Category Archives: GISRUK

GISRUK 2020: A brave new world

Online conferences are everywhere now – and everything now has online as a prefix. The GISRUK 2020 conference was no exception, and originally scheduled for 21th – 24th April, it was postponed and moved online, to 21st to 23rd July. GISRUK is the largest annual GIS research conference, bringing together academics, researchers and students, as well as those from government, commercial and other sectors interested in GIS and its applications.

We had a excellent selection of keynotes, including Tao Cheng, Mark Birkin, Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño and Krzysztof Janowicz. One theme that cropped up several times was that of networks and graphs as a new spatial data format, that one day might sit alongside vector and raster data sets – I will need to update my Intro to GIS slides! Tao talked about how we can think about networks underpinning urban areas, that we can turn any spatial data structure into a network, and that often the network links are much more important that the nodes themselves. Also, graphs and networks lend themselves to temporal data, with network links changing over time, which traditional GIS data structures have struggled to capture. Krzysztof Janowicz extended this to talk about knowledge graphs, linked data and the semantic web, and how graphs as a data structure underpin this. This allowed him and his team to develop knowledge based geo-enrichment, allowing us to ask questions of data that required both geo and non-geo inputs. He also included a great quote:

As usual at GISRUK, there were a great selection of ECR presentations, showing a huge diversity of PhD and ECR work (and even some MSc work!). Of particular note for me was Thomas Gilbert talking about VocalGeo: Using Speech to Provide Geospatial Context in the Classroom, using voice input in a classroom setting to control a digital globe. I was also very impressed by Timna Denwood, presenting her work on Alternative Interfaces for Improved Representation in Web-Based PPGIS, using an example of the islands of Barra & Vatersay, the western most inhabited part of Great Britain.

No conference is complete without the social element, and I have yet to attend a conference that truly cracks this problem. No amount of video conferencing software can replicate waiting in line for lunch and having a chat with whoever happens to be there! GISRUK has a social roulette space where people could go and chat, but it didn’t get a lot of use, potentially because of timing and a 10:00 – 17:00 programme being quite full on. Two elements that worked really well and created a good range of social interaction was the social quiz and tea time conversation with Sarah Wise. James Haworth confirmed the British tradition of being great at creating quizzes by putting together a four round quiz for us; identifying universities based on their logos, identifying cities that GISRUK had been to before based on interesting facts (e.g where was Marks and Spencer founded?), some great GCSE Geography questions(!) and identifying cities based on aerial photos.

Social wise, this was continued the following evening by an absolutely amazing panel discussion hosted by Sarah Wise. The panel, Denise McKenzie (Benchmark Initiative, Geovation, UK), Licia Capra (Professor of Pervasive Computing, Department of Computer Science, University College London) & Monica Stephens (Ph.D., University of Arizona, 2012), fielded Sarah’s questions with ease and provided amazing insight into their current work, challenges facing the GIS community. She also included some fun questions, including your favourite game (I’m glad to see Settlers of Catan was mentioned several times!), and what tattoo would you get to represent your work, in a reflective, pessimistic Pacific Rim style (I can’t remember the exact phrasing – please do comment if you remember!). Monica advised everyone to start blogging and putting your thoughts out there – something I can heartily recommend. Denise also gave some great careers advice for the ECRs (and all of us) listening – be open to what opportunities come your way, and that no-one would have been able to describe her current role to her when she was 21! This particularly resonates with me; my career plan was to do the traditional academic path and become a lecturer, professor etc. and I have taken a wildly different route, but suffice to say that I am happy with what I am doing, and happier that I think I would be if I was a lecturer (although that is another blog post!).

One massive plus of the online model is that it increases accessibility, and we had a great many more people register for GISRUK online than in person (~600 registrations, compared with 200 in person). We had people from all across the world, which is a great change to our usual UK and northern Europe focus.

As usual, GISRUK gives prizes to the Best Paper and Best Short Paper, voted on by the attendees. I would like to offer my congratulations to the prize winners this year:

Best Paper
Timna Denwood
Alternative Interfaces for Improved Representation in Web-Based PPGIS

Best Short Paper
Christopher Lloyd
Using machine learning to classify urban building footprints into residential / non-residential categories, in low income settings

Also congratulations to the CASA Award for Best Spatial Analysis:
SM Labib
Greenness visibility using viewshed analysis: A pilot study in Manchester

Every year the local organising committee do a fantastic job pulling the conference together, and Andrea Ballatore (Brikbeck) and James Haworth (UCL) did a great job this year:

Finally, I look forward to seeing you at the next GISRUK, which will be hosted by Cardiff University. Details to follow, please join the mailing list to find out more.

Cross-posted on
https://www.geospatialtrainingsolutions.co.uk/gisruk2020-a-brave-new-world/.

UAVs, spatial data and data use: GISRUK 2019, Newcastle University

GISRUK is the annual GIS Research conference in the UK which showcases the latest in GIS (Geographical Information Science) and Geomatics Research from the UK and across Europe. I attended the 4-day conference at Newcastle University and it was amazing to see the latest developments from across the geospatial community.

One of the key themes for me that emerged from the conference was the debate between whether spatial data is ‘special’ or is it data just another data type, one among many? For many years when GIS was a niche area requiring specialist skills to use, there was a clear argument that spatial was special. Now the bar of entry to using spatial data is much lower, through the use of tools such as Google Earth, Tableau and even ArcGIS Pro, which means many more people can get the benefit of using spatial data and analysis. Spatial data is another tool in the toolbox of analysts, which allow us to be solution architects (solving problems) rather than geo-engineers (tinkering with projections and file formats). I don’t think we are yet at the point where using spatial data is as easy as using an Excel table, but we are so much closer than we were even just 5 or 10 years ago. The traditional desktop GIS package (ArcGIS / QGIS) is no longer the only way of working with spatial data: advanced users have more data science orientated solutions such as Python or R, and non-technical users can get great maps from Tableau. In fact James Bowles found many organisations in the third sector (charities and NGOs) use Tableau to do data analysis (including spatial analysis) rather than using tools like ArcGIS.

Spatial data is becoming more widely accessible, with many users in the third sector choosing Tableau for their spatial analysis, over traditional desktop GIS such as ArcGIS or QGIS.

One of the regular features of the GISRUK Conference Series is a key focus on Early Career Researchers, those students who are currently studying MScs or PhDs. About 60% of them will go straight to work in industry after their studies, so this is a great opportunity for them to find out more about working in industry. Both junior staff and senior consultants came in from ARUP to explain what ARUP do and why the students’ skills are vital in industry. One of the big areas of growth is the combination of remote sensing and machine learning; these skills are very sort after by industry and there are some very exciting developments in the earth observation field.  Machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) are gaining a lot of coverage, both in terms of how and where we use them, but also from the point of view of ‘how do we use AI ethically?’, and ‘what new questions do we have to think about when we are using AI & ML?’. One of the keynote speakers, Prof. Renee Sieber talked about the importance of public participation in what she termed ‘GeoAI’ (AI applied in a geospatial setting) and the fact that the fact that AI is not unbiased at all; it reflects our societal biases and we need to be careful when using it.

The use of spatial data is fundamental to all of the work presented at GISRUK, and availability of data is often not as clear cut as it really should be. In the panel discussion on ‘How will the opening up of geospatial data help the GIS community?‘ one of the key elements that was discussed was data infrastructure. The provision of metadata is often quite important in terms of being able to select suitable data for specific projects, and if we are to further develop automated data process (including data selection) then comprehensive metadata is key to much of this, and currently fairly lacking. Dr Gobe Hobona, from the Open Geospatial Consortium, demonstrated how the OGC have been instrumental in developing a range of standards that are key to the interchange of spatial data between different software and organisations, including the provision of metadata. Gobe also mentioned the developments of UAVs, both as tools for spatial data collection but also as transformative decides in geospatial interoperability, allowing access to more and more varied data sources. They are also very cool, such as the spectacular swarms of UAVs we saw at the recent Beijing Olympics!

Upcoming Trends identified by the Open Geospatial Consortium, including UAVs and indoor geospatial solutions (see also https://github.com/opengeospatial/OGC-Technology-Trends).

UAVs were mentioned across many different themes in the conference, including for data capture, combination with AI (to identify cracks in road surfaces) to impact on birdlife in wildlife reserves. They are clearly now entering a phase where they are part of a wider toolbox, rather than a novelty in themselves, and so are maturing into a new data source and product. There was also a very interesting presentation by Kevin Minors on crowd management, including techniques for modelling the crowd as a whole from a series of static data points, which has a wide application in highly variable crowds, such as railway stations.

Overall this was a great conference with a fascinating insight into the cutting edge of research in spatial data and GIS. Next year GISRUK is at UCL and Birkbeck, University of London, April 21st to 24th – see you there!

To find out more about new GIS technologies, how to use them and how they could benefit your research and analysis, sign up to the Geospatial Training Solutions mailing list or send me an email!

Cross-posted from
https://www.geospatialtrainingsolutions.co.uk/uavs-spatial-data-and-data-use-gisruk-2019-newcastle-university.

GISRUK 2018: A Return to Leicester

Last week I attended an amazingly sunny GISRUK (Geographic Information Science Research UK) conference in Leicester. I have fond memories of Leicester, as I completed my BSc Geography (2003-2006) and MSc GIS (2007 – 2008) there. Much of the university and city has changed, but an amazing amount is still the same – both in the Bennett building lecture theatres and certain well frequented take-aways!

University of Leicester – Attenborough Tower (L) and Charles Wilson Building (R)

I coordinated the Early Career workshops, where those early in their GIS careers (including, but not limited to, PhD and MSc students) came together for two half-day sessions to find out more about GIS as a career in academia and industry, to learn more and compare notes about their respective PhD/MSc experiences, and most importantly, to get to know each other before the main conference! We had a great variety of input from James Norris (Ordnance Survey / Group on Earth Observations / AGI), James Kendall (RGS), Dave Unwin (ex University of Leicester & Birkbeck), May Yuan (Editor-in-Cheif IJGIS, University of Texas at Dallas), Addy Popy (ESRI UK) and Katie Hall (ESRI UK).

Early Careers session in full flow

The main conference had a great selection of talks and presentations covering every application of GIS from archaeology, to crime, health, transport, and urban studies! It is always a challenge to work out which of the three parallel sessions to attend, and I can’t attend everything. Particularly of note for me was Alex Singleton’s keynote on ‘Why Open Data are Not Enough’, discussing some of the issues with open spatial data, particularly in terms of data longevity which very much reminds me of this XKCD comic, and still really hasn’t been solved for spatial data. This was rather well illustrated by the CDRC Data Store that has been developed through the Consumer Data Research Centre; there is no mechanism for ensuring this continues after the CDRC funding finishes, and this is the norm with many academic projects.

Alex Singleton: Why Open data are Not Enough

There was also a great presentation by Sam Cockings looking at how we can better model day time populations, from a variety of data sources. Integrating many real time data sources is going to be a key aspect of spatial data management in the future and I can see many projects using the skills and technologies Sam described.

Next year GISRUK 2019 will be in Newcastle University, and I look forward to seeing you there!

If you would like a chat about GIS Research, or GIS Training for small groups, please do email nick@geospatialtrainingsolutions.co.uk or give me a call on 01209 808910.

Cross-posted at http://www.geospatialtrainingsolutions.co.uk/gisruk-2018-a-return-to-leicester/.