Science for All Seasons: Communicating Science to Diverse Audiences

header_nalogoNational Academies Communication Fair 2009

“On June 23, 2009 the National Academies Office of Communications, in cooperation with Staff Development Programs and the communications officers from the various program divisions here at the Academies, presented the third Communications Fair for National Academies staff.

“This year the fair featured an exciting new format with two panel discussions and a mid-day speaker to inspire new and creative ways to communicate science. We invite you to take part in what we’ve learned about communicating science by listening to podcasts of the events.”

Applying Advanced Technology for Threat Assessment: A Case Study of the BTC Pipeline

iags…from the Journal of Energy Security

“The study focuses on a risk analysis of the BTC pipeline and integrates state-of-the-art technologies for a comprehensive advanced security analysis (ASA) that includes critical issues such as the geographical and socio-political context along the BTC pipeline. This was addressed in the GIS (Geographical Information System) developed for purpose of integrating satellite imagery together with a number of map layers reflecting both physical and human factors along the BTC pipeline (road networks, topography, vegetation, population density, etc.).

“During the course of this analysis, the BTC pipeline was sabotaged by PKK insurgents in August 6th 2008. The geographical and socio-political factors of this sabotage have been weighted and extrapolated to the whole of the pipeline by a geospatial analysis on the GIS layers. As a result, the pipeline has been segmented into several degrees of risks which may prompt additional security actions as proposed in this paper.”

Predictive Archaeological Modeling Using GIS-Based Fuzzy Set Estimation

trbA Case Study of Woodford County, Kentucky

Authors: Bailey, Keiron; Grossardt, Ted H; Ripy, John; Mink, Philip; Shields, Carl; Davis, Dan; and Hixon, James

Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting 2009, Paper #09-2475


“Analytic predictive archaeological models can have great utility for state Departments of Transportation, but it is difficult to model the likelihood of prehistoric settlement using geographical proxy predictor variables because of the complexity of how settlement choices were actually made, and the complex interaction between these variables using GIS. In many cases classic statistical modeling approaches require too much data to be useful. This research reports on a preliminary predictive model that combines spatial analysis and fuzzy logic modeling to capture expert archaeological knowledge and convert this into predictive surface. A test area was defined in Woodford County, Kentucky, and five influencing factors were defined and calculated using the ArcGIS platform. Points were sampled and probabilities estimated using both small and large group structured processes from a broad range of archeologists that fed a forward-backward fuzzy logic induction process. It was used to generate and refine a knowledge base that mapped all inputs to an output probability function. These data were extracted from the fuzzy logic model to a lookup table and then geocoded into the ArcGIS platform, generating output surfaces showing the probability of encountering artifacts across the entire study area. The predictive results were tested using a blind control protocol with known archaeological data and established model testing statistics. The six models delivered predictive efficiencies that equaled and exceeded comparable statistical predictive models while using a much smaller number of variables as inputs.”

Spatial Analysis Aids Pandemic Preparation

…from The ISN Blog

“As countries prepare for the expected swine flu surge this fall, the ISN is taking this week to examine how they’re steeling themselves for the possible rise in cases.

“In the ISN Special Report, Preparing for a Pandemic, Sara Kuepfer looks at the links between swine flu and globalization, while Shirya Malhotra suggests that visual and spatial analysis could help strengthen public health systems in the fight against the virus.”

Environmental Protection Agency Maps Recovery Obligations and Outlays

enviromapperOnline GIS Application Shows where EPA Is Investing and How Much It Has Spent to Date

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using geographic information system (GIS) technology to show how it is administering its $7.22 billion allotment from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The ESRI ArcGIS Server software-based Web mapping application (click the link on shows total financial obligations and outlays by state. Once a state is selected, visitors can see how much money is going to State and Tribal Assistance Grants, Environmental Program and Management, the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, and Hazardous Substance Superfund.

“Providing this rich set of information to the public in an easy-to-use mapping application is one important way that we are operating in an open and transparent way,” says Jerry Johnston, geospatial information officer, EPA. “By allowing the public to see exactly how EPA’s ARRA funds are being disbursed in their states and, ultimately, in their neighborhoods, this application and the ones that will follow will help ensure an unprecedented level of accountability and transparency in the execution of these programs.”

EPA has used ESRI GIS technology for years to manage its geographic data and deliver information to the public. The EnviroMapper portal, for example, provides access to GIS-based applications that map data related to air, water, and land issues across the United States including EnviroMapper for Environmental Justice and EnviroMapper for the Toxics Release Inventory Program. Most recently, EPA added MyEnvironment to its home page, which allows visitors to input a location and discover detailed information in the specified area such as air quality, cancer risk estimates, and water conditions. MyEnvironment is powered by ArcGIS Server and uses Microsoft Bing Maps.

“GIS supports EPA’s mission to safeguard human health and the environment,” says ESRI president Jack Dangermond. “Using GIS for research, reporting, and decision making has allowed the agency to quickly respond to environmental events and keep the public informed and protected.”

Improving Spatial Analysis and Advancing Geographic Science in ArcGIS 9.4

…adapted from Jack Dangermond’s plenary talk at the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego,California in July of 2009…

j1For me, spatial analysis is the heart of GIS. ArcGIS 9.4 makes a huge step forward in the sreas of spatial analysis and geographic science. Python, the open source scripting language that is rapidly becoming the accepted standard for scientific programming, is being integrating inside of ArcGIS. This will give you a great language to support geoprocessing and spatial analysis, and I think it will bring a lot of advances in geographic science. We’re also going to integrate other software packages for statistics, math, and modeling.

j2At 9.4 we are adding a lot of functionality such as fuzzy overlay modeling. We’re improving the math-algebra integration. We’re radically improving raster performance for analytic operations, especially on very large data cells. We’re integrating time. And we’re introducing an ecological sampling tool, which brings a lot of geostatistics into play. All of these are examples of extending the quantitative methods that we apply.

j3A good friend of mine once said, “For each new advance, each new technology, it’s both a technical advance but it’s also an advance in method.” And this science theorem really rings home here as we expand the analytic language of what we can do with geography.


Top Nine Favorite Innovations in ArcGIS 9.4


Each year at the International User Conference, detailed demonstrations present major new functionality in upcoming releases of ESRI software.  ESRI’s John Calkins presedes these demos with a brief overview of his favorite innovations that won’t be covered in those more detailed demonstrations.  Here are John’s  “Top Nine Favorite Innovations in ArcGIS 9.4” as presented at the 2009 ESRI International User Conference in San Diego, California, in July.

9. User Interface. ArcGIS 9.4 presents a new user experience. The upgraded look includes dockable windows that can automatically hide. Also, a new Catalog window is embedded in ArcMap. We expect these and other underlying framework changes will greatly improve your productivity.

8. Attribute Tables. At 9.4, attribute tables are now displayed in a dockable window. You’ll see a new toolbar across the top, giving you easier access to the tools you need. And you can open multiple tables using the tabbed interface at the bottom.

7.  Search. A new search capability complements the Add Data dialog. The new search tool allows you to type in search criteria and with subsecond response time locate the data you’re interested in. You can use special keywords like points, lines, polygons, or layer—to further refine your search.

6.  Reporting. ArcGIS 9.4 includes a new reporting capability. A series of predefined templates makes it easier to make nice, formatted reports. Once you’ve created a report, you can now save the report so that you can later re-execute it with a different selected set.

5.  Geoprocessing Tools. With ArcGIS 9.4, we’ve enhanced the customization capability so you have access to all the analysis tools. You can drag and drop the Buffer tool or a geoprocessing model onto a toolbar. There’s also a new geoprocessing option that allows you to enable background processing.

4. Table of Contents Views. The table of contents now supports multiple views. The Group By Visibility view organizes layers in your map into visible, scale range, or not visible groups, making it easier to work with complex maps with a lot of layers.  It’s is a nice innovation to complement the traditional table of contents.

3. Symbol Search. To change symbols, you no longer have to browse through 20,000 different symbols looking for the right one, you can simply do a search. It is far more efficient to search for symbols than browsing through the multitude of symbols that are included with ArcGIS.

2. Temporal Mapping. ArcGIS 9.4 is becoming time aware, making it easier to make temporal maps with ArcGIS. There’s a new Time tab in the layer properties, as well as a new clock tool that allows you to set the display’s date and time.

1. Fast Basemaps. Prior to 9.4, when ArcMap updates the display, it redraws each layer sequentially. A new basemap layer in 9.4 enables continuous fast redraw.

Putting Global Warming On Trial?

llatimesogoSmall…from the Los Angeles Times

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

“Chamber officials say it would be “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” — complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.”