Dec 202011

Its a bit early to be making predictions about how IGIBS might evolve, but a recent presentation to the EDINA geoteam followed by some discussion indicated some of the possibilities.

  • The WMS Factory Tool.  With the simple but effective styling capability that Michael Koutroumpas engineered, I think we have a prototype thats not too far off a production strength tool.  There are loads of scenarios where its valuable to have access to a tool that makes it easy to see your “non-interoperable” data alongside the growing number of INSPIRE View Services (read WMS) from public authorities across Europe going online.  So top of my list is improving this tools styling capability.
  • Associated with this would be better understanding of necessary data publication infrastructure, eg, making it easy to use the other OGC Web Services.  Something like the GEOSS Service Factory ideas emerging from the EuroGEOSS project.  I think there is a real demand for tools to make it easy to use the OGC standards.
  • In the immediate future, I think its likely that the IGIBS team will do some promotion of the project outputs, eg:
    • presenting the project at relevant events, eg, Association GI Laboratories Europe conference, OGC Technical Committee meetings.  This might cost as little as £500 depending on where the event is.
    • use of social media to promote both the WMS Factory Tool and the report on “Best Practice Interaction with the UK Academic Spatial Data Infrastructure”.  This too could cost as little as an additional £500.
  • The latter report is worthy of a lot more investment.  A major output from this project, possibly the single most important output, is the increase in use of UK academic SDI services within the Institute of Geography and Earth Science (IGES) at Aberystwyth University.  IGES is acting as an exemplar for best practice research data management around geospatial data, the department is actively building on the IGIBS work and it will be interesting to see how it develops and if other departments in other institutions see the benefit and start to emulate what Aberystwyth is doing.  More work promoting Steve Walsh’s report would help.
 Posted by at 21:19 Project Management Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on IGIBS Followon and use of Underspend
Nov 112011

“An INSPIREing tool enabling researchers to share their geospatial data over the web”

The Open Geospatial Consortium’s Web Map Service (WMS) is a core standard underpinning many Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) throughout the world.  This includes INSPIRE, the UK Location Programme and our own UK academic SDI.  The WMS Factory Tool created by the IGIBS project; for the first time, allows users to upload their data and automatically generate a fully standards based, INSPIRE compliant WMS.  Users can control styling and view their data alongside a broad range of other data from a broad range of content providers.  The WMS Factory Tool has been created in partnership with Welsh Government and students within UK academia in anticipation of the revolution in the use of Geographic Information that will come about through the increasing availability of data via interoperability standards in conjunction with the UK Location Programme and INSPIRE.

The WMS Factory Tool was developed in close cooperation with students at the University of Aberystwyth’s Institute of Geography and Earth Science in the context of their growing repository of data related to the UNESCO designated Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.  If a student is doing a project and generating data, and they need to be able, for purposes of analysis and integration, to view that data alongside data from the spectrum of Welsh public authorities establishing INSPIRE compliant services, then this tool lets them do so quickly, without the need to waste time sourcing, extracting, transforming and uploading data from a range of non-interoperable proprietary formats.

The working prototype has been developed and configured so that data is uploaded to EDINA machines.  The following video gives a flavour of how the tool works:

Note that as an advanced feature access can be restricted using Shibboleth (open source Security Assertion Markup Language implementation used in the UK Access Management Federation) so only authorised users can access the service and so that other organisations in the federation can make more data available.

The software is easy to deploy and configured so that data may be uploaded and WMS generated at user specified locations.  Here is a good place to start with documentation.

And here is a picture of the team that brought you this product.  More information on IGIBS can be found throughout this blog starting with the about page.

Core IGIBS Project Team at Welsh Government Offices in Cardiff on the 11th Nov, 2011

The software is in prototype at the moment, but is in a condition where it can be deployed.  EDINA commits to maintaining this software for a minimum of 3 years, ie, until Nov 2014, though it is likely the software will have developed considerably by then.

It is likely that this software will contribute to the growing suite of open source tooling available for use with INSPIRE compliant services and encodings, most obviously as a means for users within the UK academic sector to create WMS (temporary or persistent) for use with UK Location Programme network services.

At its heart is the Minnesota Mapserver WMS software, very stable, well understood and highly regarded software.  The IGIBS software is available for download.  It is licenced under the modified BSD licence, meaning, in précis, that the software is made available using a permissive free software licence, which has minimal requirements in respect of how the software can be redistributed.

 Posted by at 21:26 Project Management Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on IGIBS Final Product Post
Oct 132011

Now available, the registration page for the GECO/IGIBS event on Friday 11th Nov, 2011 from 1115 to 1500 GMT at the Welsh Government Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff.

Full details can be found here

We have a good mix of speakers from the academic, public and private sectors, and should get some good discussion.  I think it will be especially interesting to get some insight into the developing plans for how the devolved government of Wales is rolling out INSPIRE.

From the IGIBS perspective, this is us effectively delivering the first demonstration of UK access management technology being used to secure public sector services in combination with academic sector services as per the project plan

 Posted by at 09:20 Project Management Tagged with: , , , ,  Comments Off on Collaborative by Nature: Interoperable Geospatial Approaches to the Environment
Jun 062011

The two lists of benefits below is neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive.

Any collaborative project can be a tricky balancing act and competing agendas is a well known rock upon which many a ship has foundered.  Significant effort was expended when putting the IGIBS proposal together and at project initiation to make it clear we are concentrating on deriving mutual benefit.

Benefits to the wider university sector:

  • The demonstration of Shibboleth being used to protect public authorities data and services could lead to greater interoperability between the academic and public sectors
  • The “Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level” should provide guidance for other universities and assist EDINA and the JISC in developing the academic SDI.
  • Increased use and enhancements of key elements of the UK academic SDI, ie, Go-Geo! GeoDoc, ShareGeo.
  • If it works, the “WMS Factory” tool could become a service that EDINA offers.  A means of publishing data that will interoperate with the network services being established by the public sector
  • Equally, it is intended that the tool can downloaded and installed locally by any organisations (not necessarily just in the academic sector) who wishes to make it easier for their users to publish data
  • The mapping application could emerge in the longer term as a key (geospatial) component of a future Dyfi Biosphere web presence, and not just in respect of research and education.
  • The mapping application could be an example of an application integrating public and academic sector data that can be repeated elsewhere

Benefits to the host institution (in this instance, the Institute of Geography and Earth Science at the Aberystwyth University):

  • Improved provision of educational resources (inventory of data, collection of data and knowledge of data access services) related to the local area, ie, the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve area
  • Greater understanding of open geospatial interoperability standards feeding into course development
  • Greater understanding of research data management issues potentially leading to improved departmental practices

What is not listed above are the benefits that might reasonably be expected to accrue outside the academic sector.  For example, to the public sector and to citizens, eg, people living within the Dyfi Biosphere area.  While the latter is not the primary focus of this short project, we are mindful of the role of academia and the need to make broader community contributions where possible.

 Posted by at 20:12 Project Management Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on 2 of 7: Wider IGIBS Benefits to Sector & Achievements for Host Institution
Jun 032011

The overall aim of the IGIBS project is to try and improve the relationship between the UK’s National Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) as manifested through the UK Location Programme (UKLP) and the UK’s academic SDI.

Our main objective is to focus on use cases emerging from research and education related to a particular area – the UNESCO designated Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.  Once articulated, these user requirements will drive the creation of two pieces of software of wider applicability and assist Aberystwyth University in developing resources for use by local students.

We are building on much prior art, especially in the area of Access Control.  EDINA runs the UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF) and, while it might not be fashionable, the reality is that many SDI resources, eg, data and web services, are going to stay protected.  This is true both of INSPIRE at the European scale and the UKLP nationally.  We aim to show how Shibboleth (the open source software that underpins the UKAMF) can be used to enable a wider range of use cases, so that UK students can get access to both open and protected resources, eg, from UK public authorities like Welsh Government.

We expect that the main four products resulting from this project will be:

  1. Working prototype of a “WMS factory” tool
  2. Simple mapping application
  3. Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level
  4. Demonstration of UK access management technology being used to secure public sector services in combination with academic sector services

SDI is underpinned by open geospatial standards like the OGC’s Web Map Service (WMS).  The “WMS factory” tool will allow users to upload their data and instantiate a WMS so that their data can then be viewed online, via a simple mapping application, in conjunction with reference data from Welsh Government.

Shibboleth is already used in academia, we extend its use here to demonstrate how public sector data can be made securely available to authenticated and authorised users within academia.

The Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES) has ambitions to improve the way it educates students in the use of open geospatial interoperability standards and intends using the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve area as an exemplar.  To this end we are conducting an inventory of data for the area and creating a repository for educational use.  The “Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level” will feed into this activity as well as provide guidance for the wider university sector.

May 232011

Last Wednesday (18th May) I attended a meeting of the Dyfi Biosphere Research Forum at Aberystwyth University.  Chaired by Mike Woods of the Institute of Geography & Earth Sciences, the meeting showcased a selection of the wide range of different research activities that have taken place (or are underway) in the Dyfi Biosphere area.

  • Chris Lea (Welsh Assembly Government) gave the keynote stressing WAGs support for R&D in the area, particularly as it relates to the work of the Sustainability and Environmental Evidence Division
  • Palma Blonda (CNR, Italy) and Richard Lucas (Aberystwyth University) gave an overview of the EU funded BIOdiversity multi-source monitoring system: from Space TO Species (BIO-SOS) project
  • Mike Bailey (CCW): dipped into what is obviously a deep mine of personal knowledge of the area and presented on recent research in the core conservation zone of the Dyfi Biosphere
  • Mike Hambrey (Aberystwyth University): gave a fascinating presentation on the last glaciation in Wales with a focus on the Dyfi catchment
  • Paul Brewer (Aberystwyth University) outlined some surprising results in a presentation entitled “Altered morphodynamics in the tidally-influenced lower Dyfi: re-thinking catchment management, flood risk & material fluxes”
  • Yours truly (Chris Higgins) presented on IGIBS (IGIBS_BDB_Research_Forum_May11) emphaising that the project needs input, eg, via the questionairre from this group if it is to benefit Dyfi related R&D and bring further resources into the area
  • Mike Christie (Aberystwyth University) gave a very erudite presentation on a hot subject that I think we will be hearing a lot more about: Valuing ecosystem services
  • Ambra Burls (Independent researcher) and her guest Zena Willmot from Coed Lleol talked about very pertinent related work – Environment and health
  • Man (apologies, didnt catch the name and not on the programme) from Centre for Alternative Technology talked about the groundbreaking work CAT is doing in relation to “Building adaptation for climate change”
  • Finally, Michael Woods (Aberystwyth University) spoke on “The Dyfi biosphere in context: research from the Wales Rural Observatory.”  Again, very apposite, some very surprising insights and all the more interesting as coming at the question of Biosphere related research from a different angle

We had 20-30 minute at the end for a brief plenary discussion.  Lots of good ideas here but no time to go into any of them in any real depth. At the risk of pre-empting the minutes, IMHO, a couple of themes started to emerge:

  • Need to broaden the scope of the Research Forum to include greater representation from the social sciences
  • Must bear in mind the need to engage with the wider community
  • Terms of reference need nailed down
  • Lack of resourcing a problem

Of course, the IGIBS project has some resources (at least up until November 2011) and, as project manager, I volunteered that the project team would do what we can to help as long as it aligns with the project objectives.

The one thing we can help with is laying firm foundations for getting the most out of online Geographic Information and managing Dyfi Biosphere research related data.  Our hope is that the work we do in this short project helps you and others like you inititiate and execute future projects in the area.  To lay this foundation well, we need input from stakeholders in the Dyfi Biosphere and from the research forum in particular.  Please fill in the questionnaire, even if its only a partial response.

 Posted by at 20:13 Project Management, User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere Research Forum meeting
Apr 202011

Meeting with Mike Bailey (Senior Reserve Manager for the Dyfi National Nature Reserve) of the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) to discuss the sampling of habitats across Borth Bog from the 26th April (for three days). Three areas were considered for sampling to support the BIO-SOS project. Datasets linked to Borth Bog were discussed and Mike will complete a data table with Becky.

 Posted by at 15:23 User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Mike Bailey BIO-SOS meeting
Apr 192011

For the Dyfi catchment, the main datasets acquired by satellite and airborne sensors have been collated and a description provided, including dates, with this undertaken to support, in part, biodiversity and land cover change projects being conducted through IGES. Satellite sensor data available include Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS), SPOT High Resolution Geometric (HRG), Landsat and Terra-1 ASTER. Airborne datasets available include LiDAR, hyperspectral data and aerial photography. Hugh Evans from Forest Research also visited to discuss options for postgraduate dissertation work in the Dyfi Biosphere over the next few months.

Apr 182011

A number of datasets have now been identified and which may be put together within a centralised data store (where available). In particular, we have focused on the following:

a) Vegetation maps for the Dyfi catchment, within these including the Phase 1 Habitat Survey, the National Vegetation Classification (NVC), the Land Cover Map 1990 and 2000.
b) Soils datasets, including types.
c) Protected areas
d) Satellite sensor data, namely Landsat.

More datasets will be collated from other organisations and their accessibility to a range of users will be noted (e.g., students, academics, researchers, external). These datasets will, depending on permissions, be available to use within the project.

 Posted by at 15:15 User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on IGES datasets
Apr 182011

Information is now being collated on available data sets to incorporate in this project. We have identified a number of case study users from the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES), Aberystwyth University and Forest Research in Wales, Forestry Commission who have previously and are currently working on projects based in the Dyfi Biosphere.

As part of the process for gathering this information users are being actively encouraged to create dataset metadata using GeoDoc tool – found within the GoGeo area on the EDINA web site. This utility is used to create standards compliant dataset metadata for upload into catalogues, eg, GoGeo! so that the data can be discovered, evaluated and possibly reused. Note that you need to have UK Access Management credentials to use GeoDoc.

Users that we have identified so far consist of academics, researchers and students within IGES in Aberystwyth University, and from the Centre for Catchment and Coastal Research (CCCR) which is a consortium of Aberystwyth University and Bangor University. Users will also include researchers from Forestry Research in Wales, Forestry Commission and staff from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). Within these bodies individuals have been identified and we will develop these as user case studies. We are currently collating their data sets and identifying their relevant uses and needs.

In the following weeks we will collate and input data sets some of which are complete whilst others are work in progress. These data sets will come from the individual user case studies. The user case studies will be something like the following:
• IGES Academic/Researcher
• IGES/CCCR Academic/Researcher
• IGES MSc Student
• IGES PhD Student
• IGES Digital Map Librarian
• Forestry Research Researcher
• CCW Senior Reserve Warden for Dyfi Biosphere Area

A ‘shopping list’ of data sets that are either not currently available to these users (and which they would like access to) or are difficult to find will also be identified and collated. Already we have had requests for biogeochemical data sets from IGES/CCCR, and for remote sensing data sets from Forest Research. It is hoped that Welsh Assembly Government may be able to help with some of these data and that, even if their use is restricted, we may be able to offer access to using web services secured using Shibboleth (the software underlying the UK Access Management Federation).

So far we have identified from the academic/researcher evidence that both academic staff and students would find the Web Map Service (WMS) “factory” application useful as a research and teaching tool. It has also been suggested by one of the academic users that an undergraduate module could be developed around the use of open geospatial standards. It was agreed that using the GeoDoc metadata input facility would generally improve data management practice for research projects.

Any comments from the user case study individuals or other potential users would be much appreciated to ensure the relevant uses and needs of all involved in this project are identified. The information will feed into the development of the mapping application and the identification of future requirements.

 Posted by at 15:05 User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Collation of data sets