FINAL BLOG POST: the U•Geo GeoBrowser
Unlocking spatial units in social science survey data
Primary audience: Researchers
This is the final product blog post that showcases the main tangible output being developed by the JISC-funded U•Geo project: a resource discovery tool for geospatially enabled survey data. Come and see our live demo on Monday 28 November 2011 in London, at the free jiscGeo Programme event.
What is it for?
Using social science survey data in GIS can be a pain. The complexities of spatial units – the primary means of geo-referencing this kind of data – and their ever-changing boundaries can lead to a minefield of problems and potential analysis error. The U•Geo GeoBrowser will make spatial units more accessible, transparent and usable, and will help users easily find which survey data can be linked to which boundary file. The GeoBrowser matches large-scale social survey datasets available from the UK Data Archive with digital boundary files available from EDINA.
The key ingredients in this are extensive enhanced metadata compiled by the U•Geo team, standard and time-referenced definitions for spatial units and an intuitive faceted search & browse interface, using SOLR. This interface allows for on-the-fly filtering of search results by relevant criteria.
The GeoBrowser means researchers can easily find out which spatial units are present in archived large-scale survey datasets available from the UK Data Archive and which digital boundary shape files can be used to map those spatial units to, to geo-enhance those survey data.
How does it work?
Let’s walk through an example. Our researcher Cheryl is studying the geography of happiness across different regions and localities in the UK. She would like to use various social parameters of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), and wants to find out which spatial variables she can use to geo-reference the dataset. As she is particularly interested in patterns over time, she needs to know this for all waves (i.e. years) of the survey. She is keen to use a statistically sound unit of analysis, but also needs to know which data service (and license) will be required for her to access the variable she wants. Finally, she wants to find an appropriate UK-wide shape file for her chosen spatial unit that she can map the data onto and create some nice shiny maps to impress the stakeholders.
By using the GeoBrowser she finds that three spatial units are available for the BHPS via Conditional Access (she can access one spatial unit after agreeing to click-use conditions): Local Authority Districts, Parliamentary Constituencies and Area Classification for Output Areas. These spatial units are available for all waves from 1991 until 2009 under differing access conditions. The GeoBrowsers also shows her that EDINA has the following shapefiles for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: Local Authority District boundaries for 2001 only; Parliamentary Constituencies boundaries for 1991, 1997 and 2001; Output Areas boundaries for 2001.
A demonstration video will be added here shortly, as our developers are finalising our demo version. For now I’ve compiled some screenshots of the browser in action.
This is just one example of a huge array of potential problems that our GeoBrowser elegantly solves. Using a faceted search/browse interface, the user can very easily burrow into the mass of metadata and find out exactly what they need to know.
Where is it?
The developers are busy finalising the U•Geo GeoBrower. It will go live soon at geo.data-archive.ac.uk
The GeoBrowser provides the first model of its kind, and will feed into larger scale developments to resource discovery services at the Archive. In the future the Archive’s resource discovery will allow the discovery of mappable boundary data.
Follow the UK Data Archive’s Twitter feed to keep up to date on the latest news.
Tom Ensom (UK Data Archive)
Veerle Van den Eynden (UK Data Archive)
Anne Robertson (EDINA)
Matthew Brumpton (UK Data Archive)
With invaluable contributions from: James Crone, John Payne, Oscar Dovao, Sidharth Balakrishnan, Saadat Ali and James Reid.
Disclaimer and licensing
Please note that the U•Geo Geo-Browser is a demonstration product and is provided as is, with no guarantee as to future updates.
The license our geo-browser will be delivered under is still uncertain. However we will be making the source code available through the GitHub repository when the product is launched and sufficient documentation has been compiled.
All deliverables are also available via the U·Geo webpage
Project plan 1: Who Geo? U•Geo!
Project plan 2: Benefits
Project plan 3: Risks ands successes
Project plan 4: IPR
Project plan 5: U•Geo team and users
Project plan 6: Timeline, workplan, methods
Project plan 7: Budget