First (Preliminary) Report of the Planning Committee

for the Intercommission Committee on Theory


The Planning Committee for the Intercommission Committee on Theory (hereafter simply The Planning Committee) fully recognizes the importance of the IAG restructuring and the realization of the new structures. The need for such a new structure has become even more apparent for Section IV on Geodetic Theory and Methodology, since: (i) geodetic observing systems have advanced to such an extent that geodetic measurements are now of unprecedented high accuracy and quality, can readily cover a region of any scale up to tens of thousands of kilometres, consist of non-conventional data types, and can be provided continuously; and (ii) as a consequence, the status of Section IV within the IAG and its current missons and research areas has to be re-examined. In order to meet the challenges of the technologically advanced geodetic observing systems, and by recognizing that theory exists everywhere in all Sections of IAG, it is appropriate to restructure Section IV in such a way that it could interact more actively and/or directly with other IAG commissions to be established and would demonstrate theoretical challenges of geodesy to non-geodesists. Although the Planning Committee feels that it would have been more appropriate to turn Section IV into an Intercommission on Theory, this issue, unfortunately, would have become too late to be discussed any longer, since the name „Intercommission Committee on Theory" has been approved by the IAG EC and no change can be possible, at least, within the period of next four years.

The Planning Committee is fully aware that geodesy, as it stands now firmly as a subject of science, has been built up on the theoretical breakthroughs made over the past 350 years, from Newton, Gauss, Clairaut, Stokes,  Einstein, Bruns, Helmert, Vening Meinesz, Kaula, and others. It is also fully aware of the fact that theoretical breakthroughs in geodesy come only when geodesy can demonstrate itself as a great challenge and thus can attract the great intellects of the time. We should also note, however, that great theoretical breakthroughs in geodesy have almost always been achieved only by those who were themselves among the greatest scientists of the time in mathematics and physics, but seldomly by those who worked in geodesy as a profession. This partly explains why we believe that an Intercommission on Theory is more appropriate than an Intercommission Committee on Theory, which shall be further explained in possible structures of the Intercommission on Theory. (Should the Intercommission Committee on Theory and the Intercommission on Theory make no differences?) In particular, bear in mind that at present, with the technological revolution in space geodesy, geodesy has again exposed new theoretical problems that have never been encountered before, and is therefore full of challenges. The Planning Committee has thus good reasons to believe that significant theoretical advance can be expected in the near future. However, effort must be made to first demonstrate such challenges and secondly to attract young talent to geodesy. From these points of view, the Planning Committee would also like to suggest that in the process of IAG restructuring, IAG has to think more about the consequences of the new structures, in particular, for instance, geodesy as a profession of service; geodesy as a subject of science (not just the science of applications of mathematics and physics); and geodesy as a proper balance between professional service and science.

Mission of the Intercommission Committee on Theory

The mission of the proposed Intercommission on Theory is


The Structure of the Intercommission Committee on Theory

In order to make the Intercommission Committee on Theory functional, and to achieve its goals, the Planning Committee feels that the following structures are necessary:

Sometimes, we may hear the complaints such as: (i) that those who work on theory hardly understand what is important in the other Sections of the IAG; and (ii) that some of the people in one Section may not be aware of what is going on in other Sections. If we would say that this is a kind of „gaps" among different Sections, the committee panel is designed to bridge this and to identify the important but unresolved theoretical issues of each commission. By doing so, we are in a position to achieve the followings:


Some working groups and/or joint working groups with commissions should be established to meet theoretical challenges in geodesy, depending on whether frontier research can be expected and/or whether the solution to such challenges can contribute to science in general. Thus working groups and/or joint working groups with commissions are mainly designed to solve problems of interest of the IAG. At this moment, the Planning Committee would, for instance, identify the following problems for the establishment of working groups and/or joint working groups with commissions:

The Internal Entities are designed to bring recent mathematical and physical developments to the attention of geodesists. The subjects of these Internal Entities should thus cover, for example,

but are not necessarily limited to these topics.

As a conclusion, the Planning Committee feels that the Intercommission Committee on Theory should be fully independent, and should be well represented in the EC, as any other commissions or services. Also it must be emphasized that the structures of the Intercommission Committee on Theory are rather preliminary and need to be further discussed substantially in the near future.

Acknowledgements: This report was drafted by P.L. Xu, and then corrected and modified by B. Heck and C. Rizos before it was presented at the Meetings of the IAG Planning Committee for the Realization of New Structures and the IAG EC in Nice on 26 April 2002. Since there was no time left for other members of the Planning Committee for the Intercommission Committee on Theory to comment on it, it should be made clear that the view points expressed in this Report only reflect the views of some of the Committee members. The draft report in its current form resulted from two hours of discussions between P.L. Xu and F. Sanso and from the meetings in Nice on 26 April 2002. Special thanks from P.L. Xu to Prof F. Sanso have to be recorded here for his many constructive comments and for his many explanations of the process of the IAG restructuring. PX would also like to thank Prof C.C. Tscherning and Prof C.K. Shum for their constructive comments on the letter of 7 Dec 2001 from PX and, in particular, Bernhard for providing his draft of Dec 7 2001 for being incorporated into the first draft of this report. As a consequence of these acknowledgements, this report should be treated as a (starting) point for further discussions among all the members of the Planning Committee for the Intercommission Committee on Theory and Section IV in the coming months before the final report is produced. Any comments from the IAG at large would be very much appreciated; please kindly send your comments to any one of our committee members:

Bernhard Heck (Chairman of the PCICT):;

Veronique Dehant:;

Christopher Jekeli:;

Chris Rizos:;

Nico Sneeuw:;

Peiliang Xu: