Wang et al 2013 – CyberGIS

This paper addresses growing demands for computing power, flexibility and data handling made by the (also growing) geospatial community. Wang et al examine the current (2013) array of open geospatial tools available to researchers, and present a CyberGIS framework to integrate them. This framework leverages existing software modules, APIs, web services, and cloud-based data storage systems to connect special-purpose services to high-performance computer resources.

It is not entirely apparent to me whether CyberGIS represented a particular project or a generalisable framework. The online resources for the NSF-funded project are now dated – possibly owing to the conclusion of the grant and Wang’s appointment as the President of UCGIS. Nonetheless, CyberGIS has been highly influential in shaping community-driven and participatory approaches to big data GIS, pointing towards cloud-based web GIS platforms such as GeoDa-web and Google Earth Engine.

Advancements in the accessibility and usability of geospatial services greatly increases the potential benefit to multidisciplinary research communities. Removing highly technical skills needed for spatial data handling and analysis of large datasets across multiple platforms allows researchers to allocate more of their time and resources to other elements of their work. This division of intellectual tasks marks the maturing GIScience as a field.

CyberGIS also raises interesting questions about who constitutes a GIScientist. On one hand, it lowers the bar for carrying out analysis of big geospatial data, empowering researchers for whom spatial analysis is an important, but ancillary component of their work. On the other, it could also reduce the pool of academics who are familiar with the GISc and computational techniques that were previously required.

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