In our book, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, we discussed where to find environmental spatial data and the merits of specific types of environmental data. One source that space did not permit us to include was the environmental resources available from the SAGE Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The data focuses on the categories of terrestrial ecosystems, hydrological systems, and climate, including such items as freight emissions in the state of Wisconsin, soil carbon and nitrogen samples, irrigated lands, and much more, both for Wisconsin and for the globe.
The holdings include some significant surprises, including east and southeast Asia urban expansion, global urban extents, land use, river discharges, crop lands, and much more.
This site is also the host of the Atlas of the Biosphere, a resource containing online maps and ArcGrid data sets about people, land use, ecosystems, and water resources. We examined this data set in our book but it is worth mentioning here because of its ease of use and rich data sets viewable online and as downloadable files.
A new document from the UN describes a 5- to 10-year vision in geospatial information management. Published by the UK Ordnance Survey at the request of the Secretariat for the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management, the lead authors are John Carpenter and Jevon Snell from the Ordnance Survey. The document was commissioned in October 2011 and the first edition was just recently published.
The document is worth examining for all those who are in the field of geospatial technology. The language of the document is thankfully clear and concise, and quite thoughtful, something often lacking in documents such as this. I especially like sentences such as these, “A number of important technology‑driven trends are likely to have a major impact in the coming years, creating previously-unimaginable amounts of location‑referenced information and questioning our very understanding of what constitutes geospatial information.“
The authors have done an excellent job in recognizing the diversity of government, nonprofit, and private sector needs regarding geospatial information. The authors also strike a nice tone by encouraging partnerships and progress so that everyday decisions can be enhanced with a greater volume and a better quality of data as we move forward. Yet, they are realists and realize that this won’t happen overnight. Throughout, the bulleted paragraphs make the entire document accessible and easy to read and understand.
Chapters include key trends (cloud computing, open source, open standards), legal and policy (privacy, liability, funding), skill important in the future (education, extracting value, working with data), the role of private and non-governmental sectors, and the future role of governments. Many of these topics are those that are core to the themes of the GIS Guide to Public Domain Data book, and thus the Public Domain Data book provides a good introduction to and background for the UN document for use on the job or in instruction.
Although many of the .geojson files currently hosted seem largely experimental, GitHub could develop into a useful spatial data resource and one to remember when searching online for open data.
The Open Geoportal (OGP) project is ‘…. a collaboratively developed, open source, federated web application to rapidly discover, preview, and retrieve geospatial data from multiple organizations‘. The project, lead by Tufts University in conjunction a number of partner organisations including Harvard, MIT, Stanford and UCLA, was established to provide a framework for organizations to share geospatial data layers, maps, metadata, and development resources through a common interface. Version 2.0 of the OGP was released in April 2013, providing an improved interface and interoperability for a number of web mapping environments.
OGP currently supports four production geoportal instances:
- Harvard Geospatial Library: Geospatial data catalog from the Harvard University libraries
- UC Berkeley Geospatial Data Repository: Geospatial data from UC Berkeley Library
- MIT GeoWeb: Geospatial data from the MIT Geodata Repository, MassGIS, and Harvard Geospatial Library
- GeoData@Tufts: Geoportal developed and maintained by Tufts University Information Technology, providing search tools for data discovery and for use in teaching, learning, and research.
The data may be streamed, downloaded or shared as required. Although many of the data layers are publicly available, access to some of the layers is restricted and requires registration with the geoportal.
A number of geoportals are currently in development including those from the universities of Colombia, Washington and Yale.