Friday, 23 May 2008

Geospatial resources use in tertiary education: shaping the future

Last week, I attended a workshop organised and run by EDINA, as part of the eFramework workpackage of the SEE-GEO project. The aim of the workshop was to inform future planning and to begin thinking about how geospatial resources might work in a future world. We were asked to look ahead around 5 years - the general consensus was that we would be seeing an evolution rather than a revolution in that time e.g. ubiquity of geo info.

Opportunities and Challenges

  • economics of information - IPR; FoI; access and exploitation
  • what about the knowledge that doesn't lend itself to a digital format?
  • how to handle digital persona - virtual communities and alternative economies
  • divisive nature of technology - a new division of class according to access to technology? does it disenfranchise or empower?
  • standards and interoperability - impact of Google/Microsoft/Yahoo?
  • how to manage fast paced change and multiple devices
  • still a need to teach and train experts - geo experts will be needed, deeper learning for experts
  • domination of Google/Microsoft/Yahoo - driving technology but have also helped put GI in mainstream
  • data deluge
  • protection/privacy/access/reuse
  • embedding (what does embedding really mean?)


  • need an underlying basic IT infrastructure (e.g. grid, visualisation, mobile) with a spatial infrastructure (e.g. spatial ontologies) overlaid on top
  • Google/Microsoft/Yahoo challenge - raises expectations; discourages sharing?; how well does it transfer to academia?
  • methodologies - lack of skills here - mashups are not research; need to develop more analytical skills in young researchers
  • data - integrity; interoperability; creation (new, repurposed); sharing
  • policy - IPR; funding; publication; RAE/REF; tracking development of information
  • collaboration - technological, social, learning with industry


  • Data is currently in layers and "all over the place"
  • What will INSPIRE achieve?
  • funding for infrastructure: interoperability; storage; distribution
  • role of community generated data
  • quality and validation
  • semantic enrichment
  • where does Google/Yahoo/Microsoft fit?
  • Research Council mandates are not enforced
  • how does a researcher deposit a dataset/database?
  • depth/breadth tension
  • there is a disconnect between creator and dataset - need provenance info - data/process broker, intelligent catalogue
  • (web) services lead to fundamental changes in models of use e.g. do you need processing power alongside the data - remote processing
  • "handy" mobile needed - portable, light, multiple ports, GPS, wearable
  • sensor networks and notion of central storage
  • tools/portals enable virtual world immersion - deeper sense of telepresence
  • can we learn from games technology?
  • consolidated and converged technologies
  • collaboration and sharing - less travel?
  • different publication needs - raw data; code; published papers
Skills, knowledge, people
  • wider promotion of geo info
  • compulsory GI education
  • funders to encourage outputs to be disseminated
  • policy framework
  • repositories, portals, databases
  • need for academic level specialist support
  • career development
  • professional development
  • networks and communities of practice
  • funding for methodological development e.g. spatial methods for Grid
  • copyright and intellectual property - derived data, watermarking, commercialisation
  • training - cross-disciplinary; quality
  • data and standards development - involving user communities
  • ethics - code of practice; awareness of issues; data integrity; monitoring
  • support - policy to encourage networking
  • data access policy - feasibility and extent of info in public domain
  • access/usage permissions - who has the right to grant permissions? authentication in a global context
  • collaborative support - policy to enable multi-centre, multidisciplinary, multisector, multinational activity
  • social software/networking tools
  • wider dissemination of metadata beyond traditional subject boundaries
  • cultural change to cite datasets
  • links between universities and schools
  • changing demography e.g. >adult learners
  • funding - different streams - staffing, content, experimentation
  • benefits - clear roles/responsibilities
  • free or pay to view infrastructure
  • alternative (i.e. to OS) providers now available
  • entrepreneurial drivers
  • REF/RAE should effectively recognise complex and hybrid digital outputs
  • institutional or subject repositories
  • nervousness about depositing material
  • support to clear confusion re IPR especially in relation to derived data
There was some discussion about the role of JISC and its Geospatial Working Group so some messages to feed back.

Also, as an aside, I talked with Dr Douglas Cawthorne from De Montfort Uni in Leicester - they are involved in a large project to map Leicester - the result will be a multilayered map, showing the current city, the Roman city, social maps, emotive maps etc and will incorporate user generated content e.g. photos. Something to watch out for...

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