Glasgow – willsnewman (flickr)

Jane Drummond opened the 22nd conference and explained that Pink was the colour of the conference, hence the helpers were wearing Pink T-shirts. This also might explain the pink umbrellas last time GISRUK visited Glasgow.


Mike Worboys keynote gave “A Theoretician’s eye view of GIS Research”. He highlighted the dramatic fall in the proportion of GISRUK papers that covered the theoretical side of GIS. He mused that perhaps we had covered it all; in the end he highlighted several areas where there was still much theory to be discussed, including Geo-Semantics and Geo-Linguistics.

In The Urban Environment session chaired by Peter Halls we saw William Mackaness talk about Spacebook, a system of delivering directions via audio as users encountered various way points on a route. The research found that using Landmarks gave better results than street names in terms of getting someone from A to B.

Phil Bartie, who was a researcher on William Mackness’s paper delved deeper into the issue of Landmarks. He was using images to find out what people identified as landmarks and was analysing them semantically and spatially to distinguish related and unrelated features. His use of Trigrams, or groups of three words may well be a solution to issues with obtaining good search results from EDINA’s place name gazetteer.

Nick Malleson was next talking about using tweets as a proxy for ambient population. Despite the issues with the quality and bias of the Twitter data he found that it still overcame the problems of using census data for city centre population when assessing crime rate. The peaks seen in crime rate for the main shopping and socialising areas disappeared as they were adjusted for the number of people present rather than the number actually living there. Outside of these areas, crime rates were still high in areas where there were social problems as shown by using census data.

The use of Twitter in research continues to raise interesting questions about sampling validity and ethics, this would continue into the second day.


Thursday as the only full day in this years GISRUK program and had 3 parallel sessions.

Spatial Analysis: the best 2 talks being really quite different. Georgios Maniatis discussed error quantification and constraints in environmental sensors.  Georgios’ was looking at sediment movement in rivers, using a local reference frame offered accuracy improvements but added further complications, not least that a significant portion of the signal travel time was through water. Given the small distance from transmitter to receiver, errors could quickly become significant.

The other talk that stood out looked at visualising active spaces of urban utility cyclists. This was given by Seraphim Alvanides on behalf of Godwin Yeboah. Their analysis clearly showed that in certain areas of Newcastle the cycle infrastructure was mis-aligned with where cyclists actually rode. Cyclists used more direct routes to get to work and were more likely to detour on the way home to do shopping or other leisure activities. The fact that the Newcastle Metro which is operated by Deutsche Bahn, do not allow cycles onto their trains. In Continental Europe they seem more amenable to such integration.

Citizen Survey: This session looked really interesting and Neil Harris (Newcastle Uni) kicked off with a very interesting description of a heterogeneous sensor infrastructure which used a schemaless approach.  They had effectively decided to avoid XML and used key value pairs instead.  By using HStore they were able to hook things up with Postgres/PostGIS. The advantage of this approach was that they could integrate new sensors into the D’base easily by just adding key values to the main list. Key values may be seen as old hat by many, but with HStore it gives quite a flexible solution. The work is part of the Science Central project and will effectively pulls together all possible data feeds for the  Science Central to use.

The other presentation of note was by Robin Lovelace (Leeds) who invited discussion around the merits of twitter data in research.  This was not about the ethics around whether users knew what data they were giving-up, but more about the pro’s and con’s of using the data at all.

  • Con – unregulated data, unfocused, loudest voice dominates
  • Pro – diverse, low cost, continuous, responsive

Using Twitter data may raise the following questions

  1. Who made it? – the public
  2. Who owns it? – Twitter

As the discussion progressed it was mentioned that we may be in a golden age for social data, at the moment lots of people are providing information through social media and the social media companies like twitter are allowing us to use the info for free. At some point either the public will realise what info they are providing and seek to limit it, or the government will perhaps do so, and social media companies (who trade on information about users) may restrict access to data or try to charge for it.  Interesting and thought provoking.  If you want to find out more, look at Robin’s presentation and download his code from Twitter to set up a Twitter Listener.

Remote Sensing - I used to do remote sensing so i thought i would go to this session and see what was new. It turns out that it didnt have a huge amount of remote sensing in it, but there was a couple of gems worth mentioning. First is the work that Jonny Huck (University of Lancashire) is doing with sensors.  Jonny presented at last years GISRUK and it was good to see this being used in other people’s research, but the sensor work took a different direction. Jonny made a low-cost (£400) pollution monitoring kit that also monitored VO2 flux of users. This allowed him to crudely calculate risk of pollution.  It was simple kit using motes , smart phones and some basic gis for visualisation. I found it quite refreshing to see a simple approach taking off the shelf kit and running simple experiments. This will hopefully lead to discussion, refinement and some really insightful science.

The other presentation that i enjoyed introduced Whitebox – a geospatial analysis toolkit created by John Lindsay. This is an open-source GIS package and i was stunned by how many tools it had., over 370 at the last count! Possibly most impressive was the Lidar processing tool which will happily open 16Gb of raw lidar point cloud and allow you to process it. I dont know of another open source package which handles lidar.  John likes to call Whitebox open-access rather than open-source. Whats the difference? Well when you open a module there is a “View Code” button. This will open the code that runs the module so that you can see how it works and what it does.

Whitebox is relatively unknown, but John hopes to push it more and the audience suggested using GitHub rather than google code repository and to work towards OSGeo incubation.  It does look good and i have already downloaded it. Oh, it is a Java app so is easy to get working on any platform.

Plenary – OK, this is where the review gets negative i am afraid.  I enjoyed the sessions and found something interesting in each one, but the plenaries just didn’t do it for me. Most conferences use the plenaries to bring everyone together and then get the big cheese’s out to show-off cutting edge research or to inspire the audience. None of the plenaries did this and the session was flat.  The topic of interdisciplinary research grated as well.  It seemed to have been applied to cover 4 unrelated talks rather than being a focus.  I could go on but wont.

Friday – i was not able to attend on friday, sorry.

gisrukOverall – the conference was well received and i found some of the talks really interesting.  I would have like to be inspired by a keynote at the plenary and I hope that GISRUK 2015 in Leeds will use the plenary to motivate the group to continue to do great GIS research. Thanks to the  local team for pulling the event together, it is never an easy task.  You even managed to get the weather sorted.



Digimap adds street names to search results

Until now, Digimap has always used the 1:50 000 Scale Gazetteer to provide search results when using the interface.

Searching for a street name in Digimap Roam

We have now added street names to the search results in Roam, so you can get more detailed results for your search locations. The locations of the streets come from the OS Locator™ gazetteer which we have been working to include since Ordnance Survey made it an OS OpenData™ product. When using the search interface you can now put in a street name and search for it, though we would recommend adding the name of the place the street is located in too, particularly if it is a relatively common street name. The best results in urban areas are still achieved by using postcodes as these can often resolve to a particular part of the street.  However in rural areas where postcodes can be very large, street names can give you the best results.

The search takes all the terms you enter and adds weights to each one; if you enter a full postcode it will just use this to pinpoint your location. If you are not sure your postcode is completely accurate in can be better to leave it out if you have more reliable information. Any street numbers or house names are ignored by the search as these are not stored in the OS Locator or 1:50 000 Gazetteers. The remaining search terms are run against the two gazetteers to produce a list of potential matches.

Be careful when searching for road names that are also places; searching for London Road in Edinburgh will also find Edinburgh Road in London and other possibilities from each city.  The weighting usually puts the best match at the top, though you may need to look a little further down the results list sometimes.

We will continue to work on the search abilities in Digimap to improve the results we return, please let us know if you have any questions:

  • Email:
  • Phone: 0131 650 3302


AGILE and COBWEB Workshop: “Citizen Science, Quality and Standards”

Universitat Jaume I by Flickr User Carles Escrig i Royo

In June members of the COBWEB team will be running an AGILE & COBWEB Workshop - "Citizen Science, Quality and Standards" which will take place on 3rd June 2014, back to back with AGILE 2014 in Castellón, Spain. 

The COBWEB team would like to invite you - those interested and engaged with the COBWEB project - to participate in this event and have produced a call for participation which you can find over on the event page for the workshop

More details here:

And you can view a PDF of the Invitation here

The organisers for this event, who will be pleased to answer any of your questions or comments, are:

  • Stephanie Ties, Environment Systems
  • Bart De Lathouwer, OGC
  • Mike Jackson, University of Nottingham,
  • Lars Bernard, TU Dresden
  • Mason Davis, Welsh Government



Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 16:00
Posted in Uncategorized

Digimap for Schools adds historic map layer


Old and new

Digimap for Schools has added a new historic map layer to the popular online map service, extending its potential for use in schools across a wider spectrum of the national curriculum.

The new historic map layer features mapping from the 1890s and covers the whole of Great Britain. Teachers and pupils will be able to overlay the historic maps over current mapping and compare changes in the landscape in their areas and beyond.

Digimap for Schools is an online application developed by EDINA at the University of Edinburgh. It gives schools easy access to a wide range of Ordnance Survey mapping using a simple login and password. The service is available to all pupils regardless of age. It allows schools to access a variety of mapping scales including Ordnance Survey’s most detailed OS MasterMap and the famous OS Explorer mapping at 1:25,000 scale which is ideal for outdoor activity.

The historic Ordnance Survey maps have been scanned and geo-referenced by the National Library of Scotland (NLS)and made available in Digimap for Schools. The maps were originally published between 1895 and 1899 as the Revised New Series in England and Wales and the 2nd Edition in Scotland. The historic maps are high quality scans at 400dpi for Scotland and 600dpi for England and Wales. This means that they can be enlarged far beyond their original scale of 1 inch to 1 mile.
OSElaine Owen, Education Manager at Ordnance Survey, added: “This new layer in Digimap for Schools is a fantastic resource for teachers and pupils of all ages, especially if they’re working on a local history project. The historic layer is viewable against a range of modern map scales up to 1:10,000 scale. You can access the maps via a slider bar that allows the contemporary map to be gradually faded away to reveal the historic map. We’ are adding some new history and geography resources to accompany the layer, including looking at how coastlines have changed over the last 120 years.”
Pupils and teachers using Digimap for Schools can save and print maps at A4 and A3 size. The maps can be printed as a historical map, or combined with the modern map at different transparency settings as a merged image. The full set of annotation tools are available for use on the historic map, providing many opportunities to highlight changes.
Since Digimap for Schools launched in 2010, the service has been adopted by over 20% of secondary schools. 
NLSChris Fleet, Senior Map Curator at NLS said “Old maps present our history in one of its most enthralling forms. We are delighted to be collaborating with Ordnance Survey and EDINA in delivering our historic maps to schools through the Digimap for Schools application.”
Peter Burnhill, Director of EDINA at the University of Edinburgh said “Students, pupils and their teachers now have unrivalled access to the very best maps to gain rich understanding of how Britain’s landscape has changed in over a century. The result is endlessly fascinating, the skill and generosity of staff at the National Library of Scotland have enabled a real sense of place when combined with the Ordnance Survey maps of today’s Britain.”

Digimap for Schools is open to all schools in Great Britain via an annual subscription. The subscription costs £69 for a primary school and up to £144 for a secondary school.

SUNCAT feature library: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

This is the fifth in the series of guest posts written by one of SUNCAT’s Contributing Libraries. This month, Jennifer Evans, Assistant Librarian at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, writes about the library and its collections.


Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales was founded by Royal Charter in 1907, the foundation stone was laid in 1912 and the building was officially opened to the public in 1927. The Library, with in-built panelling and shelving was custom made, as were the two original iron roller racking stacks.

Our main purpose here in the Library is to serve the museum curatorial staff, together with other colleagues but we are also available to external researchers and students. All visits by external visitors, that is members of the public, students etc., are by strict appointment only.

An image of the interior of the National Museum Wales Library

The National Museum Wales Library. (© the National Museum of Wales)

Our journal holdings are extensive and complement the curatorial departments; Art, Archaeology & Numismatics, Zoology, Botany, Geology and Industry. However, our collections of conservation and museology journals are also strong. We house the libraries of the Cardiff Naturalists Society and the Cambrian Archaeological Association, which means we receive, record and house their books and journals. There is also a large library at our sister museum; St Fagans: Museum of National History, which holds a large collection of journals concerning the social history of Wales and also many early Welsh language journals.

With regards to books, as with the journals, our various departmental libraries hold material complimenting curatorial disciplines. However, the Main Library holds books pertaining to houses and architecture, conservation, museology (everything to do with museums: history & theory, collection management, exhibitions, education etc.), general reference works and extensive Welsh historical society transactions.

The Museum Library has been the recipient of several generous loans and donations over the years. Some collections are finite and remain the same as when they were passed to the Museum, whereas others are added to as part of the Library’s collecting policy.

The Willoughby Gardner Collection comprises of early natural history books bequeathed to the museum in 1953; included in this collection are two incunables (pre-1501 books), as well as a number of writings by Conrad Gesner and other 16th and 17th century writers. Our Tours of Wales Collection comprises of late 18th & early 19th century topographical books. The Vaynor Collection consists of a number of 16th and 17th century astronomical works, including several of the writings of Galileo. The Tomlin Collection is a fine collection of books and journals on mollusca published from the late 17th century onwards, given over several years during the 1940s and 1950s. It is generally recognised as being the finest collection of its subject outside of London.

One of our largest collections is on long term loan from The Davies Trust. The Davies Sisters, Gwendoline and Margaret, were great benefactors to the Museum by donating their collection of Impressionist Art. However, they also established and ran their own private printing press, called The Gregynog Press, during the 1930s and 1940s. Gwendoline especially was a leading light in the foundation of the Press, and her personal collection of the Press’s books, that is all the special bindings, is currently on long term loan to us.


SUNCAT would like to thank Jennifer Evans for writing this post. If you would like to write a post on your SUNCAT Contributing Library and its serials collections please let us know.

Official Launch of historical maps in Digimap for Schools

Today sees the official launch of historical maps  in Digimap for Schools.  The formal launch of this fantastic new addition to Digimap for Schools, made possible by the generosity of the National Library of Scotland, will be celebrated at the annual Geography Association conference taking place on the 14th and 15th April at the University of Surrey.  It was at this same event, at the same venue in 2011 that Digimap for Schools received the Geographical Association Publisher’s Gold Award for making a significant contribution to geographical education and professional development.

The service has grown in popularity since 2011 with over 20% of secondary schools in England and over 30% in Scotland now using the service. Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and Chief Executive, Ordnance Survey will mark the launch during her conference lecture this afternoon.  Chris Fleet, Senior Map Curator at NLS says ‘Old maps present our history in one of its most enthralling forms.  We are delighted to be collaborating with Ordnance Survey and EDINA in delivering our historic maps to schools through the Digimap for Schools application.’  Peter Burnhill, Director of EDINA says ‘Students, pupils and their teachers now have unrivalled access to the very best maps to gain rich understanding of how Britain’s landscape has changed in over a century.  The result is endlessly fascinating, the skill and generosity of staff at the National Library of Scotland have enabled a real sense of place when combined with the Ordnance Survey maps of today’s Britain’.

Full press release can be read here

Inaugural Scottish QGIS user’s Group



“Today we have a guest blog post from one of the Geo-developers at EDINA.  Mike works as part of the data team and is usually up to his oxters in databases ensuring that the data offered through Digimap is both up to date and in a useful format. Over to Mike.”

Following on from successful meetings In England and Wales, on 19th March I attended the inaugural “Scottish QGIS User Group” hosted at Stirling University. My first thought revolved around  the level of interest that such a meeting would acquire, but as it turned out, it was very popular. I was also surprised at the geographical spread of the attendees, with several folks coming from Brighton (Lutra Consulting) and  Southampton (Ordnance Survey) as well as all over Scotland & northern England. Although the attendees were dominated by public sector organisations.


A more detailed breakdown of the presentations can be found here:

From my own perspective, the talks on developing QGIS and Cartography in QGIS were of particular interest – demonstrating the every growing potential of QGIS. Additionally, the improvements (particularly speed enhancements)  that look to be coming soon (as highlighted in Martin Dobias’ presentation) are impressive.

As for the user group itself, it will be interesting to see where it goes from here and what direction it will take. How will future events be funded? How often should the group meetup? What location? A recommendation from myself would be to have general presentations and talks in the morning, then in the afternoon split into different streams for beginners / users / developers.

At the end of the meet-up (and a few geo-beers in the pub) there was definitely a sense that everybody got something out of the event and would like to attend more meetups in the future.

A special mention of thanks needs to go out to Ross McDonald - @mixedbredie (Angus Council) for his efforts to organise the event and additionally thinkWhere (formally Forth Valley GIS) for sponsoring the event.

Links and seful things

SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the catalogue in the last week. The dates displayed indicate when the files were received by SUNCAT.

  • British Library (28 Mar 14)
  • Cardiff University (25 Mar 14)
  • CONSER (09 Apr 14)
  • Exeter University (04 Apr 14)
  • London Metropolitan University (21 Mar 14)
  • London School of Economics and Political Science (03 Apr 14)
  • Southampton University (06 Apr 14)
  • Strathclyde University (21 Mar 14)
  • University College London (07 Apr 14)
  • Women’s Library @ LSE (03 Apr 14)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.

National Museums Scotland – SUNCAT’s Third New Contributing Library of 2014

We are delighted to welcome National Museums Scotland as a new SUNCAT Contributing Library.  We have loaded just under 4,000 of their serial records to our service. This brings the total number of our Contributing Libraries to 95, plus the CONSER database, ISSN register and Directory of Open Access Journals.

National Museums Scotland has two major libraries located in Edinburgh offering collections and services to support the research and learning needs of Museum staff, visitors, and the wider external research community. Its Research Library is the largest museum library in Scotland, with a collection including hundreds of journal titles and access to many more e-journals. It is situated on the third floor of the National Museum of Scotland. There is also a library located in the National War Museum of Scotland, which you can find within the walls of Edinburgh Castle. Its collections include monographs and journals on all aspects of Scottish military history since the 1600s. 

Second new SUNCAT Contributing Library of 2014: Brunel University London

The SUNCAT team is very pleased to announce our second new library of 2014, that of Brunel University London. This brings the total number of our Contributing Libraries to 94, plus the CONSER database, ISSN register and Directory of Open Access Journals. Brunel University Library has supplied SUNCAT with nearly 68,000 serials records for both print and electronic titles.

Brunel is a campus-based, research-led university located in Uxbridge, West London, and founded back in 1966. It has eight Academic Schools, covering a broad subject range, as well as a further eight Specialist Research Institutes. The Library supports its students, academics and researchers in its refurbished campus building, as well as providing access to electronic resources, including databases, journals and e-books, through its e-library.