EDINA GeoForum 2014

EDINA hosts an annual gathering for it’s GeoServices with an aim to connect with users from institutions from around the country.  This years event was held in Edinburgh on the 19th June.  The event went well and there was a buzz around the informatics forum venue.  I don’t really want to provide a summary of the event as there is already a great summary on the Digimap Blog and if this doesn’t provide enough detail, the live blog transcript should (reps to @suchprettyeyes for the live blog – no idea how she can record everything in real-time).

What i would like to do here is to discuss a couple of topics that seemed to surface during the day.

Know your users

Who uses GIS data?  Geographers of course is the obvious answer, but the use of geospatial data is now much wider than just earth and environmental science.  EDINA has recognised this for some time and has worked hard to make it’s service interfaces as intuitive as possible.  In addition, there has been a conscious decision to promote best practice through the interfaces and to use the correct language so that users actually learn about GIS and geospatial terms just by using the services.

Geoservice Personas

Geoservice Personas

Geoforum provides a vital link between the service team and users.  It is our chance to speak to users directly and for users to provide feedback on what they like, what they dont like and what they would like to see in the service.

Turning Data into Information

Some users want to get their hands on the raw data so that they can use it as basedata for their own analysis, others prefer to receive a polished product that will add value to their coursework or research.  EDINA‘s geoservices tries to accomodat such diverse user needs.  The role of many geospatial professionals is to take data and turn it into useful information.


Data and Information

This message was echoed by keynote speaker Peter Gibbs of the UK Met Office.  Peter eloquently demonstrated the vast number of data sources that fed into our weather reports. The meteorologists job was to take this data, analyse it, produce a best case scenario and present this in an easy to understand format accessible to the general public.  The public don’t really care how you created the forecast, they just want to spend less than 2 minutes finding out if they need to take a brolly to work.  This encapsulates much of the geospatial industries role, turning data into usable information which can inform decisions.

 Connected systems and data

Everything is linked. Virtually nothing can be considered in isolation.  This means that many users will be consuming geospatial data from EDINA and combining it with other datasets.  EDINA has recognised this and has started to connect some of its collections in Digimap.  For example, you can create an annotation in one collection and then access it in another.  This allows users to map historic features, or trace geological features and visualise these on modern OS maps. But we are now thinking about taking this further and investigating how to overlay data from one collection in another.  There is a bit of work to be done here but it could open things up.  Why stop at just overlaying EDINA Digimap data in other Digimap collections? Would it be useful to be able to overlay external feeds from organisations such as the Environment Agency or SEPA in Digimap Roam?


The rise of the smartphone seems unstoppable.  Almost everyone has one and we are increasingly accessing web services through our mobiles.  Fieldtrip GB is a free app from EDINA that runs on Android and iPhone and allows users to collect data on their smartphone.  What does it do?

  • good, clear cartography, just as you would expect from EDINA’s geoservices team
  • users can design their own data collection forms that suit their needs.
  • the app is designed to work in “offline” mode meaning you can pre-load maps and dont require a 3G signal to use it in the field
  • exports data to csv, kml and geojson
  • did i mention it is free!

Fieldtrip GB

In addition to Fieldtrip GB, EDINA is working on a GoGeo app which will help people keep up to date with geospatial news and events as well as allowing users to discover data while on the move.

What’s on the horizon?

The geoservices team are constantly updating and upgrading services.  Some of this work is invisible to the user as it is backend stuff. Optimising databases, improving searching and just making sure the services are as fast and reliable as possible.  But there are a number of exciting projects that should offer users new functionality over the next year.  The easiest way to find out more is to flick through Guy McGarva’s forward looking presentation.

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.

FOSS4G – a developers review part 2

Photo – Addy Pope

This is the second part of EDINA’s developer review of FOSS4G 2013.  This time it is Mike Gale who will be providing his opinion on what was presented.

Who are you:

Michael Gale – GIS Engineer / Member of the EDINA’s Data Team. My job is to essentially deal with the vast quantities of GIS data we utilise at EDINA. I translate, modify, split and twist the data we receive into types and formats that our services such as Digimap can then offer to our users. I heavily use the Swiss army knife – GIS command line tools of GDAL/OGR and additionally Safe FME, Shell Scripting, Python & PostGIS.

What you hoped to get out of the event?

To discover the latest and greatest ways to utilise the tools I already use. I was keen to evaluate what advances and benefits PostGIS 2.0 could offer – particularly with 3D data, LiDAR point clouds & pgRouting. Additionally I wanted to discover new ways of integrating Python into my workflows.
Top 3 things you saw at the event (not the food or beer….)

(1) Chris Tucker keynote – MapStory.org

MapStory.org is a new website that empowers a global user community to organise knowledge about the world spatially and temporally. It is essentially a social media platform where people can crowd source geospatial data and create “MapStories” with spatio-temporally enabled narratives. The best way to figure out what that all means is to check out the website!!

(2) Cartopy & Iris – Open Source Python Tools For Analysis and Visualisation – Dr Edward Campbell (Met Office)

Cartopy is a new python mapping library for the transformation and visualisation of geospatial vector and raster data. The library offers the ability for point, line, polygon and image transformations between projections and a way to visualise data with only a few snippets of python code. Iris is a python library that specifically deals with analysing and visualising meteorological and oceanographic datasets, particularly 3D and temporal data.

(3) LiDAR in PostgreSQL with Pointcloud – Paul Ramsey

PostGIS support for LiDAR data has been non-existent until now. Paul Ramsey has created a new spatial data type for PostGIS 2.0 that now offers the ability to import huge amounts of point cloud data, and additionally analyse the information with several new postgis functions. Pretty impressive.

(4) I’ll throw a comedy one in as well: “Up all night to get Mapping”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EEVYHUQlkU

Editors note: view at your own (ears) risk.

1 thing that you are definitely going to investigate further

The IRIS and Cartopy Python libraries.

Thanks Mike.  I hope to add another couple of review next week.  My overview, with links to as many reviews as i could find, can be found HERE


FOSS4G 2013 – 5 reasons you should attend

FOSS4G is the annual conference for anyone interested in Free and Open Source Software 4 Geospatial.  FOSS4G 2013 will be held in Nottingham between the 17th and 21st September. So what makes FOSS4G so important and why should you attend?

  1. Network – FOSS4G is the biggest gathering of developers and users of open geospatial software.  There will be over 700 people at the conference. This includes the lead developers on some of the larger open source projects such as OpenLayers and QGIS.
  2. Learn – You’ll learn a lot in a very short period of time.  No matter what your knowledge of open source geo from beginner to expert coder/developer you will learn something new at FOSS4G.  There are workshops for all levels that you can sign up to.
  3. Inspiration – You will be inspired by some of the major names in GIS and data analysis. The list of keynote speakers includes Paul Ramsey (co-founder of PostGIS), Kate Chapman (Acting Director of humanitarian team at OpenStreetMap) and Ben Hennig (Worldmapper Project).  For a full list of Keynote speakers, please refer to the FOSS4G keynote page.
  4. Double the fun – Visit AGI GeoCommunity’13 at the same time. Yes, that’s right FOSS4G and AGI GeoCommunity are happening in the same venue on the same week. This was no accident. GeoCommunity is a great event and the FOSS4G organisers wanted to bring the two audiences together. GeoCommunity’13 runs from the 16th to the 18th September.
  5. Can you afford to miss it?  – What does this mean?  Well, the conference package is quite reasonable given the number and diversity of talks on offer.  £165 for a day pass or £435 for the whole event (3 days and the FOSS4G Gala Night).  FOSS4G was last in Europe back in 2010 and it might not be back until 2017 as it moves between continents. So, if you are based in Europe attending FOSS4G might not be as easy for a number of years.

So, there are 5 pretty good reasons to attend.  I am sure there are many other reasons to come along.  To find out everything that will be going on at FOSS4G please look at the conference website and follow the event on twitter through the #FOSS4G hashtag.

FOSS4G 2013 takes place between the 17th – 21st September 2013 and will be held at the East Midlands Conference Centre, which is situated on The University of Nottingham campus. 

Fieldtrip GB – A data capture app from EDINA

EDINA, the Jisc funded data centre based at the University of Edinburgh,  has just released an app that allows users to capture data against high quality base maps.  Fieldtrip GB has been designed to support teaching, learning and research in Great Britain. In summary, Fieldtrip GB:

  • is free to download and use
  • uses high quality background maps that offer rich data in both urban and rural environments
  • allows maps to be cached for off-network usage
  • enables data capture
  • includes the ability to create custom data collection forms that allow users to define the data they want to capture.

So what does it look like?

The app is split into 4 sections; Home, Maps, Capture and Download and Sync.   In addition there is a header which displays active elements such as the GPS/GPS tracking and a footer which allows quick navigation between the sections (Fig 1).

Fig 1 – Fieldtrip GB Home Screen

Quality Cartography

Part of the appeal of Fieldtrip GB is the mapping it uses.  The maps have been designed and optimised for a small screen making them ideal for viewing on a mobile phone. One of the challenges when creating the app was to ensure that the mapping worked in both urban and rural environments.  This is tricky as user will be looking for buildings, roads and road names in urban areas but users in rural areas may be more interested in features such as contour lines and rivers. Getting the highest zoom levels right was tricky but a new feature in Mapserver 6.2 allowed the developers to create an urban mask. Areas that were considered to be “urban” would display OS Street View data, whereas “rural” areas would display OS VectorMap District data augmented with OS Land-Form PANORAMA contours and path data from Natural England. In addition, considerable effort was made to place labels in sensible places, not an easy task when you need to automate the process for the whole country. Examples of the cartography are shown below (Fig 2)

Fig 2 – Examples of the mapping in Fieldtrip GB (left to right – Urban, Rural, Urban-Rural boundary)


Off-line maps

We understand that mobile data connectivity is not reliable in many areas of the country. Fieldtrip GB has been designed to allow users to download maps to their phones prior to going into the field. This way they will be available when data connectivity is not. There is the additional advantage that you can use WiFi to download the maps and not eat into your data allowance.

Capturing data doesn’t require a data connection.  You can collect data all day, or in fact all month, and then upload it all when you are able to connect to a strong WiFi signal.

Capture Data

There are two ways to capture data in Fieldtrip GB; by using one of the standard capture elements which support text, images, audio and GPS tracklog capture, or through the custom capture forms.

The custom capture forms are created through the Fieldtrip GB Authoring Tool. This is a website that allows users to design forms by dragging elements into an editor and defining the specific parameters they want to capture (Fig 3). We think this is where Fieldtrip GB really stands out as a useful research tool.  The Authoring Tool allows you to design data capture to meet your specific research aims. Custom data capture forms are uploaded to you Dropbox folder so that they can be accessed from your phone. To load them on your phone, just login and then perform a sync. This will grab any new forms from Dropbox  and save them to your phone.


Fig 3 – Overview of the Authoring Tool

Here’s an example of a form, in this case it is for collecting information about rocks (Fig 4). There is a drop down selector allow users to specify sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous rock types, sliders to record dip and strike, a note book reference and a photo capture option. Quite simple things, but easy to record and data will be consistent. We added a field-note Book ref so users could tie the digital record to their paper notes which might include specific details or a sketch.

Fig 4 – Example of a custom data capture form

Upload –> Edit –> Share

Once you have captured your data you can upload it to your Dropbox account and then either access it from there or view, edit and export it through the Authoring Tool (the authoring tool is so much more than an authoring tool).  In the authoring tool you can export the data from GPX format to other useful formats such as KML. You also have the option to share your maps with others. The Authoring Tool will mint a WMS of your data and provide you with a link embedded in your Dropbox folder, all you have to do is control who you share this link with.

What’s Next?

Well, the app is available for Android Devices and you can download it from the Google Play Store.  We have submitted it to the Apple iStore and are awaiting approval.  If all goes well this should take no more than a couple of weeks.

As for future versions and developments, we have a few features that we want to improve but what we really want is feedback from users. What would you like to see in the app?  What would you need to make this an indispensable tool for teaching and research.

 Take a look at the Fieldtrip GB website

International Benchmarking Review of UK Human Geography

Picked up from Kenneth Field’s Blog, the ESRC have put together a report on Human Geography in the UK. The report is co-authored by the RGS-IBG and the Arts and Humanities Council.

The report concludes that the UK ranks top in Human Geography research when measured in bibliometric data. However, the report did highlight a number of areas where there was room for improvement and one of these was Qualitative methods and GI Science (the report refers to GIS as Geographical Information Science rather than Geographic Information Systems, i prefer GI Science which is much bigger than the “Systems” of GIS). The panel calls for:

  1. an investment in training for GI Science which is currently largely seen as the preserve of the Geographer and
  2. focused investment in GIS laboratories and renewed commitment to hiring in this sub-discipline.

Geographers in the UK have made an important contribution to advancing complex modelling such as agent-baset modelling, but they have also been at the forefront of developments in 3  broad areas:

  1. Neogeography – the use of Web 2.0 mapping
  2. embracing and utalising Open Data
  3. developing innovative visualisations.

The report states that there is a small group of relatively young researchers  taking up these research activities and there is a reduction in the number of postgrad opportunities to learn the skills needed to handle and interpret large quantities of data.  I am not sure i would agree entirely.  The UK is contributing on the Word stage through groups such as CASA at UCL, the Centre for Geospatial Science at Nottingham University, Danny Dorling’s SASI group at The University of Sheffield and researchers like Jason Dykes at City University London.   These groups are small compared to other disciplines but they are growing.  CASA are particularly adept at publicising their work and gaining funding for projects working to visualise Open Data.  Students and postdocs are leaving these centres to take on new positions in different Universities (Alex Singleton was a CASA member but is now researching and lecturing at Liverpool).

Big Data

This sector is growing but growth is slow and organic. I would agree that more funds need to be injected into this area.  The skills needed to handle large datasets (eloquently described by Prof. Michael Batty as “data that is too big to load in excel” ~1 million rows). I actually think that some of the “Big Open Data” needs to mature before it is actually of any real use.  Take the London Tube system for instance, you tap in at a station with your Oyster Card, travel on the network and they tap out. But on any given day, you will have around 500, 000 more tap-ins than tap-outs. This data leak makes analysis of the traffic in the network only about 90% accurate (from Michael Batty’s EEO presentation 1/03/2013). This would most likely be considered not fir for purpose in the engineering or planning World.  The skills and tool-kits for analysing big data are emerging, but the data itself needs to be improved if it is to be useful for Building Information Models (BIMs), which seem to be the new buzz-world in commercial GIS circles.

Here is a link to CASA’s view of Big Data.

Shared Services

Well, I couldn’t really report on the document without mentioning how we see EDINA’s role in all this. EDINA is committed to offering shared services that provide access to spatial data and tool-kits to the education sector. We have seen a huge increase in the use of our spatial services over the past 5 years and analysis shows that the majority of our users are not geographers. Instead, they are environmental scientists, landscape planners, engineers and architects.

Location based services, augmented reality and the rise of the smart phone offer new challenges and opportunities. We have been working away quietly on a few things in these sectors, so expect to see something soon.



Old Maps online workshop

Old maps online launched some months back and has been quite a hit.  It essentially is a catalogue of old maps from library collections around the World.  However, it is much more than just that. Old maps online allows users to make spatial searches for maps rather than having to rely on fields such as Title, author and published date.  This is not the information that springs to mind when you want a map.  Place-names, regions and coordinates are more logical search terms.

As part of the Old Maps Online project, the  team are putting on workshops and i attended the Edinburgh event on Thursday 13th December. Edinburgh is steeped in mapping history and has one of the largest map library collections in the World.  Whats more, a significant percentage of the National Library of Scotland’s collection has been scanned and made available online for free.  The NLS have recently updated their catalogue interface and it is even easier to search and view maps.  This is a huge resource and has sparked the interest in many researchers who have utalised the old maps in their research.

The NLS site is uses software from Klokan Technologies, a small Swiss company run by Petr Pridal. Petr has put a lot of effort into improving the searching and discovery of historic maps online and it was for this contribution that he received the Bartholomew’s Globe. The Bartholomew’s Globe is an award from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) and is awarded in recognition of an exceptional contribution to cartography, mapping and related techniques in Scotland over a long period of years. The award was presented by Bruce Gittings, RSGS Vice Chairman.

Bartholomew’s Award 2012

The rest of the event focused on how historic maps, and historic geographical data in general, were being used in researchers. The flavor was, as expected given the location, generally Scottish, but it also brought together a mix of academic researchers, commercial organisations and enthusiastic amateurs.  Presentations that stood out included:

Alice Heywood (NLS) who described a project that got School children to develop content for mobile apps that provided historic tours of their home towns. The pilot had been run in Elgin and the children had produced some excellent narratives explaining their local historical sites and traditions.  This kind of partnership between the NLS and schools seems like an excellent initiative. Perhaps it could link in with organisations such as VisitScotland to create apps for tourists visiting Scotland. More information about the Great Escapes project can be found on the NLS website.

Chris Speed (University of Edinburgh) who discussed the “blue dot” concept.  This is really that a mobile device will represent your position as a blue dot, but using historic maps and data you can allow the user to travel back through time at a particular location. Chris has had publicity with his Walking through time app, a project which was supported by JISC and EDINA. This allowed users to view historic maps of Edinburgh and embark on guided tours through history via their mobile phones. Chris want to expand this to Glasgow, arguably a more dynamic environment which might reveal more startling change to users. I am not sure I entirely agree with Chris’ comments about connecting with individual objects such as trees which have persisted in green spaces while the build environment has changed around them.  Trees on maps tn to be representative rather than an absolute record.  However, if you are in a greenspace and faced by a tree that is clearly over 100 years old and trees are marked on the map you can believe that the surveyor stood there and added it to the map all those years ago and that tree is a link to the past environment.

There were 2 talks on mapping old transport links.  David Simpson had tried to locate roads marked on Roy’s Maps, Roy’s Roads. David found that bridges were quite reliable features of Roy’s maps and by locating these on the ground and modern maps you could then find the old road features. Many of these bridges are being lost, used only by farmers to access fields but represent an important part of Scotland’s history.  Neil Ramsay (Scotways) was working to display old path networks on modern maps.  Discovering old routes and posting them online is one way in which Scotways in encouraging people to get out and discover their local area. It was noted by a member of the audience that there was an apparent lack of paths connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh. Neil noted this and mentioned that it was certainly on the list of places to investigate, perhaps enthusiastic walkers could lend a hand.  Just go to the NLS maps page and scan through the maps to see if a path exists in your local area that is missing from the modern OS maps, then get out an see if it exists on the ground. Take a look at Scotways excellent Heritage Paths site.

There was a very interesting presentation on using Historic maps as a tool for place-name research given by Jake King (Ainmean Aite na h-Alba). Jake had used the NLS historic maps to investigate the changes in spelling of Gaelic place-names through time.

Bomb Sight

Bomb Sight

Humphrey Southall and Andrew James (The National Archives) deputised for Kate (bomber) Jones (University of Portsmouth) who was unable to travel to the event.  The Bomb Sight project maps the bombs that fell on London during the first phase of the blitz. This project digitised and mapped records held by the National Archive. These maps were previously only available for the public to view in the reading room at the National Archive.  Users can view the location of bombs and display attribute data such as the date, bomb type and, in most cases, view “nearby memories” such as audio and pictures from the archive. Users can switch between the modern map and the 1940 Bomb maps. These maps are a bit grainy and it would be great to see some crisper historic mapping in there.  The Bomb Sight project also has a mobile app that allows users an augmented reality view of the blitz. The project has done incredibly well and attracted a lot of publicity. This demonstrates the power of fusing historic maps with archived data that has never been displayed digitally.

This really summed up the event.  There is public interest in historic data and making it accessible in a digital format is the key.  Once those interested in historic data can get their hands on the digital data, they can turn it into useful information that others can enjoy or even re-appoint for other uses such as education and tourism.


River Data


Flooding in Morpeth – 25/09/2012 – (Courtesy of Johndal – http://www.flickr.com/photos/johndal/)

It is summer here in the UK, or at least it is meant to be. Summer 2012 seems to have been a bit of a wash out and there have been a number of small-medium flood events across the country.  This has prompted me to collate a list of data sources related to rainfall, river flow and flooding for the UK and beyond.

River Level

  • Scottish River levels from SEPA – SEPA provide real-time data for a number of major rivers. (data feed available)
  • England and Wales – The Environment Agency supply information on river levels but no data feed at the current time.
  • USA Water data – The USGS suply live feeds from a huge number of rivers across the US.  You can drill down by state to see individual rivers. (Data feed available)
  • ECRINS – ECRINS is acronym for European catchments and RIvers network System. it is a fully connected system of watersheds, rivers, lakes, monitoring stations, dams made from the JRC CCM2.1 and many other sources.

In addition to river data, hydrology usually requires an understanding of the weather and the climate of an area.  Below are a selection of resources which provide meteorlogical datasets.

Rain fall Data

  • Met office Historc station data – Exactly what is says on the tin, historic data from the Met office.
  • Data.gov– Some met office historic data is also available through the data.gov portal.  Historic measurements form around 20 observation stations and is updated each month.
  • floodwarn.co.uk – not an official EA/SEPA site, however it does contain links to many live met station data feeds.  Links are accessible through a Google map window which makes it easy to search through data.  Floodwarn also provides feed about flood warnings and drought orders.

Flood Alerts

Flood Warnings and Alerts issued by the Environment Agency for England and Wales and by SEPA for Scotland.  These inform the public of increased risk of flooding and should help them prepare for flooding. Alerts are seperated into 3 categories;

  1. Flood Alerts – Flooding is possible. Be prepared.
  2. Flood Warnings – Flooding is expected. Immediate action required
  3. Severe Flood Warnings – Severe flooding. Danger to life.

The following sites are quite interesting when you are looking at flood alerts.

  • Environment Agency – Shows the flood warnings that are currently in force.
  • SEPA – Shows the flood warnings that are currently in force in Scotland
  • Shoothill Flood – a nice map that shows the flood warnings, takes the data feed from the EA and SEPA API’s.  Easier to see where the flood alerts are than scanning a big table. The thing i like about this site is that it shows the river reach that is affected.  Would be great to see them add Scotland!

Met Data

  • BADC – the British Atmospheric Data Centre has numerous free datasets available.  One such offering is the Met Office Integrated Data Archive System (MIDAS) Land Surface Stations.  This contains numerous different weather observations such as wind, air temp, rainfall and sunshine.
  • WorldClim – WorldClim is a set of global climate layers (climate grids) with a spatial resolution of about 1 square kilometer.  Information about the methods used to generate the climate layers.


ShareGeo has a number of useful, free datasets for anyone wanting to do anything with rivers.

  • GB Rivers – this vector dataset shows the location of the main rivers in Great Britain
  • River Flow Gauges GB – shows the position of flow gauges on Great Britains rivers. These are used to monitor water levels and flow.
  • European River Data – Main rivers of Europe
  • EEA Hydrographic Data – ECRINS is a fully connected system of watersheds, rivers, lakes, monitoring stations, dams

2012 November Floods in England

This section concentrates on the flooding that occured in England in late November 2012.  A series of depressions tracked slowly over the south-west of England and over a months worth of rain fell in a day. This fell onto already saturated ground and caused widespread flooding.

  • Guardian reader photographs: some great pictures showing the flooding in England.
  • Met Office Radar: a video showing the rainfall radar from Saturday 24th through to Monday 26th November.  Really visualises the size of the storm and the intensity of the rainfall.
  • BBC Drone video – BBC video shot from a drone. Neat use of tech.
  • BBC Overview – BBC report from 26th Nov with lot of useful links to regional stories

Consultation on access to address register data for social science research

Do you use address register data in your research?  If you do then you might be interested to know that ESRC are currently running a public consultation to gather the opinions of researchers around the UK.

There have recently been substantial changes to the creation and management of address data in the UK with the amalgamation of the National Land and Property Gazetteer and Ordnance Survey Mastermap Address Layer 2 into a National Address Gazetteer managed by GeoPlace.

GeoPlace is a public sector partnership between the Local Government Association and Ordnance Survey. The project brought together address data from local government and Royal Mail and Ordnance Survey. The Ordnance Survey data includes high resolution grid references for each address which permit mapping and detailed spatial analysis.

The establishment of the National Address Gazetteer marks an extremely important development in the UK data infrastructure. However, it also presents new challenges for the academic research community in terms of access to national address products.

It is therefore important for ESRC to assess the implications of these changes in address data arrangements, due to the potential costs and impacts for the social science research community.

This is important, the consultation document will be used to shape the way we access the data in the future.  It is your chance to express your opinion.  The deadline for filling in the consultation document is the 3rd August. To access the survey, click the link below.

Online Survey

GISRUK 2012 – Thursday

The second part of GoGeo’s review of GISRUK 2012 covers Thursday. If you want to find out what happened on Wednesday, please read this post

Thusrday saw a full programme of talks split between two parallel sessions.  I chose to go to the Landscape Visibility and Visualisation strand.

  • Steve Carver (University of Leeds) started proceedings with No High Ground: visualising Scotland’s renewable landscape using rapid viewshed assessment tools. This talk brought together new modeling software that allowed for multiple viewsheds to be analysied very quickly, with a practical and topical subject.  The SNP want Scotland to be self-sufficient with renewable energy by 2020.  An ambitious target. In 2009, 42% of Scotlands “views” were unaffected by human developments, this had declined to 28% by 2011.  Wind farms are threatening the “wildness” of Scotland and this may have implications on tourism.  Interestingly, the SNP also wants to double the income from tourism by 2020. So how can you achieve both?  By siting new wind farms in areas that do not further impact on the remaining wild areas.  This requires fast and efficient analysis of viewsheds which is what Steve and his team presented.
  • Sam Meek (University of Nottingham) was next up presenting on The influence of digital surface models choice on the visibility-based mobile geospatial application.  Sam’s research focused onan application called Zapp.  Sam is looking at how to efficiently and accuretly run visibility models on mobile devices in the field and how the results are influenced by the surface model.  In each case, all processing is done on the device. Resampling detailed DTM’s is obviously going to make processing less intensive, however this often leads to issues such as smoothing of features.  Other general issues with visibility models are stepping, where edges form in the DTM and interupt the line of sight and an over estimation of vegetation.  This research should help make navigation apps on mobiles that use visual landmarks to guide the user, more accurate and usable.
  • Possibly the strangest and most intruging paper title at GISRUK 2012 came from Neil Sang (Sweedish University of Argicultural Science) with New Horizons for the Standford Bunny – A novel method for view analysis.  The “bunny” reference was a bit of a red herring but the research did look at horizon based view analysis.  The essence was to identify horizons in a landscape to improve the speed of viewshed analysis as the horizons often persisted even when the local position changed.
  • The final paper of the session took a different direction with David Miller of The James Hutton Institute looking at Testing the publics preferences for future. This linked public policy with public consultations through the use of virtual reality environments.  The research investigated whether familiarity with the location altered the opinion of planned changes to the landscapes.  Findings showed agreement in developing amenity woodland adjacent to a village, and environmental protection, but differences arose in relation to proposals for medium-sized windfarms (note – medium-sized wind farms are defined as those that would perhaps be constructed to supply power to a farm and not commercial windfarms).

After coffee I chose to go to the Qualitative GIS session as it provided an interesting mix f papers that explored social media and enabling”the crowd”.

  • First up was Amy Fowler (Lancaster University) who asked How reliable is citized-derived scientific data?  This research looked at the prevelance of aircraft contrails using data derived through the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Climate Survey. Given the dynamic nature of the atmosphere, it is impossible to validate user contributed data. Amy hopes to script an automated confidence calculator to analyse nearly 9,000 observations, but initial analysis suggests that observations that have accompanying photographs tend to be more reliable.
  • Iain Dillingham (City University) looked at Characterising Locality Descriptors in crowd-sourced information.  This specifically focused on humanitarian organisations. Using the wealth of data available from the 2010 Haiti earthquake they investigated the uncertainty of location from social media. They looked at georeferencing locality descriptors in MaNIS (Mammal Network Information System).  The conclusion was that while there were similarities in the datasets, the crowd-sourced data presented significant challenges with respect to vagueness, ambiguity and precision.
  • The next presentation changed the focus somewhat, Scott Orford (Cardiff University) presented his work on Mapping interview transcript records: technical, theoretical and cartographical challenges. This research formed part of the WISERD project and aimed to geo-tag interview transcripts .  Geo-tagging was done using UNLOCK but there were several issues with getting useful results out, or reducing the noise in the data.  Interview scripts were transcribed in England and complicated Welsh placename spellings often got transcribed incorrectly.  In addition, phrases such as “Erm” were quite frequent and got parsed which then had to be removed as they did not actually relate to a place. Interesting patterns did emerge about what areas appeared to be of interest to different people in different regions of Wales, however care had to be taken in preparing the dataset and parsing it.
  • Chris Parker (Loughborough University) looked at Using VGI in design for online usability: the case of access information. Chris used a number of volunteers to collect data on accessibility to public transport. The volunteers might be considered an expert group as they were all wheel-chair users.  Comparison was made between an official map and one that used the VGI data. It was found that the public perception of quality increased when VGI data was used making it an attractive and useful option for improving the confidence of online information. However, it would be interesting to look at this issue with a more mixed crowd of volunteer, rather than just the expert user group who seemed to have been commission (but not paid) to collect specific information. I am also not too sure where the term Usability from the title fits.  Trusting the source of online data may increase it use but this is not usability which refers more to the ability of users to engage with and perform tasks on an interface.

There was a good demonstration from ESRI UK of their ArcGIS.com service.  This allows users to upload their own data, theme it and display it against one of a number of background maps. The service then allows you to publish the map and restrict the access to the map by creating groups.  Users can also embed the map into a website by copying some code that is automatically created for you. All good stuff, if you want to find out more about this then have a look at the ArcGIS.com website.

Most of Friday was given over to celebrating the career of Stan Openshaw.  I didn’t work with Stan but it is clear from the presentations that he made a significant contribution to the developing field of GIS and spatial analysis and had a huge effect on the development of many of the researchers that regularly attend GISRUK.  If you want to find out more about Stan’s career, have a look at the Stan Openshaw Collection website.

Friday’s keynote was given by Tyler Mitchel who was representing the OSGeo community.    Tyler was a key force in the development of the OSGeo group and has championed the use of open software in gis.  Tyler’s presentation focused on interoprability and standards and how they combine to allow you to create a software stack that can easily meet you GIS needs.  I will try to get a copy of the slides of Tyler’s presentation and link to them from here.