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NYS ITS GIS Program Office

Geographic Information Systems Clearinghouse

Frequently Asked Questions about the
New York State
GIS Data Sharing Cooperative

  1. What is the NYS GIS Data Sharing Cooperative?

    The NYS GIS Data Sharing Cooperative is a group of governmental entities and not-for-profit corporations which have executed Data Sharing Agreements for the purpose of improving access to GIS data among members.

  2. What benefits can the Cooperative offer my agency?

    Many studies have shown that 80% of cost associated with a GIS system is related to the development and maintenance of its spatial data. Therefore, the reuse of GIS data created by other entities provides significant cost savings opportunities. In addition, because most government agencies are being asked to provide more services with less staff, reusing GIS data provides an opportunity to save staff resources that they otherwise would have had to contribute to the development of the GIS data. Furthermore, by reuse of existing GIS data, GIS projects can be completed in less time. Finally, the Cooperative provides a framework for the easy transfer of digital spatial data at little or no cost.

  3. Can anyone join?

    Membership in the Cooperative is open to governmental entities and not-for-profit corporations.

  4. Do I need GIS data to belong?


  5. How much does it cost to join? What about other potential costs or staff time?

    There are no fees to join the Cooperative. The only potential costs associated with the Cooperative involve:

    • Staff time to fill GIS data sharing requests from other members and/or the cost of media. (We encourage all members to work toward placing their GIS data on a web site to enable it to be downloaded electronically without requiring staff interaction on each request.)
    • Providing metadata to the Clearinghouse.

  6. Do we need a web site to post our GIS data if we join the Cooperative?

    No, a web site is not needed. However, we are encouraging all entities to make their GIS data available through the Internet. That eliminates the need for staff to fill orders for GIS data. It also makes it much easier (and quicker) for GIS data to be obtained by a member wishing to borrow it. If you do not have a web site or, for security reasons, do not wish to provide GIS data through your web site, the GIS Clearinghouse has offered to place GIS data on its server while space is available. (The Department of Transportation has already taken advantage of this offer.)

  7. Does joining the Cooperative prohibit my agency from either selling GIS data, or, should we choose, making our GIS data available at no cost to commercial enterprises?

    One of the unique concepts behind the NYS GIS Data Sharing Cooperative is that it does not impact how the owner of GIS data distributes its GIS data outside the Cooperative.

  8. How do I join the Cooperative? How can I obtain a Data Sharing Agreement?

    Joining the Cooperative is easy. You merely have to have an authorized individual sign a standard Data Sharing Agreement on behalf of the entity. Data Sharing Agreements can be obtained by contacting the NYS ITS GIS Program Office at (518) 242-5029 or sending an E-Mail to Frank Winters at

  9. How long after we sign the Agreement is it before our agency can start borrowing GIS data?

    Generally, because we are dealing with a standard Data Sharing Agreement, an agreement should be executed by the Office for Technology and posted on the Clearinghouse in less than two (2 ) weeks from its receipt from the prospective member. Once your entity’s name is posted on the Clearinghouse, you simply have to contact the Clearinghouse to receive a password to access GIS data.

  10. Can a consultant who is working for a member of the Cooperative have access to the Cooperative’s GIS data?

    Yes. As a consultant to a Cooperative member, you can be considered an agent for that member. As such, you are permitted access to the Cooperative’s GIS data for the purpose of your work for that member.

  11. I’m confused by the different definitions of custodians. What kind of custodian would I be?

    The Data Sharing Agreement defines three levels of custodianship. Your custodian relationship can differ depending on the dataset you are talking about. In cases where you borrow GIS data from another member, you will be considered a Secondary Custodian. In other cases, where you have developed or own a dataset, you will be the Primary Custodian. Still, in other special cases, you may be designated as a Cooperative Custodian for a particular dataset.

  12. Where do I find out what GIS data is available to members of the Cooperative?

    Realizing that the development of metadata may take some time and not wishing to put an undue burden on anyone, each new member of the Cooperative is asked to fill out a simple one page inventory of the datasets which they currently have. This information is then posted on the Clearinghouse at:

  13. Can my agency join the Cooperative or do I need someone to sign for our entire political subdivision?

    Because of the vast number of political subdivisions in New York State, several of which have many agencies under them, we are asking that entire political subdivisions such as towns or counties join the Cooperative on behalf of the individual agencies. We would appreciate it if you would have the Data Sharing Agreement signed by an individual who is authorized to contract for your political subdivision (i.e. town, village, county).

  14. What if the Cooperative doesn’t work out for my agency?

    The Data Sharing Agreement has been written in a manner that allows an entity to terminate the Agreement unilaterally. Upon termination, the entity must return the GIS data borrowed.

  15. What do I do if I have further questions?

    Contact NYS GIS at (518) 242-5029 or via E-Mail at