Terms of Reference

1. Mandate

1.1. The UN-GGIM Academic Network (thereafter referred to as “the Network”) is a coalition of recognized universities and research and education centers involved in research, development and education on geospatial, land information and related matters, run on a volunteer basis. The establishment of the UN-GGIM Academic Network was endorsed in August 2016 by UN-GGIM decision 6/101.

2. Objective(s)

2.1. The Network’s primary objective is to support the aims and objectives of the Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) by facilitating access globally to research and education capabilities for UN-GGIM and its affiliated members to identify and respond to challenges and opportunities for UN-GGIM and related UN offices.

2.2. The Network aims to assist with the development and management of global geospatial information and promote its use to address key global challenges by:

  • Serving as a strategic academic arm for the UN-GGIM and its related organizations and affiliated members in achieving their visions and goals;
  • Providing academic counsel and guidance to the UN-GGIM concerning strategic knowledge, research, education and training and its geospatial information education and capacity building programs, by identifying and informing knowledge gaps or problems that may exist or arise and proposing initiatives as appropriate to address them;
  • Providing a forum for coordination and dialogue among academics and researchers from the geospatial information management community to advance activities related to competencies and qualifications needed for the administration, management, and use of geospatial information, and to identify and respond to challenges and opportunities in which UN-GGIM and related members can achieve their visions;
  • Providing a communication platform for member countries to bring to the attention of the Network’s key problems, needs, and areas of research that are of high interest to local, national, and regional organizations, and for the Network to share the needs of member countries to its members to develop solutions;
  • Building capacities by developing an inventory of international education programs open to and recommended for UN-GGIM actors, reporting state-of-the-art research and academic competence trends on global geospatial information, writing white papers on any related topics, and offering education and training in those fields;
  • Undertaking activities that promote and foster collaboration between universities and research groups at both national and international levels, including identifying and addressing common research topics and overarching trends; and
  • Encouraging members to undertake work that can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN and other areas as appropriate, including access to land and property rights, ownership, land degradation, rapid urbanization, and climate change, in coordination with other expert entities.

3. Network Structure

3.1. The Network consists of an Executive Committee, an Advisory Board, Members, Associate Members, and optionally Regional Representatives.

3.2. The Executive Committee consists of a Chair, a Deputy Chair, and a Secretary; all are elected officers of the Network. Ideally, the Chair, Deputy Chair, and Secretary should each represent a different UN-GGIM region and/or type of institution, but the mix is dependent upon the open election process. Candidates for Chair, Deputy Chair, and Secretary should be nominated by three officially listed Points of Contact (the primary contact persons designated by a member) from current members and must be the Point of Contact of a current member.

3.3. The Advisory Board consists of seven members. Among them, six members shall be elected, and the Immediate Past Chair is automatically included in the Advisory Board without participating as a candidate in the election. Candidates for the Advisory Board should be nominated by two officially listed Points of Contact from current members and must be the Point of Contact of a current member. Gender balance and geographic balance shall be considered in electing board members.

3.4. The Network may appoint Regional Representatives for the different UN-GGIM regions. If considered appropriate, the Network may establish sub-regional groups in line with the UN-GGIM regional committees and or task teams to focus on particular aspects of the programs under its oversight.

3.5. The Chair, Deputy Chair, Secretary, and Advisory Board will serve for a two-year term, renewable once for an additional term as determined by election.

3.6. The Network shall select at least one delegate from Members to each UN-GGIM Regional Committee and Functional Group. The delegates shall participate in the activities of relevant committees or groups and report to the Network.

3.7. The Network shall liaise as required with other international academic groups and non-government organizations that may have an interest in the management of geospatial information to support the overarching aims and objectives of UN-GGIM, including its work towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other relevant global agendas.

4. Membership

4.1. The Network’s membership includes Members and Associate Members, and there is no fee for membership.

4.2. The Members are universities, academic institutions, or research centers, headquartered in the nations that are part of the United Nations, where geospatial information research and/or education are accomplished with an established track record and that want to voluntarily collaborate with the UN-GGIM.

4.3. The Associate Members are internationally recognized, non-academic/research entities, for example academic publishers and education divisions/centers of companies, who wish to participate in and/or contribute to the Network and whose business or operation is relevant to the aspects of education and research in the areas of interest of the UN-GGIM, with an established track record. Associate members participate fully in the discussions and activities of the Network but do not have the right to vote and are not eligible for any position of the Executive Committee and the Advisory Board.

4.4. There is no limit to the number of universities, academic institutions, and research centers from any one country that may qualify for and be admitted to membership. To become a member of the Network, an Expression of Interest (EOI) should be submitted to the Network Secretariat together with a statement on the capabilities and contributions of research and education that the institution is willing to share with UN-GGIM member countries. Only one form should be presented by each institution. In the case of multiple applications, the Network will only consider the one signed by the applicant institution’s chief administrator (or person holding a similar title).

4.5. The EOI must include:

  • a description of the applicant institution’s present programs in education and research related to one or more of the geospatial topics and related application areas, including details about degree programs, courses, faculty, research, and public service activities;
  • plans to continue to support, expand or contract any of the identified programs;
  • a statement about how the institution will contribute to the objectives of the UN-GGIM Academic Network;
  • the names and contact information for the initial official lead delegate from the institution and another additional delegate(s); and
  • additional documentation that may be required by the Board. The official listing of delegates from a member organization may be changed within three days prior notice by the Secretariat of the chief administrator of the member organization or the lead delegate from that organization. The lead delegate is the party that will receive any electronic ballots from the UN-GGIM Academic Network to be cast by the member organization.

4.6. The application procedure applies to both Members and Associate Members. Upon receiving the EOI, the Executive Committee will review and decide if the EOI is to be presented to the Members for approval by online voting.

4.7. A member may withdraw from the Network upon informing the Chair or Secretariat with thirty-day written notice. Such notice shall be delivered electronically.

5. Roles and Responsibilities

5.1. The Executive Committee shall decide on network management, coordination, and membership requirements. They shall also review applications (EOIs) for individual institution memberships to ensure that minimum criteria have been addressed in each application prior to submitting the application for a vote by the membership.

5.2. The Network Secretary serves as the Secretariat for receiving membership applications, maintaining contact lists, and distribution of business correspondence for the Network. In cooperation with the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Executive Committee, the Secretary will coordinate, facilitate, monitor, and report on the activities of the Network and its sub-groups, coordinate and prepare the agenda for the Network meetings, and issue notices from the Network and any other support activities deemed necessary. The Secretary will also liaise and receive support from the UN-GGIM Secretariat for the operation of the website and other related processes.

5.3. Through its Point of Contact or designate, each member institution or center is expected to contribute substantially to the work of the Network by:

  • participating in the Network’s activities, events, and initiatives;
  • representing the Network in UN-GGIM Regional Committees or Functional Groups;
  • promoting the Network in the region or country the member represents; and
  • attending the Network’s annual general meetings.

6. Meetings and Communication

6.1. The Network is expected to convene annual plenary meetings coinciding with the annual sessions of UN-GGIM.

6.2. The Network will hold special meetings upon request and as required from its members or from UNGGIM.

6.3. The Network will operate virtually and meet when the opportunity arises, normally in concurrence with related UN-GGIM events.

6.4. The Executive Committee will meet virtually every month, and every two months the meeting will be joined by the Advisory Board. An annual general meeting (AGM) will be held every year as a platform for all members to discuss the Network business and exchange ideas on global geospatial information education.

6.5. The Network website and Internet-based communication and collaboration tools, such as Zoom, WebEx, Google Drive, and Dropbox, will be used for communication, collaboration, knowledge management, information sharing, and dissemination.

6.6. Election of the Network’s officers and the Advisory Board members shall be held online at the end of each term. The documentation of all candidates will be sent to the Points of Contact of current members at least two weeks prior to the election and the Points of Contact of current members will be invited and will be given five days to cast their votes. An online ranked voting service utilizing the instantaneous runoff voting method and providing anonymity for voters will be used for the voting processes. All voters will receive the results of the election process from the system at the same time that the Secretariat receives the results.

6.7. New members shall be voted in online by all Members based on a majority vote, if they meet the established objective membership criteria. The EOI and any related information will be sent to the Points of Contact of current members at least two weeks prior to the voting, and the Points of Contact of current members will be invited and will be given five days to cast their votes. An online voting service utilizing a simple majority voting method and providing anonymity for voters will be used for the voting process. The quorum is 15% of the members eligible to cast ballots. All voters receive the results of the election process from the online system at the same time that the Secretariat receives the results.

6.8. However, member institutions from any one country may never exceed 10% of the qualified voters in any election or other action when a vote is taken by the membership1.

6.9. The Chair and Secretary of the Academic Network will send primary operational and business correspondence to delegates from each member institution. Any person affiliated with a member institution (faculty, researcher, administrator, student, etc.) typically may receive general correspondence from the organization, volunteer to contribute to committee work, and attend meetings of the Academic Network. The Secretary of the Network will maintain both lists and add individuals to the list of affiliated persons either upon the individual’s own request or upon nomination by another Network officer or institution delegate.

7. Governance

7.1. The UN-GGIM Bureau may review and evaluate the work of the Network from time to time, and may propose to the Network revision of the Terms of Reference based on the work the Network has completed and any new items that UN-GGIM would like the Network to consider.

8. Reporting Procedure

8.1. The Network will report to the UN-GGIM at its annual session and this will include the preparation of written reports and background documents from time to time.

Footnote 1: As an example, if the Network membership has 100 members at the time of an election and 12 members are headquartered in Country A, only 10 ballots may be cast by the members from Country A. If the members from Country A do not have an agreed process among themselves for casting the ballots, the Executive Committee will send the ballots to the lead delegates of the first 10 institutions from that country admitted to membership or by other equitable means as may be developed by the Executive Committee in the future.

Approved by the Academic Network’s Advisory Board on March 9, 2021 and endorsed by UN-GGIM in July 2021 (earlier ToRs can be accessed here)