Open Access Journal Publication: implementation, copyright and dissemination, using the Journal of Maps as a case study

Wednesday, 16 April, 2008

Smith, M.J.
US Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1385, 43-46.

Open access (OA) journals are rapidly becoming an important channel for publishing academic articles and, although they represent a small proportion of the total number of journals published annually, it is significant that organisations such as British Medical Journals (BMJ) operate in this manner. This article explores the broad implementation of OA journals, issues pertaining to copyright and the distribution of (geospatial) research data.

Glacial striae observations for Ireland compiled from historic records

Wednesday, 16 April, 2008

Smith, M.J., Knight, J. and Field, K.
US Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1385, 105-107.

Glacial landform mapping is one of the primarily inputs for the reconstruction of past glacial environments and processes, potentially inferring maximum ice sheet extent, primary ice flow configurations, and ice sheet dynamics. Drumlins, end moraines, ribbed moraines, eskers and meltwater channels are often recorded and subsequently used to infer former ice sheet conditions.

Striae (linear, subglacial, scours on bedrock up to several metres long), have been recorded as palaeo-evidence for ice flow direction for nearly 200 years. The recording of striae observations requires extensive fieldwork and is therefore not suited to collection over large areas. Cumulative data collection by many researchers in Ireland since ~1850 has led to a large published and unpublished archive of striae observations. This research has collated over 4000 individual observations from geological survey maps and memoirs, published (peer-reviewed) literature and unpublished work (theses and fieldnotes). These records are now unified in a single database, georeferenced to the Irish National Grid, and linked to a qualitative assessment of their locational accuracy.

High spatial resolution data acquisition for the geosciences: kite aerial photography

Wednesday, 16 April, 2008

Smith, M.J., Chandler, J. and Rose, J.
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 34, 155-161.

This paper highlights the requirement for very high resolution (<0.25 m) elevation data for quantitative and qualitative morphometric analyses. Traditional techniques for high resolution data capture (e.g. airborne, heliborne) are prohibitively expensive for small studies and therefore a kite-based platform was developed, in conjunction with a consumer non-metric digital camera, for data capture. The combination of kite and digital camera is more generally termed kite aerial photography (KAP).The accuracy of data derived by digital photogrammetry and imagery acquired using a kite based non-metric camera is assessed by three experiments: one on smooth terrain, one on tor terrain and one on a glaciofluvial esker. Ground control targets were surveyed at all three sites, with the imagery subsequently processed using the Leica Photogrammetry Suite. The results demonstrate that the method can extract a high number of sampling points at high accuracy, provided that there is suitable image texture across the site. However, final judgment concerning the suitability of derived data is dependent upon an understanding of measurement variability and user quantification of acceptable accuracy.

Enter Plan B

Wednesday, 16 April, 2008

I came across Donald Clark’s Plan B blog blog recently and have been both impressed, and quite amused by mahy of his musings. He was CEO of the Epic Group and is now a board member at Ufi (learndirect). He clearly has quite a bit of experience in training and this shows through in many of his posts. Two of my recent favourites include:

1. 10 Reasons to Dump Lectures
2. NUTcases

This second blog had me rolling around. Cutting through all the hyperbole are comments like:

“Most people see teachers as doing a good job, and we all understand the stresses and strains. However, most also see the massive holidays, job security, good pay and pension, as reasonable rewards. What many reasonable people resent is the constant carping and negativity, especially from the Easter union bash.”

Geotat for a geot*at (or maybe that should be a geowanker!)

Friday, 11 April, 2008

Following on from the last blog on the Geo8 trade show and, in particular, following on from the last AGI Tat Awards, I would like to announce the formal re-inauguration of the official, unofficial, Geo8 Tat Awards, or simply GeoTat (for those American readers the title might be lost on you. For everyone else this is what I am on about).

Those not familiar with the term “tat”, may I point you to the Oxford English Dictionary? Or, to save time, the wonderfully to the point:

tasteless or shoddy articles

So there you have it. What crap are vendors giving away at this year’s show? Well, in comparison to the 2006 AGI trade show, it was a really poor affair, as evidenced by the photo. I’m thoroughly disappointed at how professional companies are becoming. I don’t really care that Topcon must have had over 250,000 of survey gear on their site. What I want is some really tasteless freebies. Pens were the order of the day; time will tell if they work (and on past experience the OS really score here). Faro gave away the best quality pen (perhaps matching the “Best Dressed Stand” award they received); the only one metal, but insider information (not mentioning any names Paul) suggests that quality insurance is lacking. As for the OS, pens were all they had. No crappy TOIDs this time around. Perhaps its time to tighten the belt at our national mapping agency. Leica had free pastries and coffee. Satisfaction for the stomach maybe, but quickly forgotten. Pentax had a flashy stand, with absolutely nothing of no-substance on it at all. Pointools tried to flagrantly buy off the judges with some paper anaglyph glasses and a Roses chocolate. Sorry guys, it won’t work. It’s sad to say, but even Kingston University was coming close to winning with some truly awful pens and magnets. I should give a brief mention to Positioning Systems with their globe stress balls; better than pens perhaps, but its so 90s that I couldn’t be bothered to actually pick one up.

Worst Tat
1. Pentax: far too professional for my liking. Avoid their stand like the plague.
2. OS: surely we can do something creative…..

Best Tat
1. Trimble: cracking mugs, although the spoons seem liable to snap
2. Trimble: great little karabiners
So the winner this time around is Trimble, awarded first and second place, taking the coveted crown away from AutoDesk. Well done guys.

Geo8: the new GIS trade show?

Thursday, 10 April, 2008

Since the demise of the AGI Trade Show in 2006, I’ve felt that there has been somewhat of a void in the GIS industry. However, are there any other exhibitions that could fill this void? Well the potential is certainly there with Geo8 which was the “World of Geomatics”, predominantly a surveying trade show, that has rebranded slightly and is now trying to expand to fill the GIS area as well. And if this year is anything to go by then it has certainly gone some way to doing this (and shame on the AGI for killing off a great event). In addition to the more “surveying-type” companies (Leica, Topcon, Pentax), we had some GIS/data types as well in the form of Ordnance Survey (Vanessa Lawrence gave keynote), Cadcorp, BlueSky, Getmapping and NPA. MapInfo and ESRI were notable exceptions and their absence shows a marked lack of understanding of the current marketplace. Perhaps ESRI UK is focusing on the ESRI EMEA conference to be held in London. And MapInfo (or is it Pitney Bowes Software)? Are they becoming a meaningless part of a global conglomerate or a major force to reckon with? Whatever the answer, they weren’t here to talk about it.

So how did the show go? For starters the organisation was spot on. The Ricoh Arena in Coventry is just off junction 3 of the M6 and a complete no-brainer to get to. Anything vaguely in Birmingham area scores for centrality and transport links. The arena itself had ample (free!) parking with a generous size exhibition hall that was perfectly suited to the event. The nightmare of the Chelsea exhbition is, thankfully, a dim and distant memory. Not only that, but there was an inclusive 5 lunch voucher and 256Mb pen drive included in the free pre-registration. OK, so they are going all out for getting people in, but I have no complaints what-so-ever.

As ever the Kingston Centre for GIS had a presence in the form of a seminar by Ken Field on how to better present spatial data; targeted at middle-managers the talk went down well and was a big draw on the first day. Elsewhere, you had the usual vendors displaying their wares and it is a really good way of making industry contacts and keeping up with new faces and new products. Being a mix of GIS, data and surveying it was nice to see a different slant on things. In particular, laser scanning is clearly becoming a major sales ticket with Leica, Zoller and Frohlich and Faro all pushing their wares, along with Pointools for some stunningly fast point cloud manipulation software.

So Geo8 have got their finger bang on the money and I can only give a whole-hearted recommendation to the shebang. Roll on next year!!

1st year field trip to Swansea

Saturday, 5 April, 2008

I’ve just got back from our first year geography field trip to the Gower Peninsula. Designated the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1949, development is limited and so it is relatively unspoilt and quite wild. A perfect place for viewing the physical geography/geology (some good geology and coastal/glacial geomorphology), as well as some very interesting human geography with Swansea, the South Wales coalfield and rural Carmarthenshire right on its doorstep. The weather at Easte can be quite “changeable”, however for the last 3 years it has been simply stunning. Look at the 2006 photos to see how beautiful the place is.

Conveniently we stayed at Swansea University which, when you have 50-odd students, is much easier than going elsewhere. The Swansea campus at Singleton Park was predominantly built in the 1960’s, although there is currently a big building progamme. However, if you go into any of the original buildings (including some of the halls of residence) then the only word to describe then is, well…. a dump. If I was a parent visiting the campus I would definitely think twice. That said the Geography Department has got a glorious building, although it is starting to look a little worn and dated inside. The piece de resistance is definitely the mens toilets on the second floor. It was like stepping into Victorian England; great!!!

“My point buffers are’t round.” “No problem sir, that is an ArcMap design feature.”

Wednesday, 2 April, 2008

One of my MSc students was recently completing a piece of coursework that required finding a solution to a spatial task, part of which involved the creation of buffers. He noticed that the buffers created around points in ArcMap weren’t round (giving a significantly different solution to MapInfo) but rather oval and so decided to investigate further. His answer came in the form of this technical note from ESRI:

ArcMap Buffer Wizard produces buffers that are not round

As this note describes, by default ArcMap uses the Hotine projection to calculate buffers and doesn’t recommend its use at high latitudes or distances over ~5 miles. I find this an amazing default behaviour. My expectation would have been to perform the buffer in the same projection as the input Data Frame however this is not the case. In fact it appears to be a hard coded setting in the registry that is only changeable by using the AdvancedArcMapSettings utility.

Of course this raises more questions. Why the Hotine projection? Does it effect ArcView 3.x or ARC/INFO prior to the release of ArcGIS? I thought that ArcView 3.x used a different algorithm to calculate buffers (through the GeoProcessing Wizard) than ARC/INFO. This Wizard (in UI form anyway) was ported to ArcGIS, whilst buffering was also available from ARC/INFO in ArcTools. So are the 8.x and 9.x buffer algorithms different?

For such a fundamental algorithm to have this default behaviour is quite worrying and one wonders how many studies have incorrect buffer calculations.