FOSS4G2020 Q&A Niagara

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IMPORTANT NOTE BY THE EDITOR FOR ANSWERS: Since OSGeo.org finally approved today (Oct 24 2018) our multiple attempts and requests for the login and editing password for this wiki from almost two weeks ago (Oct 12 2018), the Niagara Falls Team could now post the answers to the OSGeo.org community. The answers to the following questions were the ones that were given by the deadline (with very minor editing to format this page) in two postings to the voting committee members through the respective email list serve: https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/conference_dev/2018-October/004954.html and https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/conference_dev/2018-October/004961.html. We would like to raise awareness to this issue and strongly recommend to others in the future to request and secure access well in advance.

Questions Mark I.:

  • What is the mission of your respective FOSS4G?
  • Answer: Our mission statement for FOSS4G 2020 is one of “Knowledge exchange”. This is meant not only as a broad statement but as a more personal and intimate mission. In a broad sense, we want the exchange of knowledge to help the FOSS4G movement grow. To help others to see and understand the options and potential that exists with open source projects and open standards. But on a more personal individual note, we want to foster knowledge exchange between professionals so that they learn new methods and see new ideas and be inspired and to assist them in their daily tasks. Knowledge exchange between seasoned FOSS users that have been using and developing new projects and applications and new users who are just starting their journey, curious and perhaps in need of a mentor. This mission statement will be revised and expanded upon during the proposal stage.
  • What is your commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and ensuring that FOSS4G 2020 is as inclusive and as diverse as possible?
  • Answer: To be treated fairly and equality, this is what we strive for in our bid to host the FOSS4G conference in Niagara Fall, Ontario Canada. Open means "Open", Open data, open software, open ideas, open to everyone who has an interest or passion about all things Geospatial. The chance to think, discuss, interact with liked minded people who want to make a difference, in their schools, communities, counties. The power of open data to take stock, explore and to map the world to be a fairer, and a kinder place. Inclusivity is what we strive to do. Make all people feel welcome and have them participate. (1) As part of our mission statement, the Niagara Falls 2020 FOSS4G committee is working on outreach programs to any and all who what to be part of this process. An example of this is an effort to reach out to First Nations, who can use the power of Geospatial Technology to inventory and manage band cultural assets to help preserve them for future generations. (2) The Niagara Region, the City of Toronto, the GTA and Buffalo-Niagara are some of the most culturally diverse areas in North America. Fully one half of the city of Toronto is foreign-born with over a hundred languages spoken. The resent Buffalo renaissance is partly due to the hard work and dreams of the newcomers, start-ups and refugees that now call the city home. (3) The FOSS4G Niagara Falls LOC will commit to adhere to the International Council of Science, Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS.) The ICS Principles stipulate: International scientific meetings must be free from discrimination in attendance based on ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political or other opinion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or age; Selection and registration procedures for meeting participants must be non-discriminatory; Meeting organisers must ensure by all possible means that no bona fide scientist, whose participation in a meeting has been accepted, is excluded from taking part; The right of bona fide scientists to attend meetings outside their countries of residence is based on the assumption that they will return to their normal place of residence by the date indicated in their visas. (4) Acknowledging the hurdles of international borders especially for US-based international students in the US (or others that would have difficulties in crossing the border), the US co-organizers in consultation with OSGeo can set up a two-day program in the second part of the meeting to live-broadcast at least the keynote speakers and sessions at the University at Buffalo. This 2020 FOSS4G mini-version will allow a venue where those attendees (students) prevented from crossing the border could also participate in FOSS4G 2020, ask questions online and even meet selected speakers who could travel the short distance to Buffalo (or on their way from and to the conference via the Buffalo Niagara Airport). The organizers will also include the various Western New York open source companies to participate in these activities. We will look at opportunities to have delegates (who may) move freely between the Canadian and US border. (5) Locally or globally the Niagara Falls 2020 FOSS4G bid can accommodate all people who come to attend the conference. From language, tradition, to cultural considerations Niagara Falls is one of the most welcoming cities in the world and ready and waiting to greet everyone in 2020.

Questions Steven F.:

  • your proposed dates are 14-19 September. These dates overlap with the start of the jewish festivals on the evening of the 18th which may prevent some potential delegates from attending. Is there any potential to change?
  • Answer: The FOSS4G Niagara Falls LOC has proposed the dates of September 14 – 19th, 2020 however we are also able to host FOSS4G 2020 over the dates of September 7 – 12th, 2020 or September 21 – 26th, 2020.
  • you say "The Niagara Falls LOC has budgeted a similar registration fee schedule as Boston 2017 and estimates a modest profit” there has been a lot of discussion about making FOSS4G more affordable, do you have any thoughts on this?
  • Answer: The FOSS4G Niagara Falls LOI was submitted on an estimated event budget based on 1,000 delegates with registration fees similar to those charged for FOSS4G Boston 2017. We would be happy to discuss with OSGeo how to make FOSS4G more affordable for delegates. Based on our preliminary estimate we would be open to discussing a reduction in fees up to 15%. We would look to collaborate with OSGeo to utilize past experiences to ensure that our estimated expenses / budget is as accurate as possible. Also, we would work with OSGeo in reviewing what new expenses would be incurred as we consider new programming ideas for the FOSS4G program. Additionally, we would look for support from OSGeo in soliciting additional potential corporate sponsors and exhibitors to increase revenues. If we experience a financial surplus we would be in a position to offer refunds to students who registered and attended. Additionally, we would be open to applying a tiered registration fee that is anchored around the World Bank’s classification of economies based on gross national income; Category A: High Income, Category B: Upper middle income, Category C: Low and lower middle income.

Questions Till A.:

  • I would like to stress the point about costs. (In the call we say "We hope to keep cost per participant under $650 USD for the conference (plus workshops).". As former chair I know about the difficulties FOSS4G teams have finding the right price for the conference. But can you tell something on how you are planning to enable people, who can not afford the conference fee and/or accommodation costs, to attend to your conference? Especially the hotel prices starting at 169 CAN$ seem to be quite high?)
  • Answer: As indicated in the response to Steve F, we are willing to consider a reduction of up to 15% on registration fees as compared to the 2017 registration fees. We will also look consider refunds to students who have registered and attended post event based on the amount of financial surplus recorded. In regards to the hotel rates, $169 Canadian based on current exchange rates is approximately $130 USD. FOSS4G 2017 Boston hotel rates started at $239 USD.
  • More an advice for the possible full proposal: An important part of a FOSS4G is the socializing part, it then would be great to read some words about what is planned and possible ;-)
  • Response: We understand that the social networking is an integral part of the program and knowledge transfer experience of all conferences. Niagara Falls is able to offer some excellent networking opportunities: (1) Hornblower Niagara Cruises: FOSS4G delegates can experience this legendary Niagara Falls boat tour attraction which is Canada’s favourite visitor experience taking them into the heart of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. (2) Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours: Spend 45 minutes learning about the history and geology of the majestic Niagara River, and experiencing the excitement of playing in class 5 white-water rapids. This will be one of the most refreshing and memorable experiences of FOSS4G in Niagara Falls! (3) Mistrider Zipline to the Falls: Four parallel ziplines face the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls with riders dangling from a precarious 67 meter (220 feet) high vantage point. Delegates can take in the breathtaking panorama as gravity floats riders 670 meters (2,200 feet) at speeds of 70+ kph (40+ mph) along the edge of the vast Niagara Gorge to the Falls Observation landing. (4)Niagara on the Lake Wineries: Known as one of Canada’s finest wine regions. This is a community of wineries with individual personalities, as distinctive as the wines they create. Each winery has its own unique story: from the sleekness of glass and steel to the warmth of stone and wood, Niagara-on-the-Lake's wineries are expressions of their diverse personalities. A special FOSS4G event can be scheduled or FOSS4G delegates can plan to spend their free time tasting their way through Niagara on the Lake wineries. (5) Technical Tour of Ohnia:kara Aspiring Global Geopark. A Geopark is an area with distinct geological heritage as recognized by the UNESCO supported Global Geopark Network. Geoparks operate with three specific goals in mind: conservation, education, and geotoursim. The Niagara Region’s wide range of unique geological features, rich cultural heritage, and existing tourism infrastructure make it an excellent candidate for Geopark designation.


Questions Paul R.:

  • The idea of a cross-border conference is really cool in theory, but is hard to imagine in practice... what exactly are you planning WRT siting? All in Canada, all in USA, split days? What would the border folks things about 1000 people crossing over for the day for a conference?
  • Answer: The main conference program will take place in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada at the Scotiabank Convention Centre. We are currently envisioning the use of the Geographic Information and Analysis Laboratory (GIAL) which is a multipurpose computing facility shared by the Department of Geography and the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) based at the University at Buffalo for a number of the preconference workshops. The GIAL has a two computer clusters with 20 and 25 seats each as well as white board and projection technology. Acknowledging that many international students will have issues crossing the US / Canada Border, we envision setting up a FOSS4G 2020 mini (student) version where we simulcast keynotes and plenary sessions into the University at Buffalo. Attendees on the US side will be able to use social media to send questions to the sessions happening on the Canadian side. We will communicate both with the US and Canadian border offices to inform them of the conference taking place on both sides of the border. The SCCN always works with their clients to ensure that Canadian Border Services Agency and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to alert consulate offices around the world that this event is happing. This pre-notice to consulate offices supports delegates who need to apply for a visa to travel to Canada.

Questions Venka:

  • Highlight the contributions (code contributions, documentation, outreach etc.) that the chair/co-chair have made to FOSS4G communities
  • Answers provided by B. Berg. Co-Chair (Canada) Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada FOSS4G 2020 bid - "Open Software, Open Data - Without Borders": Over the past 2 years, I have endeavored to network through our local Geomatics Meet up group and stressed the use and availability of open source software. I have always tried to help anyone in need of direction in regard to finding answers to questions in regards to open source GIS software. Also, I am co-presenting a demonstration on November 10th 2018 to OAGEE Fall Conference (Professional Educators), on the benefits of using OSGeo software in educational and professional settings.
  • Answers provided by Assoc Prof. Christian Renschler, Dept of Geography, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, Co-Chair (USA): As a MA/MS and PhD advisor of more than 40 graduate students in the US and co-research advisor of more than 10 foreign exchange students from Spain, Germany and Italy, Chris Renschler encouraged students to contribute their codes since more than 15 years (starting within 2003 with Alex Sorokine submitting a wrapper script for GRASS that runs TITAN2D model from gmfg). In particular, the open source software and open data research led to the creation of VHub.org<http://VHub.org> , a National Science Foundation-funded (USA), cyber-infrastructure to share data, code, imagery and other related information among scientists, national observatories, and civil-protection authorities to make better decisions about hazards in volcano landscapes. Chris also developed the role-based access controlled (RBAC) Geospatial Project Management Tool (GeoProMT.org<http://GeoProMT.org> ) to manage and shared geospatial, multi-temporal data such as GIS data and remotely sensed images as well as how this information is processed and analyzed promoting the free exchange of data, code and models and the reproducibility of science. Chris Renschler was also involved in the response and free data exchange during major disasters including Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 as well as the recovery efforts of the radioactive contaminated communities in Japan after the 2011 Fukushima-Daichi nuclear power plant disaster.
  • Answers (general statement of both chairs): Although, neither of the co-chairs has been directly involved with FOSS4G Committee's, conferences or local chapters (as there are no such organizations as yet established in our respective areas), it is our desire to establish a bi-national group to promote the use of OS geo software and the creation of open source data by governments & private companies. Also, to learn from the hosting experience, to better formulate our own responses to community needs in creating better open-source and open data models.
  • How have the chair/co-chairs been involved in promotion/governance (Charter Membership, involvement in Committees etc.) of OSGeo foundation.
  • Answer by B. Berg - Currently there are no OSGeo local chapters in our area, but it is our desire to establish a OSGeo hub/chapter through a local nonprofit “Geospatial Niagara (GN)” committed to excellence in secondary and post-secondary geospatial education, conservation and community concerns. Through the commitment of its director (and founder) Mr. Darren Platakis, Geospatial Niagara has formed many relationships between government, business and education through hosted monthly networking opportunities over the last 5 years. Geospatial Niagara has also many ongoing Open Geo projects focused on environmental and community development in association with local colleges and universities.
  • Answer by C. Renschler - Chris was not involved in organizing or participating in any OSGeo-lead events. However, OSGeo could have been a co-organizer or host of the more than 40 international conferences he presented his research, teaching and outreach activities. Chris is an interdisciplinary researcher on extreme events and the gathering of geospatial and temporal data or multiple sensors and the design and use of GIS, remote sensing algorithms and spatial, process-based models to support decision-makers using commonly available and unstructured data for scientific-based and practical decision-making especially for communities in need.
  • Please elaborate on your local committee member's experience in planning OSGeo events (such as involvement in FOSS4G-global event teams, OSGeo local chapter event planning, or OSGeo code sprints).
  • Answers are provided by each co-chair and selected committee members below. Please note that committee members include GIS professionals in the areas of education, engineering, GIS software development & research. These individuals have volunteered their time and expertise because they believe in the necessity and utilization of open source data and software. As a special advisor to our committee Mr. Will Mitchell CEO, NBT Solutions (who was part of the LOC for Boston 2017) will be offering his expertise during the FOSS4G 2020 bid process.
  • Answer by B. Berg - Currently, there are no OSGeo local chapters in our area, but as stated, it is our desire to establish a OSGeo hub/chapter in the Niagara region with a bi-national associated group in Buffalo, New York USA. Working through Geospatial Niagara and it's founder Mr. Darren Platakis, Darren’s vision is to include OSGeo as part of GN’s mission to offer workshops, onsite training, documentation and technical support to the government, business and education who wish to use OSGeo software for there own projects. As part of this focus, Darren is also committed to putting these tools in the hands of young entrepreneurs as they establish new ventures in the Niagara Region and western New York.
  • Answer by Darren Platakis – Darren has also recently begun the process of establishing a number of proposed GeoPark sites thought out the Niagara region. Working through government and community stakeholders (which includes local First Nations bands). Daren is promoting the idea of OSGeo as the technology that will allow all stakeholders to participate in the program and use OSGeo to make their communities better at the local level through open data.
  • Answer by Associate Prof Kevin Turner (Department of Geography and Tourism Studies Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario CA) - As part of Kevin's teaching efforts as part of the geography departments faculty, Kevin stresses the importance of Open Source toolsets to undergraduate and graduate students in their own research and as they begin their chosen career paths. The publications of the Geography Department at Brock showcase various open source applications and open data outlets. Kevin's main body of research is focused on spatial analysis of northern water resources and has ongoing local collaborations including water quality studies and spatial analysis of West Nile vectors across southern Ontario. His research and teaching have utilized and promoted open source GIS software.
  • Answer by Chris Renschler - If chosen to by the FOSS4G selection committee we would endeavor to organize our program as per the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals) set out by the United Nations. We realize that geospatial science is a multidisciplinary field of study. Open software and open data have a transformative power to visualize data and help decision makers, “make better decisions, that benefit the many, rather than the few.” Technology, in this case, is not just for a captive audience. With the goals of inclusiveness and promoting real change, technology must be made accessible to everyone that wants it.


Question from Michael T:

  • Somewhat similar to Paul's question, but perhaps more specific: Since the SCCN is in Canada, and given the international travel restrictions that some US delegates, particularly government, may face it seems that staying in a hotel in the USA and attending the conference in Canada could be feasible. Is this accurate? If so, could you describe what the daily process of crossing the border on foot/shuttlebus would be like?
  • Given that September is prime season for visitors viewing Fall foliage, will there be any pressure to maintain room blocks (or, require very early booking commitment) and/or cost implications?
  • Answers: After communicating with past conference organizers on either side of the border – Niagara Falls (Canada) and Niagara Falls (USA) – there have been no meeting organized in the past years to facilitate staying on one side of the border and commuting daily unless you provide your own transportation and go through immigration (car, bike, walk, etc.). Unless you have a NEXUS pass for commuter type travel across the border, you might have to wait in line like anybody else. However, I would like that the conference organizers are very interested in hosting meetings across the border sometime in the future, but can’t promise anything in facilitating crossing the border in a timely fashion during the meeting. Instead, the organizers will prepare a 2020 FOSS4G mini-version at the University at Buffalo’s Department of Geography for anyone that already anticipates having potential difficulties to cross the border because of the lack/delay of visa papers, pending immigration status or other reasons that do not allow to cross the border without a secure re-entry into the US (more detailed answer was given to Mark I. below). We absolutely do not want that anyone is somehow shut out and stuck at the border without being able to participate in the conference (therefore we anticipate a 2020 FOSS4G mini-version on the US side with virtual links to communicate and participate).
  • In regards to the second part of Michael’s questions, one has to keep in mind that the participant numbers of the FOSS4G meeting are relatively small in comparison to the handling the regular tourist volume. Therefore no pressure at this time for any room blocks or early commitments including any cost implications.

Questions Jonathon M:

  • Have you given any though to ensuring your conference is sustainable\green\environmentally friendly?
  • Does your venue have any sustainability initiatives\credentials etc?
  • Does your host city have good public transport, including between the venue/events/likely-accommodation/airport? (note: taxi's are not public transport ;-) )
  • Is the host city reasonably reachable by something other than flying?
  • Answer (general response): As the Co-Chair, I would like to point out a couple of principles that could allow organizing the entire conference activities by labeling any activity with one or more of the 17 Sustainability Development Goals of the United Nations. In my work with the UN, I pointed out that by indexing the various activities and interests of the participants we can create new cross-cutting partnerships as part of the conference. Rather then meeting amongst ourselves we actually could create interested groups and stakeholders with an interest to communicate with our open source community. Providing them an access based on their interests in using technology, open source data and software to analyze and contribute solving those problems at various geographic scales. This would be something completely new that shows our commitment to create sustainable and resilient communities. The organizing team has ongoing collaborations with GIS experts of the indigenous/native communities on either side of the border on sustainability goals ( e.g. the Geospatial Niagara’s Ohnia:kara Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark is committed to UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (CANADA); the Seneca Nation of Indians are collaborating since more than a decade with the University at Buffalo on Integrated Environmental Management using the principles of sustainability and the PEOPLES Resilience Framework http://peoplesresilience.org/what-is-peoples). We would like to be inclusive to these and other stakeholders interested in the Open Source Geospatial Foundation activities and making them a part of FOSS4G Niagara Falls in 2020.
  • Answer (specifics): Convention Centre: The Scotiabank Convention Centre was designed, constructed and achieved Canada Green Building Council LEED Canada Silver (2009) for new construction and major renovations. Some of the construction highlights include: (1) To reduce the environmental impact of constructing a new convention centre – new materials and products were selected based on their recycle content. Typical construction materials with recycled content include steel, concrete, ashphalt, carpeting and wall materials (pre and post-consumer content). Over 13% of all construction materials (by cost) in the building were made from recycled materials. (2) The building was designed to be 54% more energy efficient than typical buildings designed to the Model National Energy Code for buildings (MNECB). This was achieved by using energy efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment, utilizing increased insulation in the walls and roof, reduced overall lighting density by employing daylight, skylights and occupancy sensors, heat recovery units and demand-controlled ventilation (carbon dioxide monitoring and control). (3) The building was designed to be 40% more water efficient than a typical building using baseline fixtures. This was achieved by using high efficiency low flow washroom fixtures, using drought resistant plant species and no permanent irrigation system. (4) Green initiatives include a recycling program that source separates wood, glass, plastic, cardboard, metals, batteries, fluorescent and metal halide bulbs, kitchen oil and grease. All organic food waste is collected and composted offsite. Ozonated water is used for the majority of our internal building cleaning requirements and deionized water is used for all window cleaning requirements. (4) The SCCN’s Senior Senior Building Engineer is a LEED® Green Associate.
  • Answer (specifics): Food & Beverage: Nestled between the shores of two Great Lakes and flanked by the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment, Niagara is a region blessed with the bounty of farms, orchards, and vineyards. With such rich agricultural surroundings right in our very own background, it’s no wonder the culinary team at Scotiabank Convention Centre is so passionate about what they do. Lead by Executive Chef James Price, our approach to food and beverage focuses squarely on producing seasonal menus that are distinctly Niagara and sourced locally to minimize transportation costs and carbon emissions. Presented always in the most creative ways, and bursting with regional flavours, your menu choices will reflect our commitment to natural ingredients and inhouse made preparations. Post event, in an effort to donate not just food, but healthy food, the culinary team at Scotiabank Convention Centre, donates nutrient-dense vegetables, proteins, and legumes to local hunger-relief organizations like Niagara Community Outreach. Any surplus food remaining from large events is chilled, stored, and packed away before being donated as is or being repurposed as a healthier food contribution.
  • Answer (specifics): Transportation: The City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Parks operates a state-of-the-art bus system which connects accommodations and tourism attractions throughout the destination called the WEGO. WEGO delivers a seamless connection between tourist attractions within the city and Niagara Parks, helping your delegates experience all that this world-class destination has to offer. WEGO is fully accessible and will operate year-round, giving easy, convenient service to travelers from around the globe who visit Niagara Falls. Also, the majority of hotels that would be utilized by FOSS4G delegates are within a 10-minute walking distance of the Scotiabank Convention Centre, thus minimizing the requirement of having shuttle services.
  • Answer (specifics): Alternative Transportation to Flying: (1) Arriving by car (ONTARIO) - Conveniently accessible via the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), visitors take a scenic drive past picturesque vineyards, the shores of Lake Ontario, and the sky-high Niagara Escarpment. Only 90-minutes from downtown Toronto, it’s easy to step into Niagara Falls and be surprised by its beauty. (2) Arriving by train (ONTARIO) - Coming from Hamilton or the Greater Toronto Area? GO Transit has routes extending to communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe or if you’re a fan of the train VIA Rail Canada is a great option too. (3) Arriving by car (U.S.) - Over 100 million Americans live within an 8-hour or 500-mile drive of Niagara Falls, making it a major gateway for U.S.-Canada border travel. The destination can easily be accessed via any one of four international bridge crossings: Peace Bridge – 30km | 35 minutes; Rainbow Bridge – 5km | 10 minutes; Whirlpool Bridge – 7km | 12 minutes; Lewiston Bridge – 14km | 25 minutes. (4) Arriving by air (ONTARIO & US) - 60% of North America’s population is located within a 90-minute flight of Niagara Falls. With three international airports, all less than 125 km away. (4A)Toronto Pearson International Airport – 125km | 74 minutes. Serving a network of over 120 destinations, Canada’s largest airport is the central hub for domestic and international air travel. (4B) Buffalo Niagara International Airport – 50km | 46 minutes. Offering non-stop service to 22 airports in 18 cities across the U.S., this airport features 100 daily flights and connects Niagara Falls to the greater Buffalo area. (4C) John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport – 86km | 62 minutes. With direct flights to 11 destinations, this airport also provides connecting service to over 25 domestic and international destinations. (5) Transportation from the Airport: Delegates arrivals at Pearson International Airport (125KM) and Buffalo Niagara Airports will be taken care of by our partner Niagara Airbus, which will provide discounted roundtrip fares of less than $100CDN / (~$75USD). Delegates will be provided with a FOSS4G conference code and will be able to book their own shuttle time based on their airport arrival. NFBE, Niagara Airbus and FOSS4G will work in partnership to ensure all delegates who arrive are expediated to the shuttle buses at Toronto Pearson International Airport. NFBE recommends that notices be included in the FOSS4G Conference Registration website for delegates to book their flight to arrive between the hours of 4pm and 7pm. Should we be successful in delegate adherence, FOSS4G will have the opportunity to utilize the shuttle buses as pre-conference Mobile Networking / Workshop sessions. Delegates will be placed on the shuttle buses with an FOSS4G selected moderator / panelist who will lead the 70-90-minute discussion. This allows FOSS4G to begin the conference activities from the moment delegates land.