Like Stan Openshaw (1998) in the foreword to the ‘Innovations in GIS 5’, I have never been asked to write a foreword before, and also like him I am concerned that after you read this one (and who reads forewords anyway?) I may never be invited again. But, as readers of this foreword will be probably be sparse and perhaps limited to the kind of people that read the small print on the backs of cornflakes packets, I can take this opportunity to say more or less anything. So I choose to ruminate on GIS research as seen through the eyes of the very first 1993 GIS Research UK (GISRUK) conference (Worboys, 1994b) and the latest, as represented by contributions in this volume, and discuss one of my pet subjects: the rising star of time in GIS research.
GISRUK has become a teenager! In 1993, we set as an objective for GISRUK ‘to act as a focus in the UK for GIS research in all its diversity, across subject boundaries and with contributions from a wide range of researchers, from students just beginning their research careers to established experts’. There was at that time a need for a conference that brought together primarily UK researchers and students to discuss the state of GIS research. Indeed, in the original ‘Innovations…’ 26 out of 31 contributors were from UK institutions. In this latest volume, we count only 10 of the 31 chapter authors as UK-based. So, the conference, or at least the book it has generated has become internationally diverse.
So what are the current research preoccupations, as seen at GISRUK conference and in this volume? The thing that stands out for me, and this partly reflects a personal preoccupation, is the overwhelming importance now given to the temporal dimension in GIS. Time is now a significant partner with space, if not in GI systems, then certainly in the science of GI. Just as space provides the framework for describing the static objects in the world, so the temporal dimension is needed for occurrent entities, such as events and processes. Dynamic spatial phenomena require a mix of space and time, leading to so-called spatiotemporal information systems (STIS).