GIS is traditionally defined as a system of hardware and software used for storage, revival, mapping and analysis of geographic information. Today, the view on GIS tends to extend and this system is viewed not only as a geographic tool but also as a science. However, in this respect, it should be said that such a wider interpretation of GIS as a scientific discipline is possible on the condition that it has a solid scientific ground, including geographic concepts, applications and systems. In fact, many Universities have already started teaching in degree and GIS certificate programs.
In actuality, GIS is widely applied in the research and study of geographic conditions and, what is more, this system is particularly useful in prediction and prevention of disasters. GIS function quite effectively as a geographic tool.
Due to the use of GIS spatial data are stored in a coordinate system that references a particular place on the Earth.
Descriptive attributes in tabular form are associated with spatial features. Special data and associated attributes in the same coordinate system can then be layered together for mapping and analysis. GIS can be used effectively for scientific investigations, research management and development planning.
In this respect, it should be said that the use of GIP has a number of advantages compared to the use of conventional geographic tools. For instance, there is an obvious advantage to using a map with remote sensing or GIS inputs instead of a static geographical map (Tomlinson, 2005). A static map is mostly analogous and is not interactive. On the other hand, a vulnerability map with GIS input provides dynamic information with cause and effect relationship. In such a context, it is obvious that GIS is an effective geographic tool.
At the same time, it is obvious that GIS has a considerable scientific potential and it has already started to develop as an independent branch of science since the development of GIS implies the involvement of a broad scope of knowledge not only from the field of geography but also physics, computing, IT, etc. In other words, the development of GIS inevitably involves different branches of science and it stimulates the development of totally new approaches to geographic researches (Bolstad, 2005). Hence, it is quite natural that knowledge and experience accumulated due to the use of GIS today lead to the development of a scientific basis to GIS.
However, it is necessary to admit the fact that GIS is still more a geographic tool rather than science. In fact, GIS is still underdeveloped as a science. At any rate, at the moment, GIS as a science can hardly be viewed independently from other branches of science, such as geography, for instance (Chang, 2007). Nevertheless, it does not necessarily mean that GIS have no scientific future. In stark contrast, modern technologies are constantly progressing and they progress fast. Therefore, the growing complexity of new technologies will definitely force specialists using GIS to have very specific knowledge, which cannot be attributed to either modern branch of science.
Hence, it is possible to conclude that GIS is an effective geographic tool. In recent years, it has started to evolve into a branch of science, but it is still underdeveloped as a science. In fact, GIS highly depends on other branches of science and it still lacks a solid theoretical and conceptual basis. Nevertheless, in the future, GIS is likely to evolve in a new branch of science.