrastructure Management in June in Bristol, Big Data in September in London and Policy (not sure what that one means) in October in Cardiff. Not every one of the topics will inspire everyone (although it is a relief to see that INSPIRE is no longer on the list of big issues for AGI) but somewhere in these Big 5 there is probably at least one and maybe two events that will appeal to most and an added bonus that they are spread around the country making them more accessible to people who don’t live in London and encouraging people like me who do to get on our bikes (or trains). The call for papers for these Big 5 is open until the end of May.

It looks like the AGI haven’t been listening to ‘The times they are a changing’ recently (probably an age thing) otherwise one of their Big 5 would have been something to do with responding to climate change (see the lyrics above if you don’t follow this thought), maybe that will turn out to be a theme at the Policy event in Cardiff.

The 6th of the Big 5 is the annual GeoCommunity event which has been in Nottingham for the last few years, this has been moved to November at a ‘Midlands’ location. As yet the detailed plans for GeoCommunity have not been announced, will it be a one or two day event, will it be in Nottingham or is it time for a move, will it be a reprise of the Big 5 or something else? Whatever Rollo and his team have planned I hope they change the format from the GeoCommunities of the last 7 years (disclaimer – I have quite a lot of responsibility for the first 3), it is definitely time for a change.

The AGI is 25 this year, it was founded in response to the Chorley Report and sets out it’s mission as

We champion the value that the intersection of geography and information has for the economy, business and for the individual.

We do this in order to give our members a collective voice in a world where GI has the potential to touch every part of today’s life.

The AGI is an independent and balanced organisation, offering equal standing to every type of member. We’re not a trade body, a learned society or a policy influencer – but we engage in all and more.

In a world of social media, blogging and online activism it is all too easy to see a membership body like the AGI as having diminishing relevance. I look at the aspirations of the AGI and am glad that I am a member of an organisation that contrary to some popular beliefs still thinks that “Spatial is Special”. Happy birthday AGI, I hope the Big 5 is a great celebration of your first quarter century.

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