I think any attempt at blogging the actual events of the day here are rendered somwhat redundant by Nicola Osborne’s brilliantly comprehensive live blogging of proceedings over at GECO. Thanks Nicola!
In short though – the day was a great success. Getting people excited about metadata is not necessarily easy, but there was lots of interesting discussion among a group with pretty varied backgrounds and angles on geospatial issues. This included representatives from funders (JISC, ESRC), data and geospatial service providers (Swedish NDS, WISERD) and researchers.
The discussion ended up extending beyond just INSPIRE and more generally into the geospatial potential of social science data. I’ve extracted what for me were some of the key, take-home-and-act-on messages from the workshop below:
- Hazy legal obligations aside – INSPIRE provides a solid basis for geospatially useful metadata. To ensure compliance is just good data management practise, and not is necessarily very difficult to accomplish for those already using a good metadata schema.
- Confidentiality issues should be carefully considered by working groups when it comes to INSPIRE data specifications – of particular importance to social sciences i.e. dealing with micro-data.
- Generally, there is insufficient institutional expertise in GIS to assist users and ensure it’s being ‘done right’. Providing data and visualisation is great, but we need a skill base in order to use these resources properly.
- Metadata based web portals/ browsers are not only cool, but useful! We need more of these for the social sciences, while carefully considering users and potential extensibility along the way.
As an aside, I was particularly interested in the difference of opinion between the data infrastructure purists and those more inclined toward innovation and ‘public science’. I emphathise with both sides of the argument, and think that in our approach to the geospatial challenge a union of the two will be critical.
Various #jiscgeo communications have invited comment on the ‘child of ten standard’ as applied to our project deliverables – i.e. could a child of ten achieve anything with our product in ten minutes. It’s difficult to comment in any really compelling way on this – reasonably, I find it difficult to imagine any child of ten taking even a vague interest in metadata mapping or trying to locate geospatial variables in survey data 😉 .
To take things slightly less literally we could ask; what could a non-expert achieve with our product in 10 minutes? Well, we can confidently say that there is a very clear difference between our geo-browser product and the relatively minimal documentation that it builds upon. The interface invites the exploration of geospatial metadata – a task that could previously have involved much frustration is now elegantly simple. Given that one of our geo-browsers key aims is to provide non-expert users with better tools for working with data, we are particularly proud of this usability.
We should be ready to give more information on our final products in the very near future!
On the 7th October we are hosting a workshop on INSPIRE for the social sciences at the UK Data Archive. Co-organised with EDINA’s GECO team, we want to bring together academics, data providers and the research councils to look at approaches to the EU INSPIRE directive, in particular the Annex III data specifications; and to provide a platform to discuss what needs to be done.
Further details and registration can be found on the UK Data Archive home page, including a draft programme. There will be speakers on the day representing the ESRC, NERC, UK Location Programme and WISERD.
A few posts back we detailed the work carried out so far. Since then, and using the information gathered, we have been hard at work on various tasks:
- Formulating a roadmap for UK Data Archive INSPIRE compliance, with expert input from EDINA.
- Feeding back into Archive practise and procedure, including the continued development of a comprehensive list of spatial unit definitions for use as a controlled vocabullary.
- Designing a web resource to present the data we have collected to our users, and better enable use of our social science survey data in a geospatial context.
I’ll talk about this last activity in a little more detail. Since the beginning of the project we have been considering how we can create something tangible to help our geospatial data users, and this represents a first forray in that direction. We have dubbed out concept a ‘geo-browser’, a web based resource discovery tool that brings together study level information, unit definitions and boundary data. Two metadatabases will sit under the site, one containing data on studies and the units they contain (providing the ‘study view’); the second being a structured list of unit definitions and other data (for the ‘unit view’). These data will sit under a faceted search/browse interface, allowing the user to find data of interest quickly and intuitively using any combination of filters and search terms. The graphic below is an early snapshot of the design.
The crux of the design is the movement between study view and unit view , with linking off to third party boundary data from either interface. This work is likely to influence future developments to Archive services, so is an important pilot in addition to a unique resource.