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MN GIS/LIS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner - Chris Cialek
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MN GIS/LIS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Chris Cialek (2017)

For more than 25 years, Chris’s visionary work focused on helping GIS professionals get data that they need, tools to assess those data and standards to maximize data investments. Through his efforts, Minnesota continues to be a national leader in helping GIS professionals acquire more accurate, understandable and accessible information to serve their communities.

Chris spent his Minnesota career at the Land Management Information Center (LMIC) and the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo), where he was a strong advocate for data sharing.  He played a pivotal role as Minnesota began distributing geospatial data online during the late 90’s, including coordinating development of the Minnesota Geographic Data Clearinghouse, where an increasingly wide variety of datasets became available for free download for the first time!  He worked tirelessly with state and local agencies to populate the clearinghouse and develop a Minnesota-focused search tool called the GeoGateway, which allowed simultaneous searches of partner nodes at DNR, MetroGIS, MnDOT, and PCA.  Chris steadily contributed to the design and implementation of each new data distribution mechanisms including the latest incarnation – the Minnesota Geospatial Commons.

As co-founder and chair of the Standards Committee of the Governor’s Council on Geographic Information, Chris led the promulgation of a variety of data standards for Minnesota, including the Minnesota Geographic Metadata Guidelines (MGMG). Chris led the streamlining of a federal metadata standard to make data documentation simpler and easier to understand. Under his direction, an existing metadata editor was customized for Minnesota and shared widely to facilitate the creation of metadata. Metadata also serves to populate data catalogs and provide keywords for online search tools, thus becoming a required component to data sharing. To expand the adoption of MGMG and the clearinghouse, Chris and his team obtained grants from the FGDC to provide metadata workshops across the state. 

Chris also worked to improve aerial imagery acquisition across Minnesota. In partnership with other state, federal and local agencies, Chris developed specifications to guide digital imagery contracts and develop cost-sharing mechanisms. He negotiated several buy-up contracts, helping local units of government obtain high quality digital imagery they could not afford on their own. Through his efforts, more people received better data at lower costs.

Chris also facilitated an effort to make imagery more accessible through the development of the widely-used Minnesota Geospatial Image service, a tremendous boon to the geospatial community.

Chris also served on the GIS/LIS Consortium board, gave numerous presentations at the annual conference, contributed to the written history of GIS in Minnesota through articles and publications, built numerous partnerships with agencies at every level, served on the MetroGIS Coordinating Committee, represented Minnesota at NSGIC conferences, and contributed to grant applications that funded many of these efforts. 

This overview of Chris’s efforts and accomplishments illustrates how his work has helped to advance the quality of life in Minnesota’s. His work is fundamental to how GIS operates in our state today.  Through his contributions, all GIS professionals have an increased capacity to serve the citizens of Minnesota. 


Short Statement on Plaque
Tireless champion and visionary leader in facilitating more effective use of geospatial data


2017 Lifetime Award recipient Chris Cialek with Robert Maki at
the Annual Conference in Bemidji, Minnesota. 

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