Ian Masser - Obituary

Ian Masser: an appreciation


comber alexis

It is with great sadness that the Association of Geographic Information Laboratories in Europe (AGILE) community received the news of the passing away of Professor Ian Masser. Ian Masser was one of the most prominent GI scientists worldwide. As the first chair of AGILE there is no way to quantify his value to the European GIS community.

Ian Masser was born in York on 14 September 1937. He started his academic career at Liverpool University where he received his PhD and got his first academic position. During his long career he held positions at the University of Sheffield, Utrecht University, the University of Twente (ITC) and at the KU Leuven. As well as these positions Ian Masser was a visiting professor at various universities worldwide and advised numerous national and international agencies. Throughout his career he published more than 20 books and more than 300 contributions to refereed journals, edited books and conference proceedings.

Ian always emphasized the importance of cooperation. Many organisations and collaborative activities were initiated and then supported thanks to his networks, inspiration and enthusiasm. To mention just a few: in the UK he was coordinator of the Economic and Social Research Council’s support for Regional Research Laboratories. Later, he co-directed the European Science Foundation’s GISDATA initiative and was the first president of EUROGI, the European Umbrella Organisation for GI, and was president of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association. For his prominent role in the GSDI community Ian Masser received in 2016 the Global Citizen Award.

Ian Masser always grasped the importance of cooperation. In the early years of the development of GI research and education in Europe, conferences were a major vehicle for that purpose. He was very active in the EGIS conference series (1990-94) and the JEC-GI conferences (1995-1997), for example organizing GI education workshops and paper sessions. However, despite these conferences’ series, a certain vacuum occurred concerning GIScience at a European level. To cite a paper written in 2017 on 20 years AGILE by Hardy Pundt and Fred Toppen: “Some researchers who were active within this sector for many years developed the idea of a new organization which could fill the empty space. In this context the garden session at Peter Burrough’s place is memorable, not only because of the food served and the great weather, but because here it was decided to start AGILE”. Ian Masser was one of the main initiators of that garden meeting. As a professor at the University of Twente (ITC) at that time, he kindly offered to organize that first AGILE conference in 1998 in Enschede. At that conference he was elected as the first president of AGILE.

In the paper by Pundt and Toppen, Ian Masser was asked to share some of his memories to those first years of AGILE. He noted:

“As convenor of the planning group that prepared the proposals for the initial creation of the Association of Geographical Information Laboratories in Europe during 1997 and the first chair of the AGILE Council that was elected at the First AGILE Conference in April 1998, I regard this as one of my most significant achievements of my career. It also gives me great pleasure to see that most of the general principles which were developed by the planning group still feature on the AGILE website and feel proud of the part I played in the initial development of what has become a very successful organisation over the last twenty years.”

The AGILE community fully agrees with the significance of his achievements for AGILE and beyond. He served for four years as elected chair of the AGILE council and those years were fundamental in building the AGILE community. Ian gave direction to discussions in the AGILE Board on its organisational structure, the procedures for the election of officers, the criteria for membership and subscription fees. He made sure that the organization ran smoothly and that AGILE could work on its mission to ensure that the views of the geographic information teaching and research community were fully represented in discussions over the future European research agendas. And of course, to he made sure that an annual conference would take place.

During the Council meetings and at the conferences the AGILE (Council) members witnessed the driving force of Ian Masser. His energy was apparently endless, his ideas groundbreaking and his leadership inspiring. Ian Masser was in every sense a warm personality.

Despite his medical problems, Ian Masser played until the very end of his live a prominent role in the GI community. He will be missed by the AGILE community and by all the researchers and educators that were privileged to work together with him.

Ian Masser is survived by his wife, Suzy and his daughters from his first marriage, Sophie and Henrietta.