Nov 282011

Today we are blogging from the JISC Geo Show & Tell event taking place at RAVE (Ravensborough College), which sits right next to the Millennium Dome/O2 Arena in London. The hashtag for today is #jiscgeo – please tag any of your own blog posts, images or tweets with this. The full programme of JISC Geo Programme Meeting events over the next few days can be found here.

The day will split into 2 halfs. This morning we will have a Keynote from Julie Sweetkind-Singer, Assistant Director of Geospatial, Cartographic and Scientific Data & Services, Stanford University. This will be followed by an introduction to all of the JISC Geo projects by David F Flanders, JISC Programme Manager for Geospatial Innovation. Then we will break for lunch and in the second half of the day there will be a Show & Tell session where each project shows off their work around lab-style tables. We will be liveblogging the first half of the day but then manning both a INSPIRE table and a JISC GECO events table so we will blog highlights of this afternoon towards the end of the day.

David Flanders, is introducing us to the day with an alert to keep that QR code reader app handy – there’ll be lots of QR codes appearing through the day… Also there will be blogging, tweeting, images, videos, etc. going on all day. All of these should be available under Creative Commons licences and available after the event. Please make your posts etc. available similarly and use the #jiscgeo hashtag.

We are just having a wee introduction from David but first he’s had us up saying hello and chatting with our neighbours.

The Aim of today is:

To figure out which products are going to help catalyse the spatial revolution in .AC.UKs!

We want to change the sector with the way we do things, the way geospatial is understood in the sector. David has a big spatial agenda: the sector is unconsciously using spatial in their activities (teaching, learning, research). He asks how many of us remember first looking at Google Maps – very few people do – and then how many of us remembering looking at a satellite image of our house – most of us do. We need to get the sector to recognize how geospatial can be consciously recognized and capitalized upon.

This afternoon we will see 15 brand new geospatial products. And we want your crowd knowledge of the best project, the best pitch. The format will be an unconference format. It’s all about people NOT sitting through presentations. You need to move around and interact with as many projects as you can. Use the “rule of two feet” – if you’re not actively participating walk away, try another group. We will have 6 simultaneous groups and loads to hear about. No-one will be offended if you walk away. We are going to do a wee vote so please vote independently. The Wisdom of Crowds is much more useful if you all submit your thoughts individually. Think of it as a country fair/livestock fair – and yes, I will be using a megaphone to heard you.

I want us to think about how we can get our institutions to understand that they are using geospatial (even though they don’t think they are). I’m really pleased to have Julie Sweetkind-Singer here as I think she has a great model for this. I visited her about a year ago and they are doing some fantastic things with geospatial.

Keynote: Julie Sweetkind-Singer (Assistant Director of Geospatial, Cartographic and Scientific Data & Services, Stanford University)

David came to speak with us about a year ago to talk about geospatial on the campus. I will be talking about geospatial outreach at Stanford. Some will be around work the library is doing, but also around campus. One thing to know is that the library system is quite large – around 500 people in total – which helps us to do this sort of support. I have one colleague here and another arriving this afernoon who will be happy to talk with you, answer questions etc.

Stanford has around 7000 undergraduate students. About 34% humanities and social sciences, 13% engineering students, 2% earth sciences and around 51% undecided. We have around 9000 graduate students and the biggest department here is engineering (39%) and about 3% in earth sciences. We have around 1900 faculty members. Stanford’s nickname is the farm. Originally there was a lot of farming, a lot of animals, etc. the campus is 24 miles and there is a biological researve doing lots of geospatially related research.

We are expected to innovate and do new things – even in the library – and that can cause silos and problems sharing between silos.

We have a series of centres working in spatial research that sit separately. The Spatial Analysis Center (Earth Sciences), the Natural Capitol Projtec (Woods Institute for the Environment): conservation projects – they produce lots of open source tools that are available online, etc.

The SU Library’s Technical Infrastructure is that there is a Branner Earth Sciences Library which has a computer lab with 8 high end machines with dual monitors and expert staff on hand. We have Site Licences for ArcGIS on over 800 machines. We also have Google Earth Pro on all of those machines – people want to visualise their data instead of or as well as analysing their data. We are developing a Stanford Geoportal which will allow data to be available to the Stanford community, and if the data can be made open, shared with the world. We have also been working for about 6 years on the Stanford Digital Repository 0 it’s incredibly important that we take care of and manage our digital assets just as much as we would a  physical asset. We have a team of programmers who work of that repository. There are about 4 to 5 Terabytes of geospatial data in there right now, it’s very important in terms of supporting the work we do.

In terms of the broader infrastructure we provide support for anyone who wants our services across the university. We provide information, support, and that is across disciplines and across the organisation. When I first work at Stanford I had a colleague who would say how few people were doing geospatial work but now my colleague in that role has to keep people from her door there has been such an explosion of interest in geospatial recently.

We try to provide access data, software

basemap data

Patricia Carbajales is the Geospatial Manager. She ensures that we support the aspects of GIS that are a commodity – the bread and butter skills you need to work with your data, the underpinning to allow you to do projects on your own. So she has delivered over 100 workshops to over 450 students in the last two years. The work is integrated into classes – through principle instruction of Fundamentals of GIS and being technical assisteant to Urban Mapping Practicum. There is also student project and research support with advance taining for power users. There have been huge outreach efforts to use geospatial in projects with the community. Patricia is a geographer by training and she has 20 hours of work per week across two student support officers.

One of the things that Patricia has done is to set up a Google site to highlight the geospatial training at Stanford University. We recently did a Google Mapping Workshop and had people over from Google looking at how to use the software, how to use fusion tables to import data, how to create narrated tours etc. She created resources around this, presentation tools, programming code. etc. ALL of those materials are now online and open to all so that anyone can use these resources.

We also want to see how we are doing, if we are providing the right sort of support. We get feedback from all of our students immediately so that we can immediately feed this into future work.

We have formal GIS/Spatial teaching across the university. In Global Positioning Systems (Aero/AStro); Digital methods in archeology (anthropology); quantitative analysis in Archeology and Anthropoligical Researchl Spatial History: Concepts, Methods and Problems (history);… geospatial sits across all schools. But there is no geography department so students do not neccassarily feel confident about the wider context beyond the tools they have been using.

So, if we look at who took the Fundamentals of GIS modules from 2002-2008 we see that Civil and Earth Engineering, Earth Systems, etc. all very high usage but there is a long tail of students across other schools. Since 2009 we’ve seen huge increase of students from Earth Sciences, Uban Studies is third biggest group and biology, etc. have seen huge growth in uptake.

We are also involved in a serious effort to create content through scanning of maps, We have about 3000 maps in the Branner Earth Sciences Libary. We have about 5000 antiquarian maps. We have been scanning all maps that are out of copyright. We have also been working on a project with private collectors/donors called “Digital Philanthropy”. We approach map collectors with exceptional collections and asked them to let their full collection be scanned and shared with the world. So far we’ve been very successful in this approach and we are just getting our first set of collections of these materials scanned – this is material on historical maps and views of California. The next set will be a collector of maps from around 1600. All of these maps will be free on the web and downloadable. There is immediate use of these materials in other projects.

So now I want to look at Geospatial projects both within and outside the library.

The Spatial History Project was begun when one of our professors was given money from Carnegie Mellon Foundation and he decided to start a Spatial History Project. There were 2 members of faculty in this project, there are now 13 members of faculty. Initially that academic was particularly interested in the history of the railroad. But they are really bringing undergraduate students into the research process at a really early age and getting engaged with these researchers looking at social history etc. You can find this work at:

Another project here has been Tooling up for Digital Humanities – a site full of tools for working in the digital humanities. The project was a collaboration between the Spatial History Project ad the Computer Graphics Lab. There was a weekly workshop series in 2011 with library presenters accounting for four of the eight workshop presenters.

Nicola Coleman, my colleague here, is an Academic Technology Specialist (ATS) and runs the SU Humanities Center Research Lab. Part of what they do is large scales international collaborative research. Thy are looking at how to do spatial visualisation of data rather than geospatial analysis exactly. So for instance they have visualised the flow of letters from Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin, it really helps visualise the spread of ideas.

Anoher of my colleagues from the ATS programme is Claudia Engel and she is assigned to the Anthropology Department. She also does research using historical satelite imagery. She also teaches a Spatial Approaches to Social Sciences class which again is totally cross university.

One of our colleagues, Elijah Meeks, is a Digital Humanities Specialist works directly with academics. They suggest projects and he works with one of them on a specific proposal for six month windows. He moves project to project but he stays at the university. He helps the faculty find grant funded research, he helps them find people to work with etc. If you are interested in network analysis then he is a big blogger at: He does a lot of work and training with GEPHI.

In terms of outreach and Collaboration: We have a GIS Day and we also did a Geography Weeek with a real variety of speakers We have a GIS Special Interest Group – which is also beyond the institution work. We have been working with the New York Public Library on their Map Warper appliation. We sponsored WhereCamp 2011. We have collaborated with Google on workshops. And we have participated in ThatCamp, Visualisation MeetUp Group, etc.

We have some challenges here. Demand is up and we have competing needs as well as increased demand. The complexity of the software/the high learning curve of those software is a real issue. We find students and faculty increasingly come in with really robust computing infrastructure needs. That’s one of our biggest pain points right now – how do we support this ever increasing need for computing support from students. And finally we do have a lack of coherant curriculum for teaching spatial thinking and methodologies but you can see where improvements are needed when you work across the university.

We do try to make sure we support high profile research. We ensure our services have very high visibility. Demand does continues to grow.

Coming up we have the VITA (Visualization and Tetual Analysis) Centre – some very interesting collaborations likely to come out of this. Library/faculty collaboration to capture, distribute and retain faculty data. We have a real role to play here in our GeoPortal and in in our Stanford Repository. There has been some expansion of digital humanities support and we have some expansion of the digital map support.


Q1) How do you justify your spend on geospatial to your institution?

A1) Well we wanted a geospatial programmer and our head of library proposed this to our budget committee and they came back asking what GIS actually was. Within two hours we had to tell them who was using GIS, which faculty members used it (and they had to be the right ones), and we had to show how the outreach value of GIS. We had a database of GIS related publications, who on campus was using this stuff. We were able to produce a two page summary in an hour and we got that post approved. And we did send GIS day and Geography week information to our senior univeristy management – I’m not sure if they did but they heard about it.

Q2) Can you say some more about the uptake of those GIS classes by students in other schools?

A2) An interesting question. The number of history students taking GIS classes is very low but they use geospatial data really heavily.

We’ve had a really hard time getting into places like the Business School. They are very set in the classes they want students to take, and getting in there has meant getting professors who are interested. Students can drive uptake of geospatial but when they leave so can the interest in geospatial. Where you have faculty that really understand the software, the methodologies. But if you move department you might be re-taught in GIS or may have no opportunity to gain those skills

Q3) Have you done any outreach to Schools?

A3) We have been working with California State University who have a Geography programme and we employ them for our labs to support our students. But we haven’t been working with K through 12 yet.

Q4) You talked about the Digital Repository. What form does that take to help support your work?

A4) When they started to build the Digital Repository it was built to hold any content, not just text but all sorts of materials. That was partly because we had a project with the Library of Congress to look at the metadata that one needs for different sorts of data.

David) Actually the connection to Julie did come from the repository community.

Q5) Digitisation project – any intellectual property issues etc. Especially with the philanthropy projects.

A5) What’s quite interesting about this. We have been scanning everything pre-1923 and thats all in the public domain. We are proposing that anything pre-1923 that is in the public domain stays in the public domain. Its the role of the library to make things available. So we make sure that anything pre 1923 to view and for downloading. We’ve seen more libraries in the United States doing this. So when it comes to the philanthropic projects there’s an element of psychology here. There is some guilt that those materials are locked away and inaccessible. We have our donors come in and speak to the spatial history group. They speak with Richard White on the importance of that work. Then they are happy to sign that contract to make their collection made available. A real thought leader here is David Rumsey, a map collector in the Bay Area who has already made his maps available. Some of our collectors are planning to sell those maps on at some point. Legally us scanning those maps with the owners permission is fine, even if they go on to be owned by someone else.

David: What’s exciting to me is that this is a glimpse of the future. And we can now think about how we take forward our projects and our institutions to move them forward.


Introduction to the products on display for the day, by David F. Flanders (JISC Programme Manager for Geospatial Innovation)

In introduction to this afternoon’s unconference side of the day I am going to give you a quick introduction to all of the projects you’ll be seeing this afternoon. Of the projects I’ve been involved with I think this has been a fantastic successful programme. Normally I would expect maybe 3 or 4 products that will be usable, useful in the future. My role is to help you explain why should continue to invest in spatial infrastructure.

The total investment is just short of £1 million now. It will probably get above that once we reinvest in some of the successful projects. We need that sort of investment going in. We’ve had 20+ universities, 7+ non UK univeristies. We’ve had 122 months of projects in total (all are between 6 and 12 months). 104+ staff funded (for some of their time). We have had about 10,000 unique hits on our websites. Over 300 blog posts (from 15-50 blog posts). I will be giving a prize for the best single blog post and an award for the best overall blog. It’s changing the way we can communicate our work by doing documentation this way. Many of you will still need to fill in your final sign off survey and we’ll know even more about how the programme has run once we have those. We have 48 products in total from my count. And in terms of what is picked up going on that will determine the success.

So first we have the STEEV (#e3vis) project. Working on visualisations around geo and over time.

Next the ELOGeo (#elogeo) project. They have created teaching and learning material around geospatial. We have about five people here from that project.

GEMMA (#gemmaproject) and it’s really exciting! My 12 year old cousin digs this one!

GeoCrimeData (#geocrimedata) is here – they have some cool data looking at dangerous areas etc, definitely check them out.

GeoSciTeach (#geosciteach) – this has huge potential to go viral. They have an epub, an app and a fantastic blog explaining their case studies and how it works.

U.Geo (#geoukda) – they’ve done great work on INSPIRE and the social sciences, they’ve really gone into the nitty gritty and what that’s involved. See also JISC GECO’s work on INSPIRE.

Halogen2 (#halogen2) – they’ve got a great product here to vistual data.

IGIBS (#igibs) – I just got a chance to play with it – a great way to see the implications for geospatial and it’s importance in various area.

IIGLU (#jiscg3) – great branding, great video, great content on learning adn understanding geospatial

NatureLocator (#naturelcoator) – fantastic app, also super back end really bringing geospatial to the masses, not just the educational masses.

PELAGIOS (#pelagios) – you have to check this out. Being able to see

xEvents (#xevents) – PhilPapers is a massively successful repository and this is really about engaging people in the spatial and the time. It does a great job of identifying and gathering events for any subject discipline.

JISC GECO (#jiscgeco) – This is a special project, an umbrella project for the JISC Geo strand. They have a stand here all afternoon and you should go see them. They can advise you on

Greg, the peg, he’s been reading all the blogs, reading everything and tomorrow he will be summing up all of your knowledge over the 300 odd posts. He’s been doing some great posts for us as well.

Some other projects here include Wiserd, they are doing some fantastic stuff in Wales. We will also have someone here this afternoon from HistoryPin which is a product from We are What we Do. They are kind of a not for profit company working with Google to build a long lasting product. They are a challenge for you in thinking about success and sustainability.

And last but not least of course we have the vote. It is intended to be each of you individually thinking about what inspires you. The prize maybe isn’t that exciting but it would be great, especially if you can explain why it’s exciting and what it can achieve. We can feed back to the projects to help them prove their success.

I am trying to make the case that we can move forward with some more projects in this area. That evidence is so so important. You meeting up, you making some noise is so important. Please tweet and blog and push this forward in the future.

So go between all of those tables this afternoon, see them all! Think about which ones you really do want to see!

And with that David is closing off the morning session and we are getting ready to go to lunch. We will not be liveblogging this afternoon but keep an eye out for the #jiscgeo tweets and our own @jiscgeco account. We will add a new post with the highlights of the show and tell session later today so keep an eye out for that and do leave us your comments on the projects today in our dedicated JISC GEO page/Visitor Book area.

 November 28, 2011  Posted by at 9:41 am 15/10 Projects, Events Tagged with:

  One Response to “JISC Geo Programme Meeting – Day One – Show & Tell”

  1. […] of geo in the education sector.  A hugely detailed summary of the event can be found on the GECO blog and i dont intend to recreate that here, rather provide a succinct summary of the first 2 days […]

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