A geospatial pioneer with a passion for collaboration
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Ian Masser whose leadership, enthusiasm and generosity in sharing his expertise will be sorely missed by all in the geocommunity.
Many AGI members will remember his great support and active participation in developing the Association, and he was a familiar face at our meetings, conferences and events.
A geospatial pioneer, Professor Masser’s energy, foresight and passion for cooperation was instrumental in the development of the national, European and global spatial data infrastructures that underpin today’s location-based services.
He will be remembered for his significant contribution to the sector: from his presidency of EUROGI, the European Umbrella Organisation for GI, and GSDI, the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association, to his leadership of ERSC Regional Research Laboratories, the European Science Foundation GIS data project and the Vespucci summer school lectures held In Florence.
As his colleagues at AGILE, the Association of Geographic Information Laboratories in Europe, for which is he was the first ever Chair, have remarked, ‘there is no way to quantify his value to the European GIS community’.
After receiving his PhD from Liverpool University, Professor Masser’s distinguished academic career included positions at the University of Manchester, University of Sheffield, Utrecht University, the University of Twente (ITC), the KU Leuven and as a visiting professor.
Professor Michael Batty, who first met him in the University of Manchester in the Department of Town and Country Planning, notes that: “It is easy to forget that Ian was first and foremost trained in planning at a time when our models of cities were not particularly abstract but nevertheless highly visual. I will remember his patience and perspicuity in dealing with the challenges of building a more scientific approach into how we need to make our cities more sustainable and liveable.”
He recalls Professor Masser’s reports in Town Planning Review, as well as publications such as the Analytical Models for Urban and Regional Planning and Spatial Interaction and Spatial Representation textbooks. In 2016, his influential and cogent paper with Michael Wegener ‘Brave New GIS Worlds Revisited’ Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Vol. 43(6), 1155–1161 examined the GIS developments of the past two decades, focussing on spatial data infrastructures – much of which has now been built.
Professor Masser will rightly be remembered as one of the world’s most prominent GI scientists but also as a true people person who was fun to work with, full of creative ideas, and above all open and sharing.
In the words of Mike Blakemore, AGI Chair 1993: “The fact that we have become used to ubiquitous locational services via are smartphones has very much come through the energy and foresight of people such as Ian. He was driven by the need to create the information infrastructures that underpin the services, both at the UK and the European and global levels”.
“His leadership in initiatives such as the Regional Research Laboratories, GISDATA, and the AGI drew in many of us to work closely with him and to connect with each other”.
“More than this, however, was that Ian will be remembered as a really nice individual. He was a people person, fun to work with, full of creative ideas, open and sharing.”
Ian Masser – Some Recollections
Professor Michael Batty CBE FRS FBA
Chairman, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), University College London
I first met Ian in the University of Manchester in the Department of Town and Country Planning in 1967 where a small workshop was being convened on new techniques in planning. Ian was a Lecturer in Civic Design in the University of Liverpool and I a Studio Assistant with duties in project teaching in the studio but with my main focus on doing research into the development of computer models and land use and transport which took the world by storm in the 1960s. This was the decade of the systems approach, the time when planning threw off its mantle of the bureaucracy that had fashioned a planning system based largely on aesthetic design to one which began to think of cities and their planning as systems to be controlled. Models were central to this focus and as soon as we met, Ian and myself became kindred spirits in the advance of this course. In that year he suggested that we should have a short course on what urban land use transport models could do and he set up a series of three evening talks in Liverpool in the School of Civic Design where we both laid out what this new focus was all about. He produced the lecture notes for this which gained quite wide circulation at the time. In fact he was the first to produce a small textbook called Analytical Models for Urban and Regional Planning (1972) that established the group he was building up at Liverpool (and which has continued there in various guises ever since)
From then on we worked together. First along with other modelling groups – Alan Wilson at the Centre for Environmental Studies, myself, Eric Cripps and Dave Foot at Reading (where I moved in 1969), Marcial Echenique at Cambridge – Ian organised several workshops and we collaborated on the impact of how we could represent the spatial systems – the city – in different ways, focussing on how as we aggregated scale, the model results varied. This led to an important series of seminars funded by the SSRC (now ESRC) which in turn led to the book (with Peter Brown) Spatial Interaction and Spatial Representation (1977). Ian moved to Utrecht in 1975 and then back to the Planning School at Sheffield University in 1978 where he was Head of Department for many years. In the 1980s, he became increasingly interested in data, first becoming coordinator of the ERSC Regional Research Labs Initiative which then seamlessly morphed into the European Science Foundation GISdata project (Geographic Information Systems + Data) which brought together a network of centres. He worked with Max Craglia on this project and although I did not know him so well at Sheffield – I moved to the US in 1990 – we collaborated between the Centre I was directing in the US – the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis – and the ESRC RRL and then GISdata projects. Ultimately this collaboration was to lead to the Vespucci summer school lectures held In Florence years in the 2000s.
On the back of GISdata, Ian was responsible for forming the European networks based on GIS – AGILE – and was also instrumental in supporting the AGI in building a robust organisation. He moved back to Holland in 1998 to run the planning school at ICT from which he retired in the early 2000s. Ian spent a lot of time in his later years working with spatial data infrastructure producing an influential and cogent paper with Michael Wegener in 2016 “Brave New GIS Worlds Revisited”, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Vol. 43(6), 1155–1161 which looked back 20 years to 1996 at which time GIS was focussing on spatial data infrastructure much of which has now been built.
It is easy to forget that Ian was first and foremost trained in planning at a time when our models of cities were not particularly abstract but nevertheless highly visual. His first papers in the Town Planning Review, the first of which was on village design in metropolitan hinterlands in 1959, indicate his broad perspective on planning and design and to me, again someone who was trained initially in civic design, he was always a kindred spirit in these ways. When we cooperated in the 1970s on papers, we both expected our work to be useful to planners, notwithstanding the enormous challenges in translating this kind of knowledge into planning practice. This was a watchword in Ian’s long standing contributions and I will remember his patience and perspicuity in dealing with the challenges of building a more scientific approach into how we need to make our cities more sustainable and liveable.