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Has GIScience Lost its
Interdisciplinary Mojo?
Mojo - a magic charm
or spell. Commonly:
sex appeal or talent.
Plan
• GIScience & Citizen Science as
interdisciplinary fields
• X-disciplinarity: disciplinary, multi, cross,
inter, tran...
At the beginning …
Total number of publications with the
keywords GIS or GIScience, based on a
Scopus query for the years 1991 through
2015, ...
GIScience and Citizen Science as
interdisciplinary fields
• “GIS software is hard to use unless you have
sufficient knowle...
BUT WHAT DOES
‘INTERDISCIPLINARY FIELD’
MEAN?
Disciplinary research
Clipart by barnheartowl, jetxee at openclipart.org
?
“Big” research
issues
Journals, books,
conferen...
Multidisciplinary research
?
Cross-disciplinary research
?
interdisciplinary research
?
Transdisciplinary research
?
Another way to think of this…
Source: Alexander Refsum Jensenius
http://www.arj.no/2012/03/12/disciplinarities-2/
LESSONS FROM ENGAGING IN
INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH
1. Get them young & hungry
• Interdisciplinary project led by a team of
professors with disciplinary track record ==
multi...
2. Being undermined, unintentionally
• Each discipline will have its own notion of
truth, and how to get to it
• Examples:...
Physicists & participatory
research
3. Being undermined, intentionally
• X-disciplinary proposal are evaluated by
experts from different fields, and no
matter...
Evaluation feedback
• 2007 UCL Research Challenges Board: The
reason why the project seemed so high risk
…. is it clear th...
4. Beware of ‘the disciplinary scrounger’
• Interdisciplinary research open up new tools
and methodologies for the researc...
5. Have a common narrative, early
• A common narrative (e.g. Logic Model,
detailed project plan) help in ensuring
that eve...
6. Assume mutual misunderstanding
• The same term can have different meanings:
– Scale (Anthropology): individual, househo...
Difficulty is that people want to see the suburbs as just one
thing
Created by Kate Jones & Sam Griffiths
7. The publications that are written
• Complex, and delicate negotiations on
authorship practices and contribution
– Anthr...
8. Publications that will never be
written
• Researchers live in disciplines, even if
they work in x-disciplinary projects...
9. It’s about coffee and lunch breaks
(and going out together)
FROM PROJECTS TO
RESEARCH FIELDS
We’re on the road to…
Citizen Science
• Emergent research
agenda (e.g. data
quality, Motivations &
incentives, Interaction...
Inclusiveness
Citizen Science
• Applications in multiple
scientific disciplines, so
conference, projects,
publications are...
Science / Practice
Citizen Science GIScience
Science / Practice
Citizen Science
• Addressing emerging
problems, close
connection to
practitioners
• Practitioners raise...
Coherence & focus
Citizen Science
• Continued discussion
about the
appropriateness of the
name:
– Public Participation in
...
FINDING INTERDISCIPLINARY
OPPORTUNITIES
Citizen Science & GIScience
• Longevity of VGI data sources
• Scale
• Challenging datasets (complexity,
ontology, heteroge...
Longevity of VGI
• GIScience awaken to crowdsourcing in
2007
• Citizen Science can provide
datasets that go back 50
years ...
Scale
Challenging datasets
• GBIF already contains over
500,000,000 records
Critical issues
Source: Helen Roy (CEH)
Usability Challenges
• Interdisciplinary is challenging:
emotionally, practically, and in terms of
funding
• Interdisciplinary is highly satisf...
Acknowledgement
This talk would not be possible without the
generosity of the many people and
communities that we have wor...
Acknowledgement
… and the funders, project partners, and sponsors that
we’ve worked with (and will work with in the future)
Haw GIScience lost its interdisciplinary mojo?
Haw GIScience lost its interdisciplinary mojo?
Haw GIScience lost its interdisciplinary mojo?
Haw GIScience lost its interdisciplinary mojo?
Haw GIScience lost its interdisciplinary mojo?
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Haw GIScience lost its interdisciplinary mojo?

These are the slides from my talk at the GISCience 2016 conference. There is more information on my blog, but the abstract is:
Over the past 25 years, I have experienced an inside track view of two interdisciplinary research fields: Geographical Information Science (GIScience) and Citizen Science. Over that period, I was also involved in about 20 multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary projects. As a result, I also found myself evaluating and funding x-disciplinary projects.
On the basis of these experiences, I’d argue that Interdisciplinarity is always hard, risky, require compromises, accommodations, listening, and making mistakes. The excitement from the outputs and outcomes does not always justify the price. Frequently, there is no-follow on project – it’s been too exhausting.
Considering the project level challenges, viewing interdisciplinary areas of studies emerging is especially interesting. You can notice how concepts are being argued and agreed on. You can see what is inside and what is outside, and where the boundary is drawn. You can see how methodologies, jargon, acceptable behaviour, and modes of operations get accepted or rejected – and from the inside, you can nudge the field and sometimes see the impact of your actions.
GIScience was born as an interdisciplinary field of study, and the period of consolidation that I have seen was supposed to lead to stability and growth. This did not happen. Take any measure that you like: size of conferences, papers – or even the argument if the field deserve a Wikipedia page. Something didn’t work.
In contrast, Citizen Science is already attracting to its conferences audience in the many hundreds – the Citizen Science Association include 4000 (free) members, The European Citizen Science Association 180 (paid) – and that is in the first 2 years since they’ve established.

In the talk, I explore the way in which interdisciplinary projects and fields work, highlight the similarities and differences, and suggest the issues that have led to the outcomes that we see today

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Haw GIScience lost its interdisciplinary mojo?

  1. 1. Has GIScience Lost its Interdisciplinary Mojo? Mojo - a magic charm or spell. Commonly: sex appeal or talent.
  2. 2. Plan • GIScience & Citizen Science as interdisciplinary fields • X-disciplinarity: disciplinary, multi, cross, inter, trans • Lessons from interdisciplinary projects • GIScience and Citizen Science: comparison and speculation • New avenues for collaborations – examples from citizen science
  3. 3. At the beginning …
  4. 4. Total number of publications with the keywords GIS or GIScience, based on a Scopus query for the years 1991 through 2015, executed in July 2015. Egenhofer, M.J., et al. 2016 Contributions of GIScience over the Past Twenty Years. In Advancing Geographic Information Science: The Past and Next Twenty Years, p.9.
  5. 5. GIScience and Citizen Science as interdisciplinary fields • “GIS software is hard to use unless you have sufficient knowledge of geography, cartography, and database management systems…” (Traynor & Williams 1995) – and also statistics, algorithms development, problem domain knowledge (ecology, hydrology, transport) • Citizen Science require knowledge from science engagement and outreach, education, volunteering studies, statistics, geographical analysis, and problem domain knowledge (ecology, astrophysics, brain science, digital humanities) Traynor, C. and M. G. Williams (1995) Why are Geographic Information Systems Hard to Use? CHI'95.
  6. 6. BUT WHAT DOES ‘INTERDISCIPLINARY FIELD’ MEAN?
  7. 7. Disciplinary research Clipart by barnheartowl, jetxee at openclipart.org ? “Big” research issues Journals, books, conferences
  8. 8. Multidisciplinary research ?
  9. 9. Cross-disciplinary research ?
  10. 10. interdisciplinary research ?
  11. 11. Transdisciplinary research ?
  12. 12. Another way to think of this… Source: Alexander Refsum Jensenius http://www.arj.no/2012/03/12/disciplinarities-2/
  13. 13. LESSONS FROM ENGAGING IN INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH
  14. 14. 1. Get them young & hungry • Interdisciplinary project led by a team of professors with disciplinary track record == multi-disciplinary project • Funding Early Career Researchers is the most effective way to encourage interdisciplinary research • Career stage & interdisciplinarity: – PhD – extremely risky, guidance required! – Assistant professor/Postdoc – very risky, but manageable – Associate professor – possible, risk that already gpt stuck in a discipline – Full professor – difficult, unless they’ve done interdisciplinary research
  15. 15. 2. Being undermined, unintentionally • Each discipline will have its own notion of truth, and how to get to it • Examples: Number of participants, validity of sampling, randomised control trials, size • Assumptions about how another discipline is doing things can lead to statement that will sound as undermining expertise and knowledge
  16. 16. Physicists & participatory research
  17. 17. 3. Being undermined, intentionally • X-disciplinary proposal are evaluated by experts from different fields, and no matter how much they are told to focus their comments on their discipline, they will comment on other aspects • X-disciplinary proposal evaluators can assess the novelty in their area, not the overall, reducing the likelihood of ‘outstanding’ mark, hence no funding
  18. 18. Evaluation feedback • 2007 UCL Research Challenges Board: The reason why the project seemed so high risk …. is it clear that even if everything works there would be real value from these sorts of devices? You use the example that the forest people might be able to tell if there were poachers in the area. Yet can that really be shown? Is there any evidence that illiterate people can use maps, digital or otherwise? • 2016 EPSRC: The use of crowdsourcing for data was seen as an important idea … but it was not so clear as to how the data will be used
  19. 19. 4. Beware of ‘the disciplinary scrounger’ • Interdisciplinary research open up new tools and methodologies for the research team • Opportunity for using resources in a researcher own discipline, and use resources from other teams to advance their research • Not necessarily malicious – from the researcher perspective, it is exactly a demonstration of interdisciplinary contribution
  20. 20. 5. Have a common narrative, early • A common narrative (e.g. Logic Model, detailed project plan) help in ensuring that everyone know what is the common goal of the project, agree on key common outcomes and communication, while allowing for a disciplinary latitude
  21. 21. 6. Assume mutual misunderstanding • The same term can have different meanings: – Scale (Anthropology): individual, household, society – Scale (Urban design): street, neighbourhood, city – Scale (Cartography): city, neighbourhood, street, house • Consider the term ‘field’ in GIScience – database? Data model? Object in agricultural application? • These are easy – the subtle things that are taken for granted by each discipline are hard…
  22. 22. Difficulty is that people want to see the suburbs as just one thing Created by Kate Jones & Sam Griffiths
  23. 23. 7. The publications that are written • Complex, and delicate negotiations on authorship practices and contribution – Anthropology expect a single authored book of original material. Computer Science expect rapid, short and multi-authored conference papers. • Writing frequently expose misunderstanding and ambiguities
  24. 24. 8. Publications that will never be written • Researchers live in disciplines, even if they work in x-disciplinary projects • Career, promotion, visibility, recognition – all depend on disciplinary practices • Result: disciplinary papers and outputs are written first, x-disciplinary outputs left to a later stage – and then the project ends • Dependency on voluntary investment of multiple contributors
  25. 25. 9. It’s about coffee and lunch breaks (and going out together)
  26. 26. FROM PROJECTS TO RESEARCH FIELDS
  27. 27. We’re on the road to… Citizen Science • Emergent research agenda (e.g. data quality, Motivations & incentives, Interaction…) • Emerging lose research centres, associations, special issues GIScience • Research agenda • Core curriculum • Body of knowledge • Core research centres • Top down attempt at directing an emerging discipline? Openness to emerging opportunities (e.g. VGI in UCGIS Research Priorities 2004)
  28. 28. Inclusiveness Citizen Science • Applications in multiple scientific disciplines, so conference, projects, publications are going after inclusiveness (tensions exist) GIScience • Early intensive inclusiveness
  29. 29. Science / Practice Citizen Science GIScience
  30. 30. Science / Practice Citizen Science • Addressing emerging problems, close connection to practitioners • Practitioners raise issues that lead to foundational questions GIScience • Basic science – principles and laws • Some disdain to applied practice
  31. 31. Coherence & focus Citizen Science • Continued discussion about the appropriateness of the name: – Public Participation in Scientific Research – Civic Science – Birding, Amateur Astronomy, zooits GIScience • Early naming provided coherence, positions, description of what it is that people need to know to be part of it • Importance of ‘key phrases’
  32. 32. FINDING INTERDISCIPLINARY OPPORTUNITIES
  33. 33. Citizen Science & GIScience • Longevity of VGI data sources • Scale • Challenging datasets (complexity, ontology, heterogeneity) • Critical issues (climate change, biodiversity) • Usability Challenges • Opportunities for new interdisciplinary collaborations
  34. 34. Longevity of VGI • GIScience awaken to crowdsourcing in 2007 • Citizen Science can provide datasets that go back 50 years and more, and in digital forms sources such as eBird (2002): provide longitudinal analysis
  35. 35. Scale
  36. 36. Challenging datasets • GBIF already contains over 500,000,000 records
  37. 37. Critical issues Source: Helen Roy (CEH)
  38. 38. Usability Challenges
  39. 39. • Interdisciplinary is challenging: emotionally, practically, and in terms of funding • Interdisciplinary is highly satisfying: rethinking aspects that are taken for granted, learning new ways of seeing the world, making new friendships • GIScience inbuilt interdisciplinarity should be used to increase its reach GIScience & interdisciplinary Rickles, P. & Ellul, C. (2014): A Preliminary Investigation into the Challenges of Learning GIS in Interdisciplinary Research, Journal of Geography in Higher Education
  40. 40. Acknowledgement This talk would not be possible without the generosity of the many people and communities that we have worked with over the years…
  41. 41. Acknowledgement … and the funders, project partners, and sponsors that we’ve worked with (and will work with in the future)

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