Geospatial technologies have become important tools in social studies and political research. Availability of numerous tools for geospatial data inquiry, phenomena mapping and pattern analysis have not only enriched research methods used by policy researchers, but also stimulated easy and direct communication of study results. However, high potential of these tools is often being underutilized and neglected by researchers. The course aims to introduce basic concepts and practical applications of geospatial technologies to policy researchers. The most widespread basic geospatial software packages will be used to showcase the modern techniques of geospatial data collection, generation and visualization. Course participants will learn basics and common features of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the ways to utilize them for own research. Both desktop and online packages will be considered.
Though all stages of geospatial data-based research will be discussed, the primary attention will be given to data inquiry and data visualization. Several file formats for storing vector geospatial data will be introduced (kml and shp). Data analysis and manipulation will be limited to illustration of some simple techniques.
Alternative ways of collecting geospatial data will be considered, including both online data mining and datasets development by researchers. In addition, Citizen Science (data crowdsourcing) will also be included as one of data generation techniques. Potential practical usage of satellite imagery for social studies will also be discussed.
Geospatial data visualization will be conducted using free software packages: GoogleEarthPro, Google Maps and QuantumGIS. The course covers both specific features of each software package as well as combining packages into a single workflow in order to achieve the desirable mapping outcomes.
Computer lab-based presentations by instructor will be followed by participants’ individual work on practical hands-on exercises. Discussion of theoretical foundations will be limited to the minimum level essential for practical work.
The first day is devoted to the overview of mapping concepts, introducing GIS basics and software discussion.
GoogleEarthPro, well known, yet often underestimated and underutilized geospatial package will be considered at the second day. Some neglected features and functions will be presented (historical imagery, map layout development, etc). Numerous thematic datasets in Google Earth format (kml) are freely available for researchers online, yet, as a rule, they are not widely known and used. Participants will learn what kind of data can be stored in these datasets, how to obtain, develop and share such datasets. Basics of mapping process and geospatial data will be introduced here.
The practical sessions next day focus on online mapping tools using Google Maps as an example. Participants will develop and publish maps online using the datasets developed during the previous days.
QuantumGIS package (qGIS) will be introduced on the following day, building up on the skills and knowledge obtained. QGIS is considered to be the most popular Freeware Open Source Geographic Information System. During this session participants will learn the basics of a typical GIS package and mapping principles. A simple map will be developed going through all stages of map creation from data collection to map layout design. Being a typical Open Source package and a result of collaborative work by large community of contributors, qGIS is constantly evolving software and participants should be ready to implement “learn-by-doing” approach while working with it. The basics received during this session will lay the foundation for further independent work and exploration of other mapping packages.
Participants will be asked to complete several small homeworks and develop course projects. Projects should feature maps developed by participants and show potential application of the discussed methods and packages in individual policy research.
The course utilizes only free software, so participants will be able to use their own laptops and continue working with software after the course is over. However, the course instructions are tailored for PCs available at CEU labs.