MaxEgenhoferThe Research Committee of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science announced that Professor Max J. Egenhofer, a faculty member in the Department of Spatial Information Science and Engineering at the University of Maine, has been selected the recipient of the 2003 UCGIS Research Award.

Professor Egenhofer was nominated for his long-standing and original contributions to the theory and practice of geographic information science. In 1991, he was the lead author for a paper entitled "Point Set Topological Relations" in the International Journal of Geographic Information Systems that has had a fundamental and long-lasting impact on the field of GIScience. This mathematical theory, which was designed to categorize binary spatial relations, has provided a basis for the development of software and spatial database systems that enable the implementation of non-contradictory topological relations that a user can exploit in developing Spatial Query Language (SQL), undertaking data mining, extending spatial databases with meaningful operators, further developing abstract models of spatial relations, and enabling the retrieval of meaningful spatial configurations. This model has provided the basis for further innovative work on spatial reasoning, and capturing the semantics of natural-language spatial predicates. The model has had widespread international adoption and has stimulated scores of theses, dissertations, and other scholarly works. Evidence is provided by high numbers in a variety of citation indices, including those in the ISI Web of Science and Citeseer, and the fact that this particular paper is the most widely referenced paper published to date in the International Journal of Geographic Information Science. This paper is also the most widely cited GIScience article in computer science, and further evidence of the significance of Egenhofer's contribution is its incorporation into international standards such as SAFE, OGC’s Simple Feature Specification, and SQL multimedia. Further, ISO/DIS 19107 specifies the method as "The Egenhofer Operator".

In summary, the original 1991 paper and its consequent derivatives can be regarded as some of the most significant breakthroughs in GIScience. Egenhofer’s contributions came at a time when researchers were beginning to define a new body of theory and reasoning processes that provided a basis for the emerging field of GIScience, and they can be truly recognized as a key contribution to providing a fundamental basis for exploring spatial relationships.

By combining an innovative and productive intellectual contribution that has impacted the theory and practice of GIScience, and by simultaneously providing a major contribution to the standards employed by the software industry, Professor Egenhofer’s contributions are decidedly of the import and quality that this award was designed to honor.