Archive for April, 2021

Coupling data with scholarly research

April 26, 2021 4 comments

How many times have you read an article or report and wish you had access to the data that the author used? You’re not alone: A growing concern is being voiced in the research community that data are typically not included with scholarly papers. Why should all this matter? Hasn’t this been the way publishing has always been? Well, in today’s world where serious issues are growing, as recent global health and natural hazards challenges have made starkly clear, the provision of data could provide an immense leap forward for researchers and developers to provide solutions to solving these pressing issues. As we have written about for nearly a decade in this blog, despite crowdsourcing, the Internet of Things, sensors on, above, and below ground, and GIS, statistical, field, and other tools, the task of gathering data, not just spatial data, but any data, still is often a very time consuming endeavor. Research results are important, but should every researcher have to start completely over and gather his or her own data? What if I wanted to take someone’s data and add to it, or use it in another way, in another region, with different models?

Chapter 2 in Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research from the National Academies of Sciences lists several benefits of including data in research studies. The chapter frames these benefits as part of the emerging “open science movement”. The benefits listed by the authors include rigor and reliability, ability to address new questions, faster and more inclusive dissemination of knowledge, broader participation in research, effective use of resources, improved performance of research tasks, and open publication for public benefit. Yet the chapter also recognizes real challenges, including costs and infrastructure, the structure of scholarly communications oftentimes only being available via subscription, lack of supportive culture, incentives, and training, disciplinary differences, and privacy, security, and proprietary barriers to sharing.

The chapter also states that “the ability to automate the process of searching and analyzing linked articles and data can reveal patterns that would escape human perception, making the process of generating and testing hypotheses faster and more efficient. These tools and services will have maximum impact when used within an open science ecosystem that spans institutional, national, and disciplinary boundaries.” Indeed.

An article in Nature also describes the benefits of providing data, beginning with career benefits but touching on societal benefits. Other articles are appearing. And the National Academies chapter above gives practical recommendations as to how to bring about ‘open science.’ The European Union projects FOSTER Plus and OpenAIRE provide training on open science and open data.

But where are the practical examples? I see the following “papers with code” library as one practical response to these concerns, and I salute these efforts:

The above site can be filtered, and does include spatial data that I uncovered during my testing, on water quality and other variables. I hope it is the beginning of many such efforts.

–Joseph Kerski

Categories: Public Domain Data Tags: ,

A story map as a data and information one-stop shop

April 12, 2021 Leave a comment

A variety of land management, science, government, and other agencies combined to create this story map “GIS Day at the Capitol 2021”, which I believe provides an excellent model of how a story map can be effectively used to (1) showcase what these agencies do; (2) why they matter to the people living in the lands that these agencies manage (in this case, Oklahoma USA), and (3) how their data can be accessed. As the story map explains, this is a “a virtual tour of some of the innovative ways Oklahoma agencies are using Geographic Information Systems to further their missions.” At the time of this writing, 17 agencies are featured, including federal agencies with a presence in the state, cities, and state agencies. I salute each of the agencies and people here for the work they are doing each day to improve the land and improve the lives of the people living here.

Story maps, a tool that I frequently teach workshops about, can be effectively used to point people to data. As the above Oklahoma story map shows, REST services and data layers can be linked, and web maps and web mapping applications can be embedded, providing the user with a rich experience. An excellent example of embedding is the City of Ardmore’s web mapping application, about 1/5 of the way through the story map. Many dashboards are also included, including one on transportation, one on seismicity, another on environmental variables in each legislator’s district, and more, reflecting the rise of the popularity of dashboards over the past two years, particularly with COVID.

Furthermore, as we have discussed in this blog many times, such as here, using data is often not just a matter of accessing websites, streaming, and downloading: It means understanding the data, including reading the metadata, and often it means contacting the data providers. This site is a wonderful example of agencies being transparent about who provides the data, and very helpfully provides contact information for those data providers–even email addresses, photos of real people, and phone numbers!

Perhaps the most useful resource and starting point for data for the state is the state’s OK Maps, the Geographic Information Clearinghouse for Oklahoma. The site is embedded in the story map but can also be accessed in a separate web browser tab to more easily access the many data layers, including Lidar data, historical aerial photographs, and much more. One of my favorite segments of the story map is the new state GIS warehouse that uses ArcGIS Hub technology, pictured below and on this link.

Overall, the story map gives the distinct message that a great deal of effort is required to serve a diverse jurisdiction such as Oklahoma, that GIS serves as a “common language” upon which problems can be solved, and that dedicated people are the ones who are making these things happen.

As someone who has been actively involved in supporting and promoting GIS Day since 1999, I was also pleased to see that one of the central ways this story map is promoted is through these agencies’ annual “GIS Day at the State Capitol” And as someone who works with social studies educators, I was also pleased to see the legislative districts map included in this story map. As a geographer who works with citizen science programs, I was happy to see highlights of the Blue Thumb public education and outreach program from the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s Water Quality Division. And finally, as someone who gives many career-oriented presentations each year, I will use this story map to encourage students to investigate the different career paths that the people featured on this page have. For these reasons and many more, I encourage you to do your own exploration of this story map!

The State of Oklahoma’s GIS Data Warehouse, maps and data, sponsored by the Center for Spatial Analysis, University of Oklahoma.
One of the data portals in the GIS Day at the Capitol 2021 story map, that of OKMAPS – the Geographic Information Clearinghouse for the State of Oklahoma.