Ongoing and Recently Completed Projects

GIS-based accessibility research – with particular interests in investigating access to public services in relation to the socio-economic characteristics of such communities (2009-ongoing)

Contact: Mitch Langford / Gary Higgs

Funding Source: Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) funded by ESRC/HEFCW (jointly with Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea Universities)

Research within the GIS Research Centre has involved the development and application of novel accessibility models to public services in Wales. Firstly, GIS has been used to calculate “traditional? accessibility metrics to service level data held as (point) feature data-bases (in a commercial GIS package). This has been used to evaluate the effects of changes in the provision of public services, as, for example, in a study of the implications of the Post Office Network Change Programme. Secondly, research has compared trends in access to services – to date, primary health-care, access to green spaces, public transport and post office provision – in relation to socio-economic data, such as deprivation measures and geo-demographic classifications. This has highlighted the importance of integrating attribute data on service provision and potential population demand with GIS-based network models. Thirdly, methodological research has enhanced existing approaches to measuring accessibility based on so-called “floating catchment? techniques to include a measure of access to public transport opportunities and service frequency. Future research will integrate qualitative data on actual experiences of and preferences for services into these models of potential accessibility. On-going research is exploring how this additional accessibility functionality can be incorporated into proprietary and open source GIS packages as well as the potential use of such measures as alternatives to existing indicators of accessibility in policy-based deprivation indices.

Applications of GIS in health geography and in particular researching the use of network-based models in examining access to primary and secondary health care (2009-ongoing)

Contact: Gary Higgs / Mitch Langford

Collaborators: Richard Fry (Swansea University), Wayne Richards (USW)

Funding Source: ESRC

On-going research is exploring the use of GIS in a range of health geography application areas building on a survey of the use of geographically referenced data and GIS in the NHS. Our survey of the levels and variations in the use of GIS within the primary and secondary health care sectors highlighted the importance of issues such as organizational inertia, training needs, system support, and the influence of individual innovators in shaping utilization of GIS technologies. Follow-up research has involved a spatial analysis of GP referral rates, research exploring the use of spatial clustering techniques in relation to potentially noxious sites and the use of GIS in examining variations in accessibility to NHS dentists in Wales. More recently research is exploring how so called enhanced ‘floating catchment area’ (FCA) models of accessibility can be used to examine the potential impacts of health service re-organisation. This research is exploring innovative methodologies whereby access to health services can be modelled to include public transport timetable information and can potentially be linked with information on health outcomes.

Use of GIS and visualisation techniques in emergency planning such as the police and fire services (2008- ongoing)

Contact: Gary Higgs

Collaborators: Chris Brunsdon (University of Liverpool), Jonathan Corcoran (University of Queensland)

Researchers in the Centre are working with local crime and fire rescue services to develop innovative ways of visualising and analysing postcode-level databases of incident/event data. This has involved using exploratory techniques to investigate the types of socio-economic factors that may be associated with high incidence of crimes or fire service call outs. The commonality or otherwise of these types of factors have been explored by comparing trends in UK cities with those in Australia through collaboration with colleagues in the University of Queensland. Recent research has broadened the set of factors investigated to include for example weather events and the potential implications for trends in crime and fire incident data. We are also exploring the use of geodemographic datasets such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Output Area Classification in explaining spatial trends in crime and fire events.

Applying GIS techniques in collaborative environments and in particular the use of GIS in public participation arenas as part of decision support system frameworks (2006-ongoing)

Contact: Gary Higgs/Dave Kidner/Mitch Langford

Collaborator: Robert Berry (University of Gloucestershire)

Research within the Centre involves an investigation of the use of Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) in combination with multi-criteria decision analysis in the siting of facilities such as windfarms and landfill sites. The focus to date has been on the use of web-based tools to incorporate public participation in the decision-making process. Another facet of this research involves investigating patterns of environmental (in)justice in the UK. Visualisation tools such as fly throughs have been developed to assess their usefulness as alternatives to analogue displays and photomontages. On-line questionnaires have been used to gather public opinions on the use of web-based technologies as alternatives to public planning events related to such developments. More recently ways in which multi-criteria techniques can also be incorporated in the decision-making process regarding the possible siting of facilities have been proposed and we are exploring the potential for crowd-sourcing to inform the decision-making process through the use of methodologies based around Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI).

Understanding the role of ICT use in connectivity of minority communities in Wales (2011-12)

Contact: Gary Higgs

Collaborators: Panayiota Tsatsou (Swansea University), Ian Stafford (Cardiff University)

Researchers in the Centre are developing GIS-based models to examine variations in the take-up of broadband in Wales. In the first stage this involved a review of the ‘digital divide’ literature in access to the Internet by minority groups in Wales before a detailed analysis of small area variations in broadband access. Recent research has explored the potential for GIS-based accessibility models to investigate variations in the digital services provided in public libraries and the analysis of spatial patterns in accessibility in relation to socio-demographic data using the 2011 Census of Population.

Spatial data usability (2013-ongoing)

Contact: Robin Frew/Gary Higgs/Mitch Langford/Mark Ware

Collaborators: Jenny Harding/Glen Hart (Ordnance Survey)

Funding: Ordnance Survey

The proposed research will examine the factors that impact on the appropriateness and suitability of spatially referenced data for a range of typical GIS-based tasks. As more data becomes available through automatic data collection processes (often in real-time), via data exchange and integration and through crowd sourced initiatives, there is a real need to test these data types in applied scenarios and to build on well recognised themes such as data completeness, compatibility and consistency in a range of application areas. This PhD-based study will build on previous research in the areas of software usability and meta-data construction to identify those factors that influence the choice of data for a particular task, the quality of performance of chosen data in GIS-based analysis and, where applicable, will make recommendations that could improve the performance and usability of specific data sets.

Developing digital maps to aid disaster preparedness in East Africa (2009-ongoing)

Contact: Dave Farthing/Mark Ware/Gary Higgs/Tony Harris

This PhD project is considering ways of mapping East Africa, with special focus on the Mbale region of Uganda. At the beginning of the study the region was poorly mapped. Mainly as a result of climate change and population growth, Mbale is prone to flooding and landslides. Improving the region’s mapping infrastructure is a key component of disaster preparedness. This project is evaluating differing approaches to mapping areas in developing countries like Uganda. Encouraging local people to map the Mbale region has proved problematic. The project has been looking at various models for technology adoption and diffusion, and considering which is most appropriate for modelling the problems that need to be overcome in order to encourage mapping in developing countries, with a special focus on East Africa. Among the models under consideration is the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT).

Automated map generalization (1987-ongoing)

Contact: Mark Ware/Nigel Richards

Previous Funding: EPSRC, Ordnance Survey

Automated map generalisation is concerned with deriving small scale, less detailed, maps from larger scale maps. It entails processes of selection, simplification, amalgamation, symbolisation and displacement of map features. The GIS research unit has been working in this area for over 25 years, and has an established international reputation for innovation and development. Previous projects have addressed fundamental issues of data models, generalization operators and process control. Significant contributions to the field include: the application of constrained Delaunay triangulation as a means of modelling inter-object relationships, which are fundamental to performing meaningful generalization; the development of a suite of novel triangulation-based map generalization tools; and, the use of Simulated Annealing optimization as a means of orchestrating the application of multiple map generalization operators (this approach has since been adopted by ESRI, the leading commercial GIS provider, in its map optimizer). The group is currently working on a project that seeks to develop bespoke optimization approaches that are specific to particular generalization scenarios.

Improving competitiveness, productivity and performance in a medium sized business through the introduction of GIS (2011-ongoing)

Contact: Mark Ware

Collaborators: West Coast Network Services (WCNS)

Previous Funding: KTP

This is a project that grew out of a recent KTP between the GIS group and WCNS. The aim of the research is to evaluate the impact of the introduction of a range of GIS-based solutions to various WCNS project planning, data gathering and report generation tasks, The GIS solution developed as part of the KTP received an ESRI Special Achievement Award in GIS (2011).

The use of GIS for modern disaster risk reduction strategies: A case study of Volcán de Colima, Mexico (2007-2013)

Contact: Mark Ware/Tony Harris

Historically, volcanic research has been focussed primarily on the geological hazard of eruptions, while the profile of the population at risk has been inadequately researched and therefore understudied. This PhD project analysed the vulnerability and hazard exposure at Volcán de Colima (VdC), Mexico in light of the predicted, large-magnitude volcanic eruption forecasted to occur before 2025. The methods used to gauge social vulnerability included the development and application of novel proxies to census records, the undertaking of a building vulnerability survey and the spatial mapping of civil and emergency infrastructure. Hazard exposure was assessed using primary modelling of laharic events and the digitisation of secondary data sources detailing the modelled extent of pyroclastic flows and tephra deposition associated with a large-magnitude eruption at VdC. The undertaking and analysis of a risk perception survey of the population enabled an understanding of the cognitive behaviour of residents towards the volcanic risk presented by VdC. The survey also contributed to the analysis of the emergency management procedures and the preparedness of the regional authorities in terms of emergency protocols. The results of this multidisciplinary research programme have demonstrated the success of applying quantitative and qualitative research methodologies to a volcanic context and the holistic insight that can be gained through evaluation using GIS technologies.

Web enabled GIS for climate change vulnerablilty mapping (2013-ongoing)

Contact: Mark Ware

Funding: Strategic Insight Programme

Collaborators: Acclimatise (Cardiff)

This project is looking to build and deploy web-based GIS solutions for various climate change vulnerability mapping applications. The project is focused on exploiting the free and open source server-side and client-side solutions that are becoming evermore widely available.

Spatial processing on the web using open standards and open source software(2009-ongoing)

Contact: Dave Kidner / Jon Britton / Mark Ware

This soon to be completed PhD project has produced a detailed specification for a generic web-based GIS client application able to access data and processes provided by standard geospatial services. This specification has then been used to develop a prototype browser-based GIS application based on existing open-source software. The prototype, named SmartWPS, is able to integrate data from standard sources such as Web Feature Services (WFS), Web Coverage Services (WCS) and Web Map Services (WMS) and process this data using remote Web Processing Services. As such, the prototype application represents a first step towards a cloud-based GIS application.