A Qualitative Approach to Understanding the Role of Geographic Information Uncertainty during Decision Making

Cartography and Geographic Information Science, Volume 36, Number 4, October 2009 , pp. 315-330(16)

Roth, Robert E.

“Much recent research in GIScience is focused on developing deep comprehension of the underlying nature of uncertainty in order to design effective uncertainty representations that support informed decision-making. As it is impossible to eliminate all uncertainty from an abstracted representation, it is important to understand the involvement of uncertainty in the geographic information life cycle, the many forms that uncertainty can take, and the influence these forms have on decision-making. This paper examines the involvement and influence of geographic information uncertainty during decision-making, using the case study domain of floodplain mapping. A set of focus groups composed of floodplain mapping experts was conducted to provide initial insight into the following research questions: (1) How is uncertainty involved in the creation, representation, and use of geographic information in the domain of floodplain mapping and how can this practice be improved? (2) Is the MacEachren et al. typology an appropriate categorization of the many geographic information uncertainties in the domain of floodplain mapping or are there categories that must be added, removed, or revised? (3) Which categories of uncertainty are the most influential on the decision-making process in the domain of floodplain mapping? Although the focus groups revealed that the current involvement of geographic information uncertainty is less than ideal, there was clear consensus that the MacEachren et al. typology is an appropriate categorization of geographic information uncertainty for the domain of floodplain mapping and that the categories accuracy/error, precision/resolution, and currency are the most influential on the decision-making process. ”

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