Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Size of Countries: USA and China

There have been a few blog posts elsewhere recently about the size of Africa. Kai Krause was the original blogger on this with his 'True Size of Africa' map, which is very impressive. This was picked up by a couple of other blogs, including the Economist's take on it and the Spatial Analysis blog at CASA.

I've recently been looking at this kind of thing from a different perspective but still in relation to the size of countries. Some of this has involved playing around with regions, nations and population data. I thought it would be interesting to look at the USA and China since they are very similar in area but very different in population.

Some images below. Click to view them full size. This first one puts the USA and China side-by-side with population data included and the second one superimposes China on the USA's land area.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Future for England's Cities...

A quick post today on some recent research by the Centre for Cities. Their report - entitled 'Grand Designs? A new approach to the built environment in England’s cities' takes a look at what the future might hold for England's cities in relation to regeneration and the built environment.

Some interesting findings and analysis of population data going back to 1801. One particularly encouraging view is that money urgently needs to be found to continue the work in housing market renewal areas across England.

There are also some interesting maps and animations. I'm not saying they're interesting just because I did them, but because of the patterns they reveal. Honest. The latter can be found on the Grand Designs web page and the former in the report itself. Regular visitors to this blog (if there are any!) may recognise the animations from previous work I've done.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

MIT and Great Britain Regions

Some interesting news from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) via the BBC News website...

Analysts from the SENSEable City Lab have produced a new map of the regions of Great Britain using a novel approach. The new map is based on telecoms data of human interactions (i.e. phone calls) and it is based on a dataset of "12 billion calls over a one-month period, estimating more than 95% coverage of the Great Britain's residential and business landlines". They must have a big computer. What does it all look like? Check out this video:

There's a longer paper on this and it's worth also checking out the Network&Society pages related to the work. You can even download a zip file with all the maps and use them free of copyright (so long as you acknowledge the source). The main map to feature in the BBC story is shown below - interesting when you compare it to some of the flow maps for the UK that I've blogged on before...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Experiments in Colour

I've been experimenting with colour and animations a lot recently. This involves producing a lot of material that ends up on the floor of the editing room, so to speak. So, I made an entirely pointless animation of said cuttings... The one below is an animated gif (nerd speak) of the North West of England and its commuting 'intensity' (i.e. spikes for areas where people commute to). The visual effects are just from my experiments - some just for the sake of art. An assault on the eyeballs, to be sure!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

How to Shade Your Maps - Colorbrewer

A short post today about 'Colorbrewer'. What is it? It's a website by Cynthia Brewer, Mark Harrower and Penn State University (home of many GIS/visualisation boffins) which you can use to help you decide what colours you maps should be. This is not a trivial matter and it is often difficult to develop an appropriate colour scheme that looks good, is colour blind friendly, print friendly and photocopy friendly. Hence the Colorbrewer website.

You can choose from a variety of colour schemes, you can choose the number of colours in you colour scheme, you can export the information in various ways and you can even download a 'colortool' extension for ArcGIS.

There is so much advice on the website - it really is excellent but I just never got round to blogging about it until now. Ultimately you still have to make choices yourself but with Colorbrewer these choices can be much more appropriate. Take a look...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A Vision of Britain Through Time

I've been doing some work recently which involves the analysis of population change in England from 1801 to 2009. The data for this has come from the Census (which goes back to 1801) and mid-year population estimates (for 2009). The data itself has been sourced from a wonderful website called A vision of Britain through time, based at the University of Portsmouth. It's an innovative and pretty comprehensive exercise in historical stats and historical GIS.

As you can see from the screenshot above, you can enter a place name to find a place, you can look at various landcover maps, you can look at historical maps, Census reports and even travel writing by such distinguished contributors as Samuel Johnson, Daniel Defoe, Celia Fiennes and the wonderfully named Gerald of Wales.

Samuel Johnson's writing is from his 'A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland' and is both shocking and funny seen from today's perspective. He very much disapproves of the 'Highland manners' and he calls Loch Ness 'a very remarkable diffusion of water without islands'.

The maps (as above) are really interesting and you can, for example, take a look at your area in the 19th and 20th centuries as well as look at the present day OpenStreetMap version.

To sum up, lots to look and and worth a look.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Concentrated Poverty

I've been doing some work on the issue of concentrated poverty recently. Whilst doing this I came across an interesting video or two from the Brookings Institution featuring Alan Berube, a Fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program. Here's what he had to say:

I also produced a very short animation of patterns of poverty in London between 1999 and 2005, based on the Economic Deprivation Index. As you can see, there is not much change between years and the areas of concentrated poverty (in red) do not change too much. It's a bit 'rough and ready' but does the job...


Friday, 29 October 2010

Local Enterprise Partnerships

In my previous post about Local Enterprise Partnerships I noted that 56 applications had been put forward to BIS/CLG (note here that BIS said they had 62 responses to the invitation to form LEPs but CLG said that 56 proposals were received). There have been some significant developments since then... The publication of the Local Growth White Paper yesterday formally introduced the Regional Growth Fund and states that RDAs are to be shut down by April 2012. This was not really news though. What was new was the announcement of the 24 areas which have been asked to form the first wave of LEPs (see below - click on image to view full size).

You can find more detailed maps of the areas here and on page 39 of the White Paper. I just made the image above because the official maps are a bit muddled/confusing. Some LEPs cover very large areas with many local authorities included (e.g. Kent, Greater Essex and East Sussex), some cover few local authorities but large areas (e.g. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) and many others cover local authorities in city region areas (e.g. Liverpool City Region). Some of them will no doubt come up with snappier names than they have at present although 'Coast to Capital' is the early front-runner for best name.

Large parts of England are covered by first wave LEPs (e.g. West Midlands, North West) and the striking thing from the detail of the White Paper is the difference between the Regional Growth Fund and the level of RDA funding previously available. Other sources worth a look are the Analytical paper on sub-national growth (SERC obviously a major influence here), details of the Regional Growth Fund (in a nutshell, £1.4bn over the three years from 2011 to 2014) and the remaining links at the bottom of this page.

There is also a new BIS website on 'Setting out the path to sustainable growth' introduced by the author of the 'one-eyed smile' (see the bottom of this document to understand what I mean).

Monday, 25 October 2010

Sheffield Deprivation

I've been experimenting with deprivation data (again) and google maps (again). This time I've overlaid deprivation data for Sheffield on to google maps. I did this by using a fairly simple technique, which includes making sure the geographic projection is correct. I've described this before too.

You can pan/zoom on the embedded map below, but to see the full thing you'll need to click on 'View Larger Map'. Once you've done that you can see further information on the left hand side. You can turn layers on and off using the little tick boxes on the left and you can query the map by clicking it.

Not much else to say apart from take a look at the map below.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

London Datastore

I've posted stuff before (e.g. economic deprivation, population growth) about London so this post is about data for London which is available via the London Datastore. It is a website run by the Greater London Authority which you can go to if you want data for London (obviously).

What kind of data is available? Well, you could look at the GLA Budget, average house prices, or even data on abandoned vehicles. You could also take a look at the A-Z list and/or search the archive. Hours of fun.

The data are available at various spatial scales, some below Borough level and some not. Finally, here's a map of Cannabis Possession Incidents recorded by the British Transport Police for a two-year period up to July 2010. This just covers incidents on trains, tracks, stations, etc. Click the map to see full size. The highest value is in Westminster.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Travel to Work Areas / Labour Market Areas

I've been doing some work recently which uses travel to work areas rather than local authority boundaries. The analysis is on deprivation in England using the Economic Deprivation Index, so I thought it would make more sense to do the work within the context of more local labour market areas. In England, the best proxy for these is the travel to work area or TTWA.

There are currently 243 of them defined in the UK - and there is a lot more information on this (including the methodology) available here. One part of what I have been doing is to compare the size of TTWAs for different places.

In the maps below you can see the London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester TTWAs displayed at the same geographical scale. The TTWA areas are coloured and the local authority boundaries are overlaid on top of this with black lines. Click on the image below to see it full size in your web browser.

It may be a bit of a surprise to see how big some of the non-London TTWAs are. Clearly, London is the largest and includes the most local authorities but Manchester and Birmingham in particular cover large areas and Liverpool covers a large north to south area.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

100 Essential Books of Planning

Since this is my 100th attempt at a coherent post, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect upon something numerically appropriate.

In 2009, to celebrate 100 years of the American planning movement, the American Planning Association decided to put together a list of 'essential books of planning' - which of course contains 100 books. All good planners own well thumbed copies of all 100 and most have committed them to memory. Perhaps not. Actually, there are many people may have forgotten about/never heard of. The quick, at-a-glance pdf list is worth downloading just to check this.

The list is compiled by decade, and it makes interesting reading. Some examples below (can't say I've read them all but I did particularly like Leopold's A Sand County Almanac)...
  • Bowling Alone (Putnam, 2000)
  • The Rise of the Creative Class (Florida, 2002)
  • The Devil in the White City (Larson, 2004)
  • The Geography of Nowhere (Kunstler, 1994)
  • Edge City (Garreau, 1991)
  • Cities of Tomorrow (Hall, 1988)
  • Life Between Buildings (Gehl, 1987)
  • The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (Whyte, 1980)
  • A Reader in Planning Theory (Faludi, 1973)
  • Small is Beautiful (Schumacher, 1973)
  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jacobs, 1961)
  • The Image of the City (Lynch, 1960)
  • Towards New Towns for America (Stein, 1951)
  • A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There (Leopold, 1949)
  • The Structure and Growth of Residential Neighborhoods in American Cities (Hoyt, 1939)
  • Towards a New Architecture (Le Corbusier, 1923; in English, 1927)
  • Cities in Evolution (Geddes, 1915)
...if you're wondering why Garden Cities of To-Morrow is not on the list, check your dates. Obviously, the list is US-centric but it does make interesting reading. There are even some 'methods' books on the list, such as Krueckeberg and Silvers' 1974 text on Urban Planning Analysis. Also, there are many on the list that are not really 'planning' books as such, like von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom (1944).

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Filtering Flow Data

My adventures in spatial interaction visualisation continue. I'm currently finalising some more of this work in a paper I'm writing and it gets quite complicated so I've tried to think of ways to simplify the patterns within the vast datasets I've been working with.

The image below shows inter-district migration in the UK for 2001 at different flow magnitudes in a very short animation. This is just one example of the kind of visual things I've been working on recently.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Flow Map Layout

I've been experimenting with mapping flow data (again) and this time have been looking at Flow Map Layout, by Phan et al. at Stanford. There is a short paper on it, and a slideshare presentation, but basically it offers a slightly different approach to flow mapping.

I experimented using UK commuting data for 2001. I looked at the top 50 flows (by district) into Greater London. This equates to more than 550,000 commuters going in to London but it excludes intra-London moves obviously. It's a bit tricky at first when you are trying to get used to it but when you do you can produce some nice images... Click on the image below to see it full size.

You can move things around in the (basic) mapping interface and it is actually quite flexible. There are some display options for colours and edge routing, etc.

The largest inflow was from Epping Forest, with around 26,000 commuters.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Local Enterprise Partnerships in England

Some recent news from England, where the Government has announced that 56 proposals for Local Enterprise Partnerships have been received. Although they are not similar in scale to the previous regional structures, there is evidence that they have some functional basis.

Among the proposals are Liverpool City Region, Kent and Medway, 'Enterprise M3' (covering parts of Hampshire and Surrey), 'Gatwick Diamond' and Sheffield City Region. All this came about because of a letter Vince Cable and Eric Pickles sent to Local Authority and Business Leaders in June 2010.

Interesting snippets from the letter include 'separate arrangements will apply in London' and 'the Coalition Government is determined to rebalance the economy towards the private sector' and - interestingly - 'we wish to enable partnerships to better reflect the natural economic geography of the areas they serve and hence to cover real functional economic and travel to work areas'.

Given this last statement, the list of the proposals submitted begins to look more interesting...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Economic Deprivation in London

I've recently been doing some analysis of the Economic Deprivation Index for England, focusing on a number of different cities. This is part of some research I'm doing into concentrated disadvantage more generally so I thought I'd just post a map showing the data for London in 2005.

The map below shows data for the EDI in London in 2005. It's pretty similar to what you'd expect but it does make interesting viewing... If you click the image it will open up full size in your web browser.

That's all for now, but I plan to post more like this in future.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Save as DBF in Excel 2007

One common problem for ArcGIS users over the past few years has been the decision of Microsoft not to allow users the option of saving files in dbf format from Excel 2007. It's not a problem if you are still using Excel 2003 but if you only have Excel 2007 it makes what was previously quite simple a lot more difficult.

One tool I've recently used is an Excel Add-In produced by Gyula Gulyas from theXLwiz blog. There are some useful dbf videos on his youtube channel which is, possibly, the only one in the world to combine videos about dbase file formats and videos of cheerleading!

Anyway, I have the tool. It cost me £17.34 ($25 USD) but it has been worth every penny. I know there are other options and I've tried some of them, but the Gulyas tool is so simple and effective and results in very compact file sizes. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A Nearest Neighbour Index of Multiple Deprivation

I've blogged before about my attempts to add a more spatial dimension to the existing Indices of Deprivation for England. In this post, I have decided to share the data for my calculations on a Nearest Neighbour Index of Multiple Deprivation, following the method described in this paper.

The image below shows the IMD2007 (left) and NNIMD2007 (right) for Birmngham, with red most deprived and blue least deprived.

I have put together a spreadsheet containing the original IMD data plus my NNIMD data for all 32,482 LSOAs in England. If you click on the links below you can access the data - you'll need to click the 'download' link to get the data.

NNIMD dataset - Excel 2003 version (.xls)

NNIMD dataset - Excel 2007 version (.xlsx)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Creating Cartograms - Some Options

One of the most difficult things to do properly with GIS is to create cartograms. They can be very powerful visually (e.g. Worldmapper, see below) but producing accurate representations is not simple. I've been experimenting with this over the years, and have now come to some conclusions...

You could use something like MAPresso to create cartograms but it's not necessarily the easiest application to get into. If you're an ArcGIS user you could try the CartogramCreator extension.

However, I've recently experimented with ScapeToad and have found it to be the best tool. It's stand-alone software for producing cartograms (despite the funny name) and it works really well and there are many useful options for creating cartograms. It's very easy to use as well.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

European Geodata - NUTS, etc.

Need to find digital boundaries for the European Union? Tried googling but no success? They are of course available via UKBorders in the UK but if you can't get them this way then you can find them via search but it's not that easy.

The first thing you need to do is go to the Eurostat Geodata pages. Then from the menu on the left you can select 'Reference' or 'Archive' to get to the download section. Once you're there you just need to click on the kind of data you want (e.g. 'Administrative units/statistical units') and you are taken to the download page where there are lots of links...

And that's it.

Some interesting datasets, including:
  • Corine Land Cover
  • Urban Morphological Zones
  • Degree of urbanisation
  • NUTS boundaries (down to NUTS3)
  • Elevation
  • Settlement names

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Centre for Cities - Private Sector Growth

A quick post today about some recent work published by the Centre for Cities. The report, called 'Private sector cities: A new geography of opportunity' looks at the question of private sector growth in England and the issue of whether any spatial 'rebalancing' is needed in relation to fostering private sector growth.

It was written by the Centre for Cities' Chris Webber and Paul Swinney and has had quite lot of media attention (e.g. this Financial Times article) since its publication. Worth a look - and not just because of the fancy graphics!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Sheffield Demolition

Quiet on the blogging front recently, but yesterday I had the chance to see a Sheffield Building toppled. The old Osborne Mushets on Penistone road (in street view below), was demolished to make way for new development. More changes to Sheffield's old industrial landscape.

View Larger Map

I took some photos and a video of the event...


Friday, 14 May 2010

Functional Typology Website

When I worked at the University of Manchester I was involved in some work which developed a functional typology of deprived neighbourhoods. I've mentioned this before in the blog. Well, now there is a website on it, produced by the Centre for Urban Policy Studies at the University of Manchester.

It tells you all about the typology, has a google map version with LSOA boundaries, and describes the methodology and results. It also provides details of publications relating to the typology. A screenshot is shown below. Go to the Functional Typology of Deprived Neighbourhoods website to see more...

Monday, 19 April 2010

A Lightbox and a 3D Map

A short post today, following the theme of some other recent posts. I've been experimenting with creating different kinds of 3D surfaces with Ordnance Survey data. I've also been experimenting with ways of displaying these online.

So, what's a 'lightbox' - well, it's a way of making an image pop-out on screen with the background darkened. Click the image below to see this in action. The 3D map in the lightbox is just a surface model I created using an OS 1:50,000 colour raster tile for the Inverness/Moray Firth area in the north of Scotland.

Further details of how to integrate lightboxes into blogger (for nerds) can be found here.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Video Tutorials for GIS

I've not been saying much recently about screencasting, or video tutorials, but I have been working in this area quite a lot over the past year - mainly in conjunction with SalfordGIS. I've just come back from the Planning Research UK Conference in Chelmsford where I was speaking about my work in this area. So, I thought it was about time for another GIS screencast post.

The video below is one of a series I've produced in collaboration with SalfordGIS. This one is a basic ArcMap demo but we also have lots of MapInfo videos too. For both GIS applications skills from basic to advanced are covered. The videos are all around 3 to 5 minutes long each, with one task demonstrated per video. The idea is not to replace traditional GIS training but to provide quick refreshers of key skills.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Manchester Commuter Inflows

A short post today on visualizing commuting flows. I've used some 3D GIS techniques to create a commuting surface for the North West of England (based on wards). Areas with peaks represent high in-commuting. Manchester dominates the North West pattern, as seen below.

I added in flow lines to this map in order to see which 'peaks' were being by-passed on the way to Manchester, and from where. The lines on the map below represent flows of 25 or more from individual wards in the North West. Not a huge number per ward, but it all adds up. When you think of how many people are doing this and how far they come it is significant however...

This is only really a rough draft, but it does communicate quite a bit of information and it tells a familiar story of urban commuting. Click on the map to see it in full size.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

OS OpenData - It's Here!

So, Ordnance Survey today unveiled their new 'OS OpenData' service, where anyone can download high quality OS datasets for viewing or for use in a GIS. Personal and commercial re-use is allowed, though the largest scale datasets (e.g. MasterMap) are not included in this 'free' service. Nonetheless, it's an excellent development. The official government document has more details, and the data download section is now live. In recognition of this historic day, I've done a quick video tour of the new service. I'll blog on something different next time...

Monday, 29 March 2010

OS OpenSpace - free web mapping

Following on from the subject of the previous post on Ordnance Survey, I've been experimenting with their excellent new OpenSpace service, launched in January. The OS OpenSpace API is free to access and lets developers create web applications and online projects with Ordnance Survey maps.

Put simply, you can now easily make a map with OS data and put it on your website. On blogger it can be a bit tricky, but overall it's not that difficult and there are many options for customisation. The map below is just an example - it is fully interactive. I made it quickly using the web-map builder. (For those of a technical persuasion, I just pasted in some iframe code on blogger - the actual html file is on my university server.) I may do more with this in future but for the time being this is it...

Friday, 26 March 2010

Ordnance Survey Data - A Revolution?

Following the news some time ago that most Ordnance Survey data (if not all - still waiting for details) is to be made available free of charge for re-use by personal and commercial users, the GI fraternity is abuzz with anticipation. I am also pretty excited about this development since it will make working with geographic data and using GIS in the United Kingdom much easier. It should also increase the number of users, as SalfordGIS point out.

The current understanding is that from April 1, 2010 several OS datasets (e.g. 1:50,000 colour raster) will be made freely available. What are the implications of this? Just some thoughts...
  • Anyone will be able to download and print original OS maps, free of charge
  • Anyone will be able to use OS data to derive new maps - previously this was forbidden
  • GIS users will use data in new and innovative ways
  • GIS consultants will increase in number
  • In general, many good things will happen and geographic knowledge will increase

Much more will be written on this in the media in the coming weeks and there is no doubt it is an exciting time if you are in any way involved in the world of geographic information in the United Kingdom.

The future is full of possibilities!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

NSNR Final Evaluation

Just over a week ago (4th March 2010), the final evaluations of two major English urban policy initiatives were published by CLG. One of these was the New Deal for Communities (NDC) final assessment - the other was the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal (NSNR) final report. This short post is about the latter document, which contains 119 pages in all.

The NSNR was launched in 2001 with the notion that "within 10 to 20 years no-one should be seriously disadvantaged by where they live" - a very noble (unrealistic?) goal. The report itself covers the following, in some detail:
  • the nature of deprived neighbourhoods;
  • change in deprived areas;
  • factors influencing change in deprived neighbourhoods;
  • the impact of NSNR on deprived neighbourhoods;
  • the effectiveness of NSNR arrangements; and
  • lessons for the future.
With all such evaluations, however, the real issue is not the evaluation itself but the wider context within which the programme operates. It has been said that the most effective anti-poverty strategy is economic growth and in many ways this is true, but even in a period of sustained growth (e.g. 1997 to 2007) what we have seen is a deepening of concentrated deprivation in many cities, though there have been some successes. So, on p. 80 we have "overall value for money appeared to be good for the majority of the interventions" and on p. 112 a more engouraging statement: "in terms of value for money, NRF appears to have performed well – demonstrably so with regard to reducing worklessness in particular"

Some earlier work I was involved in at the Centre for Urban Policy Studies is reported from p. 18 to 21 and there are many other interesting results, data and maps. The report also makes a very kind acknowledgement of my input!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Visualising London Population Growth

Update, 7 June 2011 - See bottom of post for a new animation...

Following the theme of the last post - and the last series of posts with video content and animations, this is a short post on the development of London's population, by Borough, from 1801 to 2001. The data is, of course, Crown Copyright - and I downloaded the files from here, in case you want to know. There are a lot of data here, so how to make sense of it? First of all, an animated bar chart sequence, with the original 1963 Inner London Boroughs (i.e. not the ONS definition) in red and the Outer London Boroughs in blue...

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You can see it in full size here, to enable reading of label names.

The next experiment in visualizing this data was to convert it into a Google motion chart. The results of this are shown below. You can start the graphics by hitting the play button and you can query them by hovering over any of the coloured bubbles. To label a bubble, just click it. It's a bit small here but this is just for illustration. Experiment with the tabs at the top of the initial chart to see the data in a different format. There's lots of options for experimenting here...

Finally, a view of what all this looks like spatially, in 3D.

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As for the data itself, you can discover a lot from these visualizations, but the high point in population for a London Borough was Tower Hamlets in 1901, with 597,000 and the low point was in Brent with 2,000 in 1801 and 1811.

Postscript, 7 June 2011. I've since done a proper London animation for the Centre for Cities. A small version is shown below. For the full version, check this link.

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Saturday, 27 February 2010


Following on from the previous post, I dug out some of my previous work, did a bit of experimenting, editing and touching-up to produce some new geovisualizations. I believe that geovizualisation is about more than just making pretty maps - it is about communicating a lot of spatial data in an effective way, which could not otherwise be easily digested.

In short, geovisualization is part spatial data analysis, part graphic design, part art. In this post, I've tried to use a combination of techniques in order to produce the set of images below. The data displayed is commuting for wards in North West England in 2001. I used a GIS to create the raster images and convert them to 3D, I used some image editing tools to add labels, and I used some more advanced techniques for the colour/grey background focus ones.

Click on the individual images to view in full size at best resolution - the smaller versions below are not super high quality. Areas with high red spikes = areas of high in-commuting and blue = areas of high out-commuting. In effect, the red areas are where people work and the blue areas are where people live, though in reality there is of course some overlap.

Image 1 - Commuting in NW England, 2001

Image 2 - Same image as above, but with labels

Image 3 - Same image, with different colours

Image 4 - More colour experimentation

Image 5 - Colour focus area for Manchester

Image 6 - Colour focus area for Liverpool

Friday, 26 February 2010

dataviz - Improving data visualisation for the public sector

The topic of today's post is dataviz, a new website devoted to improving data visualisation - specifically focused on the public sector. It's a joint initiative between CLG and OCSI and is really quite an attractive new website with lots of interesting visualisation examples, including Time magazine's population density spike map.

There's a CLG pdf document about this new development here, and it explains all the 'what', 'why' and 'how' questions about the project. Finally, the gallery of examples is definitely worth a look...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Journal Rankings from Australia

A lot has been written (e.g. see this) about the RAE, so this is not the focus of this post. Instead, this post is about journal rankings. The link here is that the eqivalent exercise in Australia (Excellence in Research for Australia, or ERA) has produced a ranked list of journals to be used in assessing academic outputs. Clearly, this is contentious and controversial and it has heated up exchanges in e-mail lists worldwide. It has also been written about in the mainstream press.

First, though, where can we find these rankings? Click here to find them, and click on the next link to download the Excel spreadsheet with all the data.

In many nations, academics are assessed on the basis of their research outputs. Here in the UK, this was previously done using the Research Assessment Exercise and will next be done via the Research Excellence Framework, in 2012.

Journals are ranked on a four-point scale: A*, A, B and C. Clearly, this is not good news for C-ranked journals or, in fact, most B-ranked journals. Even some of the A-ranked journals can't be happy about this. However, I'm sure the A*-ranked journals are happy. But, what on earth do these tiers mean? The associated web page is here, but this is the gist of it:

  • A* - Typically an A* journal would be one of the best in its field or subfield in which to publish and would typically cover the entire field/subfield. Virtually all papers they publish will be of a very high quality. These are journals where most of the work is important (it will really shape the field) and where researchers boast about getting accepted. Acceptance rates would typically be low and the editorial board would be dominated by field leaders, including many from top institutions.
  • A - The majority of papers in a Tier A journal will be of very high quality. Publishing in an A journal would enhance the author’s standing, showing they have real engagement with the global research community and that they have something to say about problems of some significance. Typical signs of an A journal are lowish acceptance rates and an editorial board which includes a reasonable fraction of well known researchers from top institutions.
  • B - Tier B covers journals with a solid, though not outstanding, reputation. Generally, in a Tier B journal, one would expect only a few papers of very high quality. They are often important outlets for the work of PhD students and early career researchers. Typical examples would be regional journals with high acceptance rates, and editorial boards that have few leading researchers from top international institutions.
  • C - Tier C includes quality, peer reviewed, journals that do not meet the criteria of the higher tiers.

In the field that I mainly work in, and journal types I would submit journal articles to (urban and regional planning, human geography), how does this translate?

Well, here are some examples of journals by ranking tier:

  • A* - Urban Studies, Regional Studies, Town Planning Review, Environment and Planning B, Journal of Planning Education and Research, Journal of Planning Literaure, Progress in Planning...
  • A - Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Housing Studies, European Planning Studies, Environment and Planning A, International Planning Studies, Cities, Environment and Planning D, Planning Theory and Practice...
  • B - Area, Australian Geographer, Geoforum, Spatial Economic Analysis, Space and Polity, Professional Geographer, Australian Planner, GeoJournal...
  • C - Applied Geography, Journal of Geography, Critical Planning, Scottish Geographical Journal, Global Built Environment Review, Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal...
Should we be worried? Probably, though some of this is country-specific and many journal ranks would change if this exercise was carried out in other countries. However, a precedent has been set... (and I didn't even mention the conference rankings!)