The Pennsylvania State University
- Population Research Institute
- John A. Dutton e-Education Institute
- Online Certificate and Master of GIS Programs
- GeoVISTA Center
- Geographic Information Analysis Core
- Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Council
- Social Science Research Institute
University of California, Santa Barbara
- Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science
- Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research
- UCSB Center for Spatial Studies (spatial@ucsb)
- National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis
- Map and Imagery Laboratory
The Pennsylvania State University
The Population Research Institute
The Population Research Institute (PRI) at The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) encourages, organizes, and supports innovative research and training in the population sciences. Drawing on the talents of more than 60 outstanding scholars, PRI provides a supportive and collegial intellectual environment to stimulate collaborative, externally funded research. PRI is multidisciplinary in orientation and organization with elected faculty associates hailing from 15 departments and programs in six colleges. PRI faculty associates are internationally recognized for their research on topics such as the transformation of the American family, racial disparities in health, trends in socioeconomic inequality, and the social and economic consequences of immigration. PRI fosters interdisciplinary research, blending biomedical and developmental perspectives with traditional approaches in the population sciences.
The Population Research Institute is an National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)-supported population center. Infrastructural resources from the NICHD and the University have been catalysts for PRI’s development as a synergistic center for innovative population research. PRI offers colloquia, workshops, lecture series, and conferences to foster professional development and intellectual exchange among PRI researchers. Grant administration services, through the Social Science Research Institute, are provided for developing and managing large-scale externally funded population research. PRI also leverages resources by providing common services through research cores including Information, Computing, Statistics, and Geographic Information Analysis.
PRI is the home of Penn State’s Graduate Program in Demography. Graduates of this interdisciplinary training program receive dual Ph.D. degrees combining demography with sociology, economics, anthropology, human development and family studies, rural sociology, and agricultural, environmental, and regional economics. The program draws on 42 faculty from the six participating departments. The training philosophy is that research and policy questions in demography are best pursued through the integration of demographic knowledge and methods with paradigms in sociology, developmental psychology, economics, and anthropology.
PRI is also the home of a postdoctoral training program in the demography of aging.
The John A. Dutton e-Education Institute
The Dutton e-Education Institute was founded in March 2000 to enrich teaching and learning in the University’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences—which is home to the Departments of Geography, Geosciences, Meteorology, Materials Science and Engineering, and Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering—through the use of information technology, particularly the Internet.
The e-Education Institute’s five strategic initiatives are:
- Help every EMS department to design, create, and sustain Web-only general education courses that prepare undergraduates for life-long learning while generating significant new enrollments
- Contribute to a more student-centered College and University by supporting students who develop e-portfolios and instructors who incorporate e-portfolio assessment in their courses
- Produce and publish new knowledge about best practices in e-education through sponsored research
- Help every EMS instructor who wishes to use the University’s ANGEL course management system to enrich his or her classroom course
One of the Institute’s biggest successes has been an online Certificate Program in GIS, a project carried out in partnership with the Department of Geography and Penn State’s World Campus (see below).
The Online Certificate and Master of GIS Programs
The Penn State Department of Geography offers GIS education via the Internet through the university online college, the World Campus. Since its inception in 1999, the non-credit Certificate Program has provided continuing education opportunities for adult professionals who find it difficult to attend traditional college courses. More than 450 students representing each of the 50 United States as well as 13 foreign countries have completed the program, which requires the completion of four ten-week courses.
Because of the success of the program and the encouragement of its graduates, the Certificate Program was expanded into an online Master of GIS degree. Beyond simply completing additional coursework, students are paired with an advisor when they enter the program. In place of the traditional thesis, students present the results of a work-related project at a professional conference in their field. The MGIS program accepted its first cohort of students in January 2005.
Courses in both the Certificate and MGIS Programs are characterized by:
- An instructional format that attempts to take full advantage of the World Wide Web medium. In place of the traditional reading/exercise format, from the outset, the lessons are typically activity-based. When an important geographic concept is encountered for the first time, students follow a link to the Course Concept Gallery to read a concise explanation of the concept, before returning to the activity.
- Threaded discussion moderated by the instructor through a course message board. Students may ask questions about course concepts, seek help with the software, or discuss GIS and how it relates to their jobs. Solid discussion on the message boards not only reinforces the course materials, but also builds a strong sense of community among students.
- Students demonstrating their mastery of the course material through the use of online portfolios. Beyond simply providing a means for the instructor to assess student progress, portfolios enable the students to see how their classmates may have approached a problem differently. In addition, students who design their portfolios carefully have an effective means of showing what they have learned to their current or prospective employers.
The GeoVISTA Center
The Penn State Department of Geography is home to the GeoVISTA Center, one of the world’s foremost labs specializing in the visualization of geographic data. The GeoVISTA Center’s mission statement reads as follows:
Diverse critical scientific and societal issues are prompting generation of large volumes of geospatial data and demands for geospatial information technologies that allow these data to be used effectively. The issues include understanding health-environment interactions, assessing terrorist threats, planning for dramatic changes in regional demographics across the country, and fusing perspectives for strategic environmental risk management. In turn, the generated data and the corresponding demands for useful and usable technologies pose an array of research challenges and opportunities that the GeoVISTA Center is working to address.
GeoVISTA’s specific mission is to coordinate integrated and innovative research in Geographic Information Science (GIScience), with an emphasis on geovisualization. The focus is on developing powerful human-centered methods and technologies that make it possible for scientists and decision makers to solve scientific, social, and environmental problems through computer-supported, visually-enabled analysis of the growing wealth of geospatial data.
We have identified four core research foci:
- integrated methods for knowledge construction
- human interaction with geospatial information
- decision-support and risk management tools
Alan MacEachren and Mark Gahegan are the Director and Associate Director of GeoVISTA, respectively. Faculty associates come from a number of departments across the university including Geography, Information Science & Technology, Computer Science, and Landscape Architecture
The Geographic Information Analysis Core
The Geographic Information Analysis (GIA) Core of the Population Research Institute (PRI) at Penn State is one of the few spatial analysis units in the United States that is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
The GIA Core provides the expertise, services, and research collaborations necessary for PRI researchers to incorporate geographic information into their research in innovative, state-of-the-art ways. The GIA Core specializes in spatial statistics, advanced spatial analysis, exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA), and customized programming for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis. It also provides essential services to support the collection of intensive longitudinal geospatial data (on individuals and contexts), the building of contextual and ecological databases, and mapping (including web mapping), as well as geospatial data acquisition, archiving, and management.
While the GIA Core offers an array of services, there are three primary goals that parallel the service functions provided to PRI faculty:
- to be innovators in the collection, handling and utilization of various forms of geospatial data by enhancing capacity and efficiencies in state-of-the-art technologies, maintaining best practices and ethical standards to ensure privacy and confidentiality, and promoting creative integration of geospatial data, theory and method in population science;
- to stay abreast of technological developments in GIS, spatial analysis, and spatial statistics, especially as they relate to population, social, and health sciences, so that the PRI faculty receives sound advice and has easy access to trained personnel, data, and software resources; and
- to maintain a leadership position in advanced spatial analysis training and to promote spatial demography.
The GIA Core staff has access to Dell desktop machines with the latest full installation of ArcGIS 10. Other GIS/spatial analysis related software available to GIA Core staff includes but is not limited to ArcGIS Server (web mapping capability), GeoDa, R, WinBugs, Crimestat, SpaceStat, Geographically Weighted Regression 3.0, and STARS. The GIA Core’s infrastructure includes one main server for ArcGIS license management and project data, a secure file server for restricted datasets, and a server housing ArcServer (Internet Mapping Services). Other peripherals include a color printer, three black-and-white printers, a scanner, four laptops, three Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and five Garmin eTrex Venture GPS devices. GIA Core data resources are extensive, including both cleaned and easily usable public domain data such as the U.S. Census and data from other federal, state and local agencies as well as commercial data products (e.g., GeoLytics).
The Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Council
In Spring 2001 Dr. Eva J. Pell, Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at Penn State, created the GIS Council, which is composed of representatives from various campuses, research units, and colleges.
The GIS Council was asked to report on five specific charges:
- facilitate GIS-related activities
- facilitate preparation of large-scale proposals
- increase awareness of the use of GIS
- identify the places where expertise exists
- define other GIS-related issues University wide
Tina Enderlein was appointed the first Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Officer for the University in November 2002. The creation of this position resulted from a key recommendation in a GIS Council report commissioned by Pell. The position has been made possible by financial commitments from eight academic units across the University, including:
- College of Agricultural Sciences
- College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
- College of Engineering
- Applied Research Laboratory
- The Pennsylvania State University Capitol College, Harrisburg
- Hershey Medical College
- Penn State’s Institutes of the Environment
- Social Science Research Institute
- Office of the Vice President for Research
The Social Science Research Institute
The mission of the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) at The Pennsylvania State University is to promote research encompassing the wide range of skills and perspectives that are needed to solve complex social problems. SSRI fosters communication and collaboration across the full range of social science disciplines and provides a shared infrastructure for social science research that enables faculty to conduct high-quality studies.
The Social Science Research Institute resides within The Office of the Vice President for Research at The Pennsylvania State University as one of five university-wide research institutes. The mission of The Office of the Vice President for Research is to support a rigorous program of faculty and student research and creative accomplishment by enhancing the environment for scholarly and artistic endeavors, encouraging the highest standards of quality, and fostering ethical conduct in research.
SSRI includes a number of research centers focusing on specific issues in the social sciences. The Population Research Institute (PRI) is one of the foremost research and training programs in the population sciences in the United States. The Children, Youth, and Families Consortium was created to encourage and develop faculty expertise and to promote the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that could place Penn State in a position of national and international leadership, demonstrating the role a land-grant university could and should play in addressing critical social issues and serving community needs. SSRI also houses the Survey Research Center (SRC), which advances research and training in survey methods and meets the need for state-of-the-art and comprehensive survey services to support social science research. The Social, Life, and Engineering Sciences Imaging Center (SLEIC) is dedicated to fostering cutting edge research in the social, behavioral, biological, engineering, and materials sciences where imaging methodologies play a central role. SSRI promotes:
- Research of individual investigators from diverse fields
- Research collaborations across disciplinary lines, across colleges and research centers, and across universities
- Programs to support multidisciplinary graduate training
- Multidisciplinary centers of activity within SSRI that focus on different areas of social concern
SSRI Website >>
University of California, Santa Barbara
Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science
The Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science (CSISS) is founded on the principle that analyzing social phenomena in space and time enhances our understanding of social processes. CSISS recognizes the growing significance of space, spatiality, location, and place in social science research and cultivates an integrated approach in these areas. It seeks to develop unrestricted access to tools and perspectives that will advance the spatial analytic capabilities of researchers throughout the social sciences.
The goal of CSISS is to integrate spatial concepts into the theories and practices of the social sciences by providing infrastructure to facilitate: (1) the integration of existing spatial knowledge, making it more explicit, and (2) the generation of new spatial knowledge and understanding.
- Encourage and expand applications of new geographic information technologies and newly available geographically referenced data in social science;
- Introduce scholars to an integrated approach to social science research;
- Foster collaborative interdisciplinary networks that address core issues in the social sciences using this approach;
- Develop online access to the tools, case studies, educational opportunities, and other resources needed by this approach.
The initial core funding for CSISS (1999–2005) was from the National Science Foundation under its program of support for infrastructure in the social and behavioral sciences. CSISS is host to SPACE CSISS Website
Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research
The Institute for Social Behavioral, and Economic Research (ISBER) serves as a facilitator of research in the social and behavioral sciences at UCSB, providing help to scholars in conceptualizing research proposals, seeking funds, and administering projects. ISBER currently serves more than 130 principal investigators in research that reflects the intellectual diversity of the social sciences. It also provides administrative support for 14 research centers, including Centers for the Advanced Study of Individual Differences, Communication and Social Policy, East Asia, Evolutionary Psychology, Global Studies, Health Data Research, Information Technology and Society, MesoAmerican Research, Middle East Studies, Police Practices and Community, Sexual Minorities in the Military, Spatially Integrated Social Science, the Study of Religion, and Social Science Survey Center (and Benton Survey Research Laboratory). ISBER plays an important role in promoting interdisciplinary work that spans the boundaries of the social and behavioral sciences, the humanities and, in some cases, the physical and life sciences. ISBER contributes significantly to the intellectual life of the university and to the knowledge needs of society.
UCSB Center for Spatial Studies (spatial@ucsb)
spatial@ucsb seeks to enhance UCSB’s position as a leader in spatial knowledge by focusing on new innovations and applications of spatial thinking in all areas of scientific, social, and artistic investigation. The Center provides a forum for faculty and students at UCSB (and beyond) to share the results of their spatially-focused work and to engage in collaborative research and teaching. The Center’s public lectures, brown-bag presentations, and short courses act to create an ever-widening spatial community of scientists and scholars.
National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis
The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis is an independent research consortium dedicated to basic research and education in geographic information science and its related technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS). The three-member institutions are the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University at Buffalo, and the University of Maine. The consortium was formed in 1988 to respond to a competition for funding from the National Science Foundation, and continues to receive much of its funding from that source. Topics of current research within the NCGIA consortium include:
- Accuracy and uncertainty in spatial data
- Modeling and representation
Today, the NCGIA stands as an international focus for basic research. Its three sites attract short- and long-term visitors from around the world, and its educational programs address the student needs at all levels.
Map and Imagery Laboratory
The Map and Imagery Laboratory advances the interdisciplinary use of spatial data and provides technologies for integrating diverse information formats. The facility is nationally recognized for the quantity of spatial data it holds and the availability of equipment for utilizing both analog and digital materials. It is the home of the Alexandria Digital Library (ADL) providing, via the Internet, geospatial searching as well as data access. ADL includes a 6-million-item gazetteer of place names and a 2-million-item catalog, that includes metadata for several terabytes of online digital data.
MIL serves the academic and research needs of the University of California, the state university system, business, industry, federal and state government, and other domestic and foreign educational institutions. Since opening in 1979, MIL has become a primary information source for regional, national, and global academic research and has hosted many symposia and seminars.