The Los Angeles GeoHub represents, in many ways, the next generation GIS data portal. It is in my view what a data portal should be, and given the population and areal size of Los Angeles, that the portal is robust makes it even more impressive. The data user can search the city’s open data site, and also do something that not all sites allow: “Explore all data”. At the time of this writing, “exploring all data” resulted in 554 results, which one can then add to “my favorites” for later investigation and download. One can also explore the data by category, including business, boundaries, health, infrastructure, planning, recreation and parks, safety, schools, and transportation. Most data sets can be downloaded as a spreadsheet, as a KML file, or a shapefile. These layers include grasslands, fire stations, cell phone towers, road work projects, traffic, parcels, and dozens and dozens more–even bus stop benches and other treasures. Each download is quick and painless.
A unique and very useful characteristic of the GeoHub is that each layer lists the number of attributes, which are easily displayed on the site. Another wonderful feature is that each layer is displayed above its metadata listing as a web service inside ArcGIS Online, which can be opened immediately in ArcMap or ArcGIS Pro or streamed as a GeoJSON or GeoService as a full or filtered data set. Applications based on the data can also be accessed on the site, such as the CleanStat clean streets index and the social determinants of health app. And yet there is even more–charts can be generated straight from the data, and a whole set of ArcGIS Online mapping applications that the city has generated are displayed in a gallery here. Because of these applications, the site can be used effectively even by someone who is not familiar with how to run a GIS to understand Los Angeles better and to make smarter decisions.
If you are a data user, explore the data on the GeoHub today. If you are a data administrator, consider using the GeoHub as a model for what you might develop and serve for your own data users in your own location.
This installment of Spatial Reserves is authored by: Shelley James and Molly Phillips. iDigBio, Florida Museum of Natural History. We thank these authors very much for their contribution!
If you’ve ever had a need to document where a plant or animal species occurs today, or 100 years ago, perhaps the 1 billion biological specimens housed in natural history collections across the USA, and 5 billion around the world can help! Each of these specimens imparts knowledge about their existence in time at a specific location. Fish, fossils, birds, skeletons, mushrooms, skins – all with a date and location of collection. The data, found on the labels attached to the specimens, in field notebooks and catalogues, is being transcribed by museum professionals and citizen scientists alike, revealing information about the world’s living organisms dating back to the 1600’s, some with very accurate spatial data, others much less so depending on the geographic knowledge of the collector at the time. iDigBio – Integrated Digitized Biocollections – a project supported by the US National Science Foundation – is collaborating with biological collections across the globe to help combine and mobilize voucher specimen data for research, education, and environmental management uses.
All of this biodiversity data is in a format known as Darwin Core, a standardized set of descriptors enabling biological data from different sources to be combined, indexed, and shared. The iDigBio data Portal allows open access to this aggregated data, allowing filtering for types of organisms, a spatial region using latitude-longitude co-ordinates, polygons or place descriptions, and many other options. The data is delivered dynamically, and can be downloaded for use. Currently about 50% of the biological records in iDigBio (over 30 million records) have a geopoint and error, and georeferencing is something the collections community continues to work on in order to improve this valuable dataset. Any tools or improvements to data the geospatial community can provide would be a great help as iDigBio expands beyond 65 million specimen records, and we invite you to join the conversation by participating in the iDigBio Georeferencing Working Group.
Pigeons and doves from around the world. The iDigBio Portal maps the distribution of species and provides specimen record details “on the fly” as filters are applied by the user. The dataset can be downloaded, or data can be accessed through the iDigBio API.
The Un-Spider Knowledge Portal (United Nations Platform for Space-based information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response) recently reported the launch of the Bhuvan Ganga web portal and the Bhuvan Ganga mobile application. This new monitoring initiative will use existing geospatial information and crowd-sourced reporting to monitor pollution levels in the River Ganga (Ganges). The data portal already provides access to a variety of geospatial information including as flood hazard zones and environmental data and visitors to the site will be able to contribute to the project by uploading shapefiles and WMS layers. The accompanying mobile app will also allow users to collect and report information on pollution sources affecting water quality in the River Ganga basin.
The host geospatial platform, Bhuvan, was one of the projects we discussed in The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data. Impressed by geospatial resources such as Google Earth but concerned about potential misuses of the information following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, the Indian Government launched its own version, describing Bhuvan as a gateway to the geospatial world. The benefits of providing open access to national, regional and local geospatial information outweighed lingering concerns over potential future attacks. Over the last seven years the site has developed into a comprehensive resource of geospatial datasets and services.
One of the most robust data portals is The Open Geoportal (OGP). It is a collaboratively developed, open source, federated web application framework to rapidly discover, preview and retrieve geospatial data from multiple curated repositories. The Open Geoportal Federation is a community of geospatial professionals, developers, information architects, librarians, metadata specialists and enthusiasts working together to make geospatial data and maps available on the web and contribute to global spatial data infrastructure. Patrick Florance at Tufts University and others have been diligently working to make this resource one that will be valued and useful for the GIS community for years to come. The project’s code repository is hosted on github. Documentation can be found here. To search the repository, you can enter information using the “where” and/or “what” search fields or zoom in on a location using the map,
Like any large data depository, this one takes some getting used to–but I found it to be straightforward: You enter where you are interested in searching, and what you are interested in searching for. Where and What: It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. The only thing I could not get to work was the “Help” link on the page. After selecting and viewing your data on the map, you add it to a Cart. The Cart acts like something you would see on Amazon, and you can add to it and delete from it as you are searching, which I found to be quite convenient. Another nice touch is that you can adjust the symbology of the data that you are examining on the map before you download it. Even better, you can stream web services directly to your desktop, web, or mobile applications from the Cart. After you have made your selections, you access your Cart, whereupon you are presented with download options. If a layer is restricting by licensing agreement, you can add them to the cart but you must log in to preview or download restricted layers. Spending time with the OpenGeoportal will be well worth it given its ease of use, but moreso for the thousands of international data layers accessible here.
Additional tools that the OpenGeoPortal community is in the process of building include a Harvester–an open source web application that provides the automation of customized harvesting from partner metadata nodes and XML metadata files within a web or local directory. Also in progress is a Metadata Toolkit–a publicly available website that provides tools to easily create guided, geospatial metadata, and a Dashboard to analyze and visualize massive spatial data collections.
NASA recently announced the launch of a new data portal, hosting a data catalog of publicly available terrestrial and space-based datasets, APIs and data visualisations.
NASA’s Open Innovation team has been established to meet government mandates to make their data publicly available. The datasets, posted in a number of categories including applied and earth science, will be available to download in a variety of formats although at present not all the formats are available for all of the categories. However the data portal is work in progress so worth checking back as new datasets are posted.
From a quick search for some earth science data I found a sea surface temperature dataset acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites that I could download in a number of image formats, Google Earth or CSV format. One feature of the data portal I found useful was the accompanying basic, intermediate or advanced dataset descriptions, helping portal users identify the right datasets for their requirements.
One of my students recently shared something that I considered to be a thought-provoking analogy in the “fee vs. free” geospatial data debate that we included in our book and discuss on this blog. The debate, in sum, revolves around the issue, “Should government data providers charge a fee for their geospatial data, or should they provide the data for free?”
The student commented, “I tend toward the “at cost” position of the debate for local governments and free side of the debate for federal data. For me, the “tax dollars are used to create the data so it has already been paid for argument” does not hold water. Taxpayers have no expectation (or shouldn’t have) of walking into the local parks department to borrow a shovel that in theory their tax dollars paid for. The same logic could be applied to spatial assets.” The student went on to say that the above argument should be applied to local and regional government data, because “federal level data […] tends to be more directly reflective of the population and the federal government more directly benefits from the economic opportunities created by free data.”
While I have tended to advocate on the side that geospatial data should be freely available, I believe that the student’s snow shovel analogy for local governments has merit. Following this argument, a small fee for data requested that is over and above what that government agency provides on its website seems reasonable. But I still am firmly on the side of that government providing at least some geospatial data for free on its website, citing the numerous benefits as documented in case studies in this blog and in our book. These benefits range from positive public relations, saving lives and property in emergency situations, and saving time in processing requests from data users. Consider what one person can do with the snow shovel versus what one person could do with a geospatial data such as a flood dataset. The shovel might help dredge a small section to help a few neighbors get out of their houses, but the flood dataset could help identify hundreds of houses at risk and provide a permanent, effectively managed solution. There is an order of magnitude difference in the benefit to be gained from making geospatial data easily and freely available.
What are your thoughts on this important issue? We invite you to share your thoughts below.
Billed as a stop-gap solution on the path towards emulating some of the larger data portals (such as data.gov.au and open-data.europa.eu), GovPond is an Australian public sector data portal providing access to over 3,600 hand-curated datasets and 11 Government catalogues, including:
- Landgate SLIP
- Australian Ocean Data Network
The motivation to develop the site stemmed from a previous exercise to collate public sector data sets after the site hosts discovered ‘an enormous number of tables and tools and maps and spreadsheets that were tucked away in dark, dusty corners of the internet, near-impossible to find with a quick search.’
For all the recent advances in liberating public sector data, it seems there’s still a niche for initiatives like these to get to those corners of the Internet and provide access to data resources that might otherwise elude all but the most determined data tracker.