Jul 142011

As we are now a fair way through the project activity we thought it would be a great time to see what’s been happening with the various JISC Geo projects we are working with. All have their own blogs so here are our recent highlights:

ELOGeo (#elogeo), which is developing guidance and processes for sharing and building best practice in eLearning best practice has been making great progress and have recently launched the repository they have been preparing for the elearning materials and resources that are being created and aggregated in the project.  ELOGeo have also been running around the place appearing at Open Source Junction 2 in Oxford, the International Cartographic Conference in Paris and ELOGeo will also be in use at the Open Source GIS Summer School in Girona. If you are interested in elearning or teaching geographic concepts then the ELOGeo blog should definitely be of interest.

GEMMA (#gemma) moved it’s blog to a lovely new website a wee while ago and you can now join their announcement list. GEMMA have also launched an adorable wee gerbil logo to be the face of the very clever but simple to use mapping tools it will be launching later this year. Watch this space…

geoCrimeData (#geoCrimeData) have been doing initial analysis of their data and considering reasons for some of the patterns they’re been spotting. The team also recently undertook a survey of crime analysts to get a sense of how the tool they are building could be tailored to fit the needs who regularly work with crime data. And, as they continue work on their high resolution dataset, the team have lined up a busy conference schedule for late summer/early autumn – have a look at their Presentations page for more info on these.

Screen Shots of the prototype GeoSciTeach Phone App

Prototype GeoSciTeach Phone App Images


GeoSciTeach (#GeoSciTeach) have gathered the priorities of teaching staff for their phone application for learning and teaching with a GIS dimension. They have also shared screen shots of the app. The team have trialled the app at Kew Gardens, using QR codes on individual plants, and have written some really interesting reflections on the experience of using their phone app in this teaching context. Keep an eye on the blog for more updates.

Halogen 2 (#halogen2) have been reporting on the RCUK and HEFCE announcement to support Open Access – you can see the blog post from the team here and the announcement here. The project had it’s first board meeting in late May and have been prototyping their data extraction tool and loading new data into HALOGEN since. Read more in their June Update.

IGIBS (#igibs) has a new team member and he’s written his first post on current Dyfi projects. The team also ran a workshop at the recent Inspire Conference in Edinburgh. They’ve started a whole area of the blog for follow on their work, INSPIRE and authentication so do head over there, have a look at the slides and add your comments to the INSPIRE2011 page.

JISC G3 (#jiscg3) have been busy with usability work – which will be presented at the Open Street Map State of the Map Conference in Vienna next week – discovering that GIS is not user friendly, what the priorities are for teaching new learners GIS and they have been reflecting on the differences between managing research and programmers (a really interesting read). Read all that and the team’s recent thoughts on map projections over on the G3 blog.

NatureLocator (#naturelocator) have launched their app! This is a huge milestone for the team and we’re really excited to hear that, across both iPhone and Android apps, there have already been almost 200 downloads! The team have also spotted some of horse chestnut leaf mining moths and managed to grab some beautiful photos including, and this is not good news for horse chestnut trees, a pair copulating. So download that app and start looking out for damage on trees near you!

PELAGIOS (#pelagios) have welcomed CLAROS to the project with a great guest post on how CLAROS is bringing ancient art onto the semantic web. The team have also been reflecting on the process of selecting and using Open Licences which will be of interest to many. And, if you are in the mood for something more technical, the Pelagios team have written about how Arachne Places and Topographical Units are being used to annotate Pleides Places.

STEEV(#e3vis) have shared the evolution of their interface – from whiteboard sketch to mock up to working prototype. This followed a visit from Simon Lannon of Cardiff University to discuss the data and design of the visualisation tool in more detail. The blog’s been a little quiet of late as the team work hard on turning that prototype into a working tool. Keep an eye on the blog for updates.

U.Geo (#geoukda) have been hard at work reviewing licences and data to find the geospatial potential of survey data in the UK Data Archive. The team have posted a concise but very detailed snapshot of the work they have been completing to date which is well worth a look.

xEvents / PhilEvents (#xevents) have been continuing to explore the functionality needed to make their geo-aware calendar app for academic events feature-rich such as enabling the cropping of the uploaded images and ensuring passwords are handles securely. If you following the xEvents project you might also like to see the team’s earlier work on xPapers.

So, that’s where all of the #jiscgeo projects are right now. Here at GECO central our main focus has been on getting our first event, the Open Source Geo and Health workshop (#gecohealth), ready. If you are interested in how geo relates to health and research, policy and interventions related to health then please do book your place now!

Oh, and a final footnote: we have set up an email list for the GECO team to share news and for discussion on all things geo! You can find us on the JISCMAIL site as JISC-GECO.

 July 14, 2011  Posted by at 5:11 pm 15/10 Projects, Misc. Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Project News – and gosh there is a lot to report!
Jun 012011

This week saw the return of Spingwatch to UK TV screens. This is a cause for excitement not only because it’s “full of sex and violence (in the animal kingdom)” but also because it gives us an excellent excuse to talk about two of our fantastic JISC Geo projects that should be of particular interest to budding and academic naturalists alike.

IGIBS (#igibs) is working on tools for researchers to share and discover research through mapping their results, through viewing other data available, through seeing what other studies have taken place on/in the same place. The project is looking specifically the huge quantity and variety of research which takes place in the UNESCO Designated Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.

The Dyfi Biosphere is not only beautiful but also contains a uniquely rich variety and quality of habitats which attracts a phenomenal array of bird and other wildlife species. This is fantastic for researchers on biodiversity, on particular soil types (such as the famous Borth Bog), and for naturalists of all kinds… which is presumably why this year Springwatch is also based there!

So, if you become curious about the science and research taking place in and around the Dyfi Biosphere as you see the Springwatch team presenting from the RSPB Ynys-hir reserve (see below) over the next three weeks, do have a look at the IGIBS project page (or keep an eye out on this blog) for updates on this important (and clever) tools for researchers in the Biosphere. And if you happen to be a researcher with data on Dyfi do get in touch with us or the IGIBS team.

Image of the Ynys-hir RSPB Reserve in the Dyfi Biosphere

Image of the Ynys-hir RSPB Reserve in the Dyfi Biosphere - taken whilst visiting the IGIBS Project


The other project that we think will delight Springwatch fans is NatureLocator (#NatureLocator), a project to develop a phone application that will allow you to record biological survey work.

NatureLocator are focusing, in the first instance, at the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Moth (the wee beastie pictured below) and tracking it’s effect on Horse Chestnut Trees. If you want to find out more about these moths and the damage they cause have a look at the NatureLocator blog where the team have posted images of what a Horse Chestnut Tree should look like and what a moth-attacked tree actually looks like.

Image of a Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Moth

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Moth by Tristram Brelstaff (tristrambrelstaff on Flick)

The exciting news from the NatureLocator team is that the code for their Android and iPhone applications is almost finished and they have recently posted some preview  images of their application. These images give a great sense of how easy the app will be to use: you simply record the damage by taking an image and answering several questions and (using the magic of GPS enabled smart phones) place this on a map. This will allow sophisticated tracking of the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner moth problem but there are endless infestations and natural phenomena that NatureLocator should be able to help track, map and advance understanding of. In fact if you have any ideas about how the app could help with your own area of research then do get in contact with the team via the blog.

Mapping is central to understanding and analysing all kinds of natural phenomena – for instance both Springwatch and the RSPB have both asked volunteers to contribute sightings of signs of spring and of birds before now. Mapping any species in detail and particularly mapping changes in sightings, soil quality, etc. can demonstrate important issues such as climate change, changing breeding habits, new plant diseases.

If you have encountered an inspiring example of the way in which people are using maps and geographic information to understand the natural world then please add a comment beneath and we will feature the best projects/websites here on the blog in a few weeks time!



 June 1, 2011  Posted by at 5:01 pm 15/10 Projects Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Springwatch-ing our nature projects
Apr 162011

This week the last of the 15/10 geo projects officially kicked off which means that, like last week’s Grand National we now have an awful lots of exciting runners and riders (though unlike the Grand National we expect all of them to look even more fantastic at the end of their projects than they do now!).

Image of daffodils

IGIBS is the acronym for the Interoperable Geographic Information for Biosphere Study. The project is looking at ways in which research data collected in and/or about the Dyfi Biosphere can be shared and made available to others through WMS – Web Mapping Services. The idea is that a researcher with data that she wants to share or compare to others’ work would be able to upload their data and create their own WMS specifically for their data.

The Dyfi Biosphere is a really interesting location for collecting use cases as there are researchers from multiple different disciplines and backgrounds working in the area at any time. They might be looking at water quality or at economic measures or at the uptake of the Welsh language.  All of these researchers produce geographical information but it may not be interoperable or easily found or compared with others’ work.

Of course it is not just in Wales that data and data with a geographic component is becoming a big issue. At a ScraperWiki Hacks & Hackers Hackday I attended recently it was clear that the types of social and political data that is of interest to journalists has a subtle but important element of geography. Statistics on measures of deprivation are all the more informative when viewed on a map with other features in a landscape. Road accident statistics will vary significantly with the features of the landscape but comparing those statistics to other data (e.g. locations of pubs, pothole repair work budget by local authority) may provide – as it is hoped with many of the 15/10 projects even more interesting opportunities to analyze and interpret data.

Viewing data on a map also makes it somehow more personal as we are to always starting our experience of maps with out own area of the world and drilling down or looking out from there. Ask anyone to play with online mapping tools and, after a pause, their first move will be to look up their own address. Indeed Arcade Fire’s now very well known The Wilderness Downtown (an interactive video using Google Maps, video, animation and HTML5 magic to create personalized films) played entirely upon the strength of our psychological ties to our place on the map. Unsurprising then that it can be much easier to grasp data when we can relate data on our own area with data from other surrounding or more distant areas whether that is about using expert data – as in IGIBS or STEEV – or whether that is about beginning to add our own data about our surroundings as in NatureLocator.

And on that slightly random note I shall hand the blog back to James as I shall be engaging in my own geographical experiments  by exploring Arran for my first ever trip there, map quite firmly in hand.

 April 16, 2011  Posted by at 8:00 am Misc. Tagged with: , , , ,  Comments Off on IGIBS Project Kicks Off
Feb 012011

I can now disclose the successful 15/10 projects which will form the focus for GECO. In alphabetical order they are:

  1. Bristol University is hosting the ‘Nature Locator’ project, tagged as #NatureLocator
  2. Edinburgh University is hosting the ‘Spatio-Temporal Energy Efficiency Visualisations’ project, tagged as #e3viz
  3. Edinburgh University is hosting the ‘Interoperable Geographic Information for Biosphere Study’ project, tagged as #iGIBS
  4. Essex University is hosting the ‘Unlocking the Geospatial potential of survey data at the UK Data Archive’, tagged as #?
  5. The Institute of Education, University of London is hosting the ‘Geo tools for Teachers’ project, tagged as #?
  6. Leeds University is hosting the ‘Exploiting geo-spatial datasets to enhance crime analysis and related research methods’ project, tagged as #geoCrimeData
  7. Leicester University is hosting the ‘Improving and Enhancing a Vital Spatial Research Asset’ project, tagged #?
  8. Nottingham University is hosting the ‘e-Learning Framework for Using Geospatial Open Data, Open Source and Open Standards’ project, tagged as #?
  9. The Open University is hosting the ‘Document and Integrate Ancient Linked Open Geodata’ project, tagged as #PELAGIOS: Enable Linked Ancient Geodata In Open Systems?
  10. The School of Advanced Study, University of London is hosting the ‘xEvents / PhilEvents’ project, tagged as #xevents
  11. The University College London is hosting the ‘Geospatial Engine for Mass Mapping Applications’ project, tagged as #gemma
  12. The University College London is hosting the ‘Bridging the Gap between the GeoWeb and GIS’ project, tagged #?

More on these soon but a good launching point (in fact the counterpart to this blog is) the jiscGEO blog maintained by the 15/10 Programme Manager.

 February 1, 2011  Posted by at 3:21 pm Misc. Tagged with: , ,  1 Response »
Jan 192011

Name of JISC SP or ‘sub service’: Infrastructure Call 15/10; Geospatial Strand

Name of Project: GECO – Geospatial Engagement and Community Outreach

Directly Incurred Staff[1]

Project Manager: 25% FTE


Project Office (INSPIRE focus): 5% FTE


Project Office (INSPIRE focus): 5% FTE


Promotion and Publicity Officer: 5% FTE


Project Office (Linked Data focus): 5% FTE


Senior Software Engineer: 5% FTE


Software Engineer: 5% FTE


Junior Software Engineer: 15% FTE


Administrator: 5% FTE


Helpdesk: 5% FTE


Social Media Officer: 20% FTE


Total Directly Incurred Staff (A)


Directly Incurred Non-Staff

User Support


Documentation & e-content


Promotion, T&S & Conferences

(includes UKLP engagement, INSPIRE outreach and EDINA travel to micro events plus funding for a series of local micro events, some reserved to fund guest speakers,INSPIRE domain experts + some contingency )


Technical and Operations: Equipment & Support


Staff Development


Total Directly Incurred Non-Staff (B)


Total Directly Incurred Costs (C)



Total Requested From JISC


No: Full Time Employed


(across 11 staff)

 January 19, 2011  Posted by at 9:37 am Project Plan Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on Project Plan Post 7 of 7: Budget
Jan 192011

Work Package outline

WP1 – Project Management (inc reporting etc) [JR]

Purpose: General oversight and project direction setting.

WP2 – Synthesis and collation [JR,AR,CH]

Purpose: To ensure that the primary aim of GECO is achieved – the wider promotion and engagement of ‘communities’ to utilise geospatial resources. Ensuring maximum exposure of project and aims to widest audience, focusing on ‘growing’ the community via the successful 15/10 projects by bootstrapping and ensuring synergy across and within disciplinary silos.


Bookend all-hands events


Social Media outreach [NO] NB JISC view this as principle means to reach a wider audience(s) so this is viewed as central to outreach activities


15/10 Project portfolio

Local Micro events

GWG,MRDP,RDTF and Linked Data Focus

Liaison with DFF / JISC synthesis work

WP2a – Logistical support [AB,JW,IE]

Purpose: to assist with admin for event organising/travel. Directing GECO related queries from the community. Promotion and usual ‘marketing’ (Newsline, conference stands etc)


Help desk [HMc]


Purpose: To ensure that EDINA takes lead in ensuring HFE readiness for INSPIRE. To better scope the problem and to brief the wider community – both at ‘coalface’ and senior institutional managers.

Baseline ‘info packs’ ; briefing

UKLP engagement/INSPIRE tracking

Legal/records management work inc data audit

Production of decision tree for institutions

WP4 – Technical Assist (inc LD) [BB,JW,SEx2]

Purpose: To ensure project outputs are integrated into EDINA services, that any new services interoperate with ours and to provide a ‘fall-back’ infrastructure for INSPIRE data publishing.

Fallback data publishing infrastructure (INSPIRE as Service)

15/10 outputs integration

WP5 – Eval & impact review [JR]

Purpose: To ensure project overall objectives have been met and that Programme level outcomes are communicated to broad audience. Critique may influence future decision on JISC ‘geo programme’ funding.

Best practice exemplars

Functioning demonstrators/services/data products

 January 19, 2011  Posted by at 9:36 am INSPIRE, Project Plan Tagged with: , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Project Plan Post 6 of 7: Projected Timeline, Workplan & Overall Project Methodology
Jan 192011

The GECO Project Team consists of the following individuals at EDINA.

James Reid – Project Manager and principal contact

Role – primary interface to 15/10 funded projects, chief GECO blogger

Anne Robertson, Project engagement with INSPIRE focus, GECO blog contributor
Chris Higgins, Project engagement with INSPIRE focus, GECO blog contributor
Andrew Bevan, promotion, community liaison, GECO blog contributor
Jo Walsh, technical adviser with focus on linked data,GECO blog contributor
Ben Butchart, Senior software engineer, 15/10 project deliverables will require some integration with existing JISC infrastructure (e.g. dataset delivery, service integration)
TBC, Soft Engineer
TBC , Junior Soft Engineer
ADMIN, various for administration (time keeping, travel booking, finances)
HELPDESK, various, for front line support to users, channeling enquirers to relevant persons and ensuring all queries are logged and dealt with in  a timely fashion.
Nicola Osbourne, Social Media Officer, primary orchestration of ‘virtual community’ via social media channels (supplementing GECOblog)

In terms of end user engagement there are effectively two strands to this – the establishment of a ‘virtual community’ around the funded 15/10 projects (hence the prominence of blogs and social media channels) and the more old fashioned face-2-face, event based engagement (via what we term ‘localised micro events’). Our plan for the latter is to runs  a series of these over the coming year at geographically dispersed locations in order that the 15/10 projects (or logical groupings of them) might extol the virtues and benefits of geospatial resources to a local (and hopefully ‘non-trad’ geospatial) community.

Once the full list of 15/10 funded projects is announced  we can commence to establish synergies and connections between them and the micro-events as a way for individual projects to establish a rapport and dialogue that we hope will continue indefinitely…

I came across this image which in many ways encapsulates some of what GECO is aiming for (excluding the distance learners bit, although that would be a nice by-product if it transpired..)

 January 19, 2011  Posted by at 9:36 am INSPIRE, Project Plan Tagged with: , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Project Plan Post 5 of 7: Project Team Relationships and End User Engagement.
Jan 192011

2011 and so to our fourth ‘project plan post’ on the delightful subject of licensing.

The underlying philosophy behind the approach to licensing in GECO is quite simple – make things as open, reusable, free from restrictions and domain agnostic as is practicable.

That said, it is recognized that under certain circumstances this is aspirational and it is just not always possible to live up to the democratic ideal. For example, in cases where there is licensed 3rd party content or viral licenses impose their own commutative restrictions. Derived data issues around Ordnance Survey data spring to mind.

Anyhow, the basic tenet is one which GECO aspires to and the funded 15/10 projects are all expected to pay more than lip service to the philosophy ion order that public monies benefit the broadest audience – a sort Benthamesque  Utilitarianism in the field of open data and services.

In practice, we will aim to use something like the Open Database License or Creative Commons to ensure that we aim for Bentham’s greatest felicity principle.

 January 19, 2011  Posted by at 9:31 am Project Plan Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Project Plan Post 4 of 7: IPR (Creative Commons Use & Open Source Software License)
Dec 072010
Customer: “Ive been doing risk analysis by hand for five years, and we finally got your program so we could do it automatically — but theres a bug in it. The answers come out differently each time.”
Tech Support: “Sir, are you aware that our program uses Monte-Carlo analysis?”
Customer: “Of course I am. Thats why I bought it.”
Tech Support: “Sir, do you know what Monte-Carlo analysis does?”
Customer: “Dont get rude with me, of course I do.”
Tech Support: “Put briefly, sir, it runs through your project several times, throwing random delays in, and at the end it averages out the results.”
Customer: “I know all that — what I want to know is why it keeps giving me different answers every time I run it.”

So. Risk. The bane of any project – all those uncertainties and unknown variables. What to do? Ignore it? Pretend everything is within controlled limits and there are no dependencies? Well, ideally yes, if you like an easy life and think that the world is  a forgiving place! Try that one on with your Programme Manager and see how far you get!

So. Risk. You have to live with it and the real trick is to have in mind where things can (or are likely) to go pear shaped and how to correct things if and when they do. Crystal balls! I hear you scream and to a degree yes, you do need a sense of the mystic, but on the other hand we all deal with risk every day and manage it to greater of lesser degrees of success – the recent weather in Scotland is surely a risk but its effects were compounded by poor risk analysis (some might say complete lack of it, but hey, government’s a tricky walla and you can’t anticipate heavy snow in Scotland in winter surely?).

The point? Think ahead, second guess where things might go wrong or, perversely too right – greater success can be a risk in itself.


What are the Risks of Not Taking Risks?

The table below is  a summary of perceived risks for GECO. Of course its not exhaustive, nor is in intended to be. A more ambitious effort might lead us onto defining a risk register but we are not dealing with that degree of risk management here. In general, the bigger the stakes at risk, the greater the likelihood you’ll need a Risk Register – somewhere to note down what can go wrong and what you intend to do when it does. For our purposes the below is the risk assessment and acts as the register.

The risk table for GECO

GECO Risks

 December 7, 2010  Posted by at 12:13 pm Project Plan Tagged with: , , , ,  1 Response »
Dec 022010
"My dream is that every American  student, at the end of every
block of  instruction in every conceivable subject, can say
proudly and  knowledgeably, I have done the map.
Because that means they know who they are, where they are,
and how to get where they want to go."Walter A. McDougall

GECO (and yes I know, that’s not how you spell the friendly little lizard – but hey! there s only so many tortured acronyms you can cope with – its the best I could come up with and its not too far off!!)

Anyhow, GECO (our project, not the misspelled lizard or one of many geology survey firms – try Googling ‘GECO’ for fun!), is about making ‘geo stuff’ more widely visible to it’s core audience – the UK Higher and Further Education community.

I confess that I have some concerns over the use of the term ‘community’ as it strikes me as being overworked and a shorthand way of saying you are not entirely sure who specifcally you are trying to target. Indeed, without veering towards Thatcheresque pronouncements along the lines of  ‘there’s no such thing as community’ I do think its fair to say there is no single ‘community’ – there are lots of them!! Not surprising really as UK HFE (blasted abbreviations/acronyms again) is a variegated environment, socially, culturally and institutionally. That’s before you consider discipline specific idiosyncrasies and fetishes…

So, if variety is the spice of life, what we want from GECO is a curry that’s palatable to as broad a culinary audience as possible (thats perhaps an unfortunate metaphor as I now have images of diced lizard in tikka masala).

GECOs initial focus will be to work with the JISC funded geospatial projects (funded under JISC Call 15/10, geospatial strand), to esnure that there is some cross-fertilisation and synergy achevied or at least attempted – a mild curry if you will.

Its unlikely, given that the rationale and impetus behind the funding call was to spur the uptake and use of geospatial resources in ‘non-traditional’ domains – yes, geographers stand back, others have an interest in space too!, that it will be easy to foster a ready sense of ‘community’ across the (presumed) disparate projects but perhaps everyone likes curry these days.

However, we need to await the outcomes of the funding decisions to decide just how a (hopefully) eclectic mix of projects can assist in bootstrapping the larger aspirations of GECO i.e. to make geography matter across as broad a user and discipline base as possible.

 December 2, 2010  Posted by at 12:55 pm INSPIRE, Project Plan Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on Wider Benefits to Sector & Achievements for Host Institution