Serials Forum: Helping you manage your journal collections

Booking is now open for this free half-day event focusing on some of the key issues in journal management – with presentations and discussion of the overarching themes and successful approaches in addressing them.

This is an opportunity to learn more about developments of EDINA activities in this area -covering the redeveloped SUNCAT (, as well as community initiatives such as the UK LOCKSS Alliance ( and Keepers Registry (, focussing on long-term access to journal content.

Join us for a lively debate and afternoon tea.

Presenters: Zena Mulligan (SUNCAT), Fred Guy (Keepers Registry, SUNCAT) and Adam Rusbridge (Keepers Registry, UK LOCKSS)

Draft Agenda

1.00 – 1.30 pm   Registration and tea/coffee

1.30 – 1.45 pm   Putting the Serials Forum and EDINA services in context

1.45 – 2.30 pm   Managing your journals – how SUNCAT can help you fulfil your ILL requests; keep your catalogue up to date and analyse your collection (including use cases; details of the redevelopment; demo of the new service, and future plans)

2.30 – 3.00 pm   Forum discussion on SUNCAT issues

3.00 – 3.30 pm   Tea/coffee and cake

3.30 – 4.15 pm   Securing continuing access to e-journal content: how EDINA’s services can help (with reference to the Keepers Registry, UK LOCKSS Alliance, and PECAN initiatives)

4.15 – 4.45 pm   Forum discussion on Keepers Registry, LOCKSS, PECAN etc. issues

4.45 – 5.00 pm   Summary and next steps


London: Monday 17th March 2014, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, near Russell Square, London
Registration and event details:

Edinburgh: Friday 21st March 2014, Main Library, University of Edinburgh
Registration and event details:

For further information about the Forum please contact the EDINA helpdesk at

We look forward to seeing you in March!

Creating a transparent overlay map with mapbox-ios-sdk

For this blog post i have managed to capture on of EDINA’s mobile developers.  Their guest article will describe how to create transparent overlays for mobiles using mapbox-ios-sdk.

I am working on a historic map overlay, where the user can adjust the transparency of the historic map. The user can then see the how the land use has changed over time by using the slider.


I am going to use the map-box fork of route me. Looks like a good bug fixed version of Route-me and map-box do seem to have great some great products.

Unfortunately it doesn’t have an have an API to dynamically change the opacity of a tile source out the box. So I added it.

Its pretty easy to add. Each tileSource has a RMMapTileLayerView container when added to the map. Within that can manipulate the CALayer.opacity to get the desired effect.

I added a fork to github for testing

And example of use – the code is in github. Do a ‘git clone –recursive’ to install the submodules.

And example of use. In the  main view controller.

- (void)viewDidLoad
    [super viewDidLoad];
        // Do any additional setup after loading the view, typically from a nib.
    RMOpenStreetMapSource * openStreetMap = [[RMOpenStreetMapSource alloc] init];
    RMGenericMapSource * weatherMap = [[RMGenericMapSource alloc] initWithHost:@"" tileCacheKey:@"cloudCover" minZoom:0 maxZoom:18];

    self.mapView.tileSource = openStreetMap;

    [self.mapView addTileSource:weatherMap];

    self.overlay = weatherMap;
    // rough bb W = -30.0 degrees; E = 50.0 degrees; S = +35.0 degrees; N = +70.0 degrees
    NSLog(@"zooming to europe");
    CLLocationCoordinate2D northEastEurope = CLLocationCoordinate2DMake(70,-30);
    CLLocationCoordinate2D southWestEurope= CLLocationCoordinate2DMake(35,50);
    [self.mapView zoomWithLatitudeLongitudeBoundsSouthWest:southWestEurope northEast:northEastEurope animated:YES];

    [self.mapView setOpacity:0.5 forTileSource: self.overlay];


//hook up a slider to manipulate the opacity.  

- (IBAction)changeOverlayOpacity:(UISlider *)sender {

    NSLog(@"Slider value changed %f", sender.value );
    [self.mapView setOpacity:sender.value forTileSource: self.overlay];
If you found this blog useful, you might want to look through the archived articles on EDINA’s developers Geo-Mobile blog


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 – 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”:

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


UK Research Reserve and SUNCAT – our story so far

UK Research Reserve (UKRR), a collaborative programme between the HE sector and the British Library (BL), aims to preserve research material for the community and build up a national research collection in a time of rapid change. By de-duplicating low-use research material together, UKRR members (29 HEIs, led by Imperial College London, details can be found on UKRR’s website: are able to dispose of print journals and repurpose newly available space to better meet local demands, without losing access to the content. So far, UKRR members have released more than 70km of shelf space, or 10,700 square metres, and it is estimated that more than £21m capital savings and £8m estate management costs have been achieved.

The HE-BL partnership is supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It started with an 18-month pilot phase which proved the concept and set the foundation for the programme. Its success resulted in HEFCE’s further investment of £10m to expand the scheme nationally and to encourage more HEIs to take part. UKRR has been further awarded an extension of 12 months to January 2015; it enables us to de-duplicate more material, improve our data, and explore potential opportunities.

The collaborative and coordinated approach we have adopted aims to identify one ‘access copy’ (normally held by the British Library) and two preservation copies distributed amongst the membership. To achieve this, one of the processes we put in place is called scarcity checking (i.e. a process designed to determine if an item offered by one member is available elsewhere within the membership, and if so, at which institutions ), and the collaboration with EDINA helps streamline work flow and save time and staff resources required in the process. Initially, the scarcity checking was conducted by each member institution as they offered holdings to UKRR for de-duplication. It was time consuming and prone to errors and inaccuracy.

A successful pilot was run between the University of Edinburgh (one of UKRR members) UKRR and EDINA. EDINA developed a script which triggered an automatic process to accept a file of records submitted by a UKRR member for searching against the whole SUNCAT database and the local catalogues of the two UKRR libraries which are not SUNCAT Contributing Libraries. This collaboration has contributed to the quality of the data we process, helped reduce associated risks and significantly reduced the time required for checking in member libraries. As a result we have more reliable data to base our final de-duplication decisions on.

UKRR’s work with its partners is key to the programme’s success, and such collaborations further demonstrate synergies that can be created when the community work together. We value the work that EDINA has done for us, and we look forward to continuing working with EDINA and to bringing benefits and values to the community.

Daryl Yang, UKRR Manager


GIS for avalanche probability mapping and more

When I am not doing GIS or writing about GIS I try to escape to the mountains.  They mountains have always had a magnetic like attraction over me, and are probably the reason I got into maps and geography in the first place.  Mountains are magical, dynamic places but they do present dangers to those who venture into them.  The risks and dangers increase significantly when you add snow into the mix.

Avalanches are the most obvious risk and they are not confined to the high mountains of the Alps and the Rockies.  Avalanches occur frequently in the mountains of Great Britain. In fact, the constantly changing weather in Great Britain regularly creates quite unstable snow packs.  Research into avalanche prediction and probabilities helps forecasters inform walkers and climbers and this research relies on GIS to analyse the various parameters that determine the risk.

I spotted this great article about the use of GIS in mapping avalanche probability in the Northern Cairngorms.  It is written by a PhD student at The University of Edinburgh.  They have used various data such as Ordnance Survey Panorama DTM and base maps from EDINA’s Digimap service. They have then used some free Open Source tools (GRASS – an open source remote sensing package which is also available as a plugin for QGIS.) to run the analysis.

Worth a read, oh, and there is nice pic of a slide from me! Link to the article.


Avalanche Hazard Map


Geoforum 2013


Geoforum 2013

Geoforum 2013

EDINA had a day out in London running it’s Geoforum event. Geoforum aims to bring together Digimap Site reps from subscribing institutions around the country and showcase some of the new functionality in EDINA’s geoservices. It also gives site reps an opportunity to ask questions to the Digimap team and to chat with other reps about how information about, and support for, services is provided. There was a live blog running throughout the day which is well worth a read if you did not manage to attend the event. Links to videos and slideshare will be added as soon as they are available. The keynote speaker was delivered by Shelley Mosco of The University of Greenwich.  Shelley is a member of the The School of Architecture, Design and Constructionand  described the ways in which spatial data could be used to inform design. Shelly was keen to mention the importance of spatial data and GIS in the implementation of Building Information Models (BIMs).  BIMs have been used in large engineering projects for some time, however the government is making them mandatory for all publicly funded building projects in England and Wales. This means that commercial organisations will be looking for students to have been trained in the concept of BIMs and the software that drives them.  You can find out more about BIMs through the following links:

Geofurum 2013 keynote

Geofurum 2013 keynote

Shelley then handed over to two of her current MSc students who gave brief overviews of their experiences of learning about GIS and using spatial data in their projects.  Both David Parfitt and Rob Park were self-confessed GIS newbies, but they managed to get data from Digimap and use it in their conservation projects. The data allowed them to visualise and analyse the environment and provide evidence to support their proposed designs.  Their demo’s were excellent and really showed the power of simple GIS analysis.

You can view the slides from this presentation here:


Digimap Data and a non-traditionalist approach – Shelley Mosco

Next up was a presentation that focused on Open Source Resources for Geospatial. The presentation looked at data, software and web-mapping. The main resources are listed below:


  • OS Open data is available through the Digimap Data Download service.
  • ShareGeo Open is a repository for open geospatial data. It has lots of useful and interesting datasets on a variety of subjects such as wind farms, crime, boundaries and DTMs
  • – the uK government’s open data store


  • QGIS – one of the best open source GIS out there. Lots of functionality and plugins that allow you to perform complex spatial analysis. It is also well supported by forums.
  • gvSIG – anther fully functioning GIS.
  • GRASS – a remote sensing package aimed at serious remote sensor’s. If you are a newbie to remote sensing, you can access GRASS tool through the GRASS plugin for QGIS which makes things really simple.


Digimap is a great web mapping tool, but how can you create your own interactive web map for your website?

  • MapBox – simple intuitive web site that helps users build interactive web maps. Basic functionality is free, more advanced functions are available for a small fee.
  • Leaflet – the engine behind MapBox, it is free but requires user to do a “bit” of programing
  • Openlayers – an alternative to Leaflet which is more flexible. Openlayers powers Digimap. Requires a fair amount of programming knowledge.
  • MapServer – implements Openlayers for enterprise scale operations. MapServer is also used for Digimap services.

Open and “Free” Geo Software & Data – slideshare

Fieldtrip GB – data capture, simplified
Fieldtrip GB is a data capture app from EDINA. It simplifies the process of capturing data in the field against quality cartographic mapping. It is equally at home in urban environments as it is in rural ones. Custom forms allow users to design their own data capture projects and collect exactly what they need for their research.  The session gave a brief overview before running a “live” group data collection exercise.  A custom form was created and deployed to participants mobile phones. They then headed outside and captured data on things like building fabric and design.  After 15 mins everyone reconvened and the collected data was “synced” and exported to Google Earth.
You can view the slides from this presentation on slideshare:
FtGB Slideshare

FtGB Slideshare

FieldtripGB – data capture simplified from Addy Pope

As mentioned earlier, there is a transcript from a live blog (how on earth can anyone type so fast!!), so if you didn’t manage to attend and want to find out what happened please check it out.


GISRUK 2013 – Liverpool

GISRUK 2013 was hosted by The University of Liverpool between April 3rd – 5th.  The conference kicked off with a Keynote presentation from Paul Longley. Paul is well known for his long research career and his excellent text books which form the cornerstone of so many courses in GIS.  The title of his talk was “A name is a statement” and investigated many aspects of geodemographics and genealogy.  Longley highlighted the work that the Wellcome Trust had been involved in that had created a map of Britain’s genetic make-up. From this work you could see how the south of Britain was all very similar but areas such as Orkney were distinctly different to the rest of Britain.  This perhaps relates to the influence of Vikings on the islands genepool (we will forgive him a slip referring to Orkney as the Inner Hebrides). But he pointed out that the patterns reflected the sampling strategy that was used to collect the base data. This was based on 2 premises:

  1. all participants were from rural, semi-rural areas as it was thought that urban medical centres would be busier and more likely to make mistakes taking samples
  2. participants had to be able to trace both sets of grandparents.

A nice study which demonstrates the power in datasets is the Wellcome Trusts DNA database however, care is needed when analyising results as they can be influenced by the sampling strategy.

Longley then moved on to show a number of studies that focused specifically on names.  CASA has been investigating links between names and place for a while.  Pablo Mateos has a number of papers which explore these links (2007 CASA Working Paper, 2011 PLOS One paper) including analysis of naming patterns across 17 countries around the World (2011 PLOS One paper).  For anyone looking for data about names, they should look at ONOMAP (although, Onomap site is down at the time of writing).  An alternative data source might be Twitter.  If you filter the account name to leave only the ones with a proper 1st and 2nd name you can then investigate details about them such as when/where they tweet, now often they tweet and what they tweet about. However there are considerations about the base data that you have to be aware of.  It is not representative of the population as a whole. Twitter users fall into the 20-50 age bracket and users tend to be middle-classed. (I might add that while you can infer ethnicity from the twitter name, it tells you nothing about what the user considers them self to be, i.e British/not British). The final aspect that Longley presented was some initial investigations into what a name can tell you about class and background. For example, Ryan is the 6th most popular name for professional footballers but doesn’t appear in the Top 50 names of Oxford graduates (not sure where these data sets came from). I might add that it only costs £35 to change your name.

Longley also commented on the information that the Census was gathering and questioned if it was still collecting the information that analysists needed.  There is an increasing desire to know about the use of digital tech but this sector develops at such a rate that a 10 year sampling interval would not be appropriate.

Onto the first of the parallel sessions and a brief scan of the program suggested that it would be difficult to decide which stream to attend.   Rather than describe each presentation, I have grouped them together into topic themes.

Stats using R

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise that there were a lot of papers that used R.  There was a workshop on tuesday on the subject and Liverpool has a strong research group that use R as their stats tool of choice. Chris Brunsdon (Liverpool) outlined how easy it was to access data through API’s from R. The other nugget from Chris was that you could use R and Shiny to make web services, making your data interactive and allowing the user to perform some analysis over the web.  Certainly will be looking into these a bit further.

Mobile Mapping

There were a few presentations on mobile mapping apps.  Michalis Vitos (UCL) had created a pictorial based system that allowed illiterate users to record evidence of illegal logging in the Congo Basin. The app was stripped back to make it intuitive and easy for someone who may not be able to read or write to use.  Distances were estimated in terms of football pitches.  Michalis had used ODK Collect to build his app and initial tests in the field suggested that users could collect useful data through it.

EDINA showcased it’s new data collection app Fieldtrip GB which allows users to design and deploy data forms that meet the needs of their research.  Fieldtrip GB is free and is available for both iPhone and Android. Ben Butchart didn’t dwell much on the functionality of the app, choosing to explain some of the technical issues that had to be overcome by the development team.


SpaceBook is a project that William Mackaness and Phil Bartie (University of Edinburgh) are involved in.  Essentially the idea is to provide information to a user about what they can see or about how to get to a place using visual aids and human interpretable instructions (target is to the left of the Scots Monument which is the tall tower directly ahead). The app adopts a speech based approach ensuring that the users hands are free to do other things such as take pictures.  The app has to make some assumptions to extract the users orientation but it would be interesting to try it out. Certainly, Edinburgh’s hilly terrain lends itself to such an app as the skyline changes as you rise and fall across the City.


Empires decline – Pedro Miguel Cruz

The second Keynote was given by Jason Dykes of City University London. Jason is well known for taking a dataset and presenting it in a novel way.  With an hour to fill, Jason took us through some of the more interesting projects that he has been working on and, as usual, he ran live demo’s changing parameters and re-generating the visualisations on-the-fly.  The first visualisation was from Pedro Cruz and it showed the decline of the Empires through time.  It starts with 4 large “blobs” and these slowly fragment into countries until we have a semi-recognisable world map. This would be great as a teaching aid in schools.

London Bike Hire Scheme – Map view

Other visualisations that are worth a look include the BikeGrid which takes feeds from the London Bike Scheme and allows you to view them as in a standard geographic layout and then a grid. The example for London works well as the river retains an element of geographic separation when the gridview is used.  This idea of being able to switch between geographic and non-geographic views can be taken further if you switch to a relationship view, where cluster of similar things are formed. In one example you could vary the amount of geographic control was exerted on the view and see whether or not geography was the reason for the relationship (i cant find the link to this at the moment).

London Bike Hire Scheme – Grid View

All the wiz-bang shown in Jason’s presentation is linked from his webpage. In addition, there are links to the giCentre’s utilities which should help anyone who is interested in using packages such as “Processing” to visualise data.

Other interesting things of note

There were a few other items that are worth mentioning that perhaps dont fit neatly into my hashed themes. One of these is, from Jonathon Huck, Lancaster University.  This site allows people to reate simple questionairs and then they can interact with a map to convey how strongly they feel about the topic using a “spray can” technique. The service is free and allows users to perform basic fuzzy geographic analysis through participatory science. The technique seems to lend itself well to applications such as locating new windfarms, or perhaps monitoring anti-social behavior in a neighbourhood.

Candela Sanchez discussed the Map Kibera project which saw slum communities map their neighbourhoods. Candela applied a similar approach to map the Shankar Maharaj Slum in India.  Candela looked at how easy it was to impliment the Kibera formula and what possible issues it threw up. The issues related to power, the local knowledge that slum dwellers had and the possibility that once mapped, the land could be “valued” and residents taxed or moved on by the landlords. Community buy-in and involvement throughout such projects is critical if they are to benefit the community itself.

Candela received the best “Open” paper award from OSGeo.  Phil Bartie won the overall best paper award.  GISRUK 2014 will take place in Glasgow.



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.



OSGIS 2012 – Part 1

OSGIS is now in it’s 4th year and has really become one of the main events that brings together users and developers of open source geospatial tools.  The nice thing about OSGIS is that it attracts an even spread of delegates from the commercial, the public and the academic sector.  This cross-sector mixing is, in my opinion, very healthy for the geospatial sector.

Jeremy Morley at OSGIS 2012

Day One of OSGIS 2012 featured workshops where users could get hands on experience of software under the guidance of expert tutors.  The morning session saw an introduction to GeoNetwork, a geospatial catalog service, and and overview of the OSM-GBproject which has made in-roads in topologically correcting OSM data. These workshops are integral to the ethos of OSGIS as they are designed to empower both novices exploring the potential of open source software and the expert users looking to refine their skillset and discuss technical problems.

After lunch I opted to attend the session looking at the educational use of OSGeo Live. For those of you that have not heard of OSGeo Live, it is a bootable DVD which allows you to investigate OSGeo software without having to instal and configure it on your own computer. This is an excellent way to explore the functionality offered by the numerous packages such as uDIG, QGIS, Openlayers and GeoServer.

Barend Kobben of ITC in the Netherlands outlined how OSGeo Live was used in teaching and why it solved many issues.  Increasingly universities are assuming that students will want to use their own laptops rather than relying on open access labs.  This means that the tutors have no control of what computer students will use to complete course work. Supporting multiple operating systems and system configurations is virtually impossible.  Using OSGeo Live removes the necessity to configure systems. Just put the DVD in the computer,reboot and go. Well, most of the time.  Not all computers are set to boot from the DVD drive, users would have to access their BIOS to set their boot sequence. Running the OSGeo Live from a USB stick or on a virtual machine potentially reduces the hassle of dealing with boot sequences.

Jeremy Morley of Nottingham Geospatial Institute echoed Barend’s experiences.  Jeremy had used Oracle VirtualBox and then taken snapshots on a Storage Area Network (SAN) to ensure that students work was backed up.  This looked promising but didn’t scale when 20+ students tried to access the SAN. Unfortunately, the snapshots were tied to a single machine ID, students would have to use the same machine eachtime they accessed their work.  This was not an acceptable solution. Jeremy switched to running OSGeo live from a USBstick and this was an improvement, but again, was not without it’s own issues.  The FAT32 format reduced the usable space on the 8 Gb drives to just under 5Gb and cheaper USB sticks were prone to burning out and failing.  But, the solution was acceptable and Jeremy was able to deliver the course to to the students. Next years course will be refined in light of discovering these issues.

As an aside, Jeremy flagged the potential need for more Geographic Information Systems courses to support the wide and varied technical applications which require in depth knowledge of computing.  There has been a trend of Geographic Information Science courses over recent years where students are taught how to apply GIS to solve scientific problems.  However the maintenance of systems and interfaces which allow data to be published and interacted with is important but forms the base of only a handful of course at the moment.

During the discussion of these two papers, it ws suggested that a Cloud Space to run GIS would be useful, if you could configure what tools you wanted.  A figure of 4Gb was suggested as a reasonable workspace.  This would allow users to analyse data but would have to carefully manage their space.  You could always “do with more space” but you could teach with about 4Gb of space.

The first day closed with a presentation by Jiri Kadlec of Aalto University, Finland. Jiri, by his own admission , was new to open source GIS and set himself the challenge of managing and translating data in differing coordinate systems. Projections and coordinate systems are always a challenge.  The theory is that you should be able to get from any “system” o any other “system” by passing through WGS1984.  Jiri found QGIS to be the bet of the bunch but it was not perfect.  Juiri also put together a neat little projection comparison tool which many of the audience thought would be an excellent aid when teaching students about projections, or for showing representations of land areas in different projections.

The day finished with a drinks reception and a visit to some of the sights of Nottingham. Fortunately, some of the best historic sites just so happen to be pubs and the Jubilee Campus is the site of the old Raleigh bicycle factory.

Historic Site