Advanced Spatial Analysis

This website is preserved as an Archive for the NIH-funded GISPopSci / Advanced Spatial Analysis Training Programs (2005–2013). Current resources in support of
Spatially Integrated Social Science
are now available at the following:


Host Institutions

The Pennsylvania State University

The Population Research Institute

The Population Research Institute (PRI) at The Pennsylvania State University encourages, organizes, and supports innovative research and training in the population sciences.Drawing on the talents of over sixty outstanding scholars, PRI provides a supportive and collegial intellectual environment to stimulate collaborative, externally funded research.PRI is multidisciplinary in orientation and organization with elected faculty associates hailing from 15 departments and programs in six colleges. PRI faculty associates are internationally recognized for their research on topics such as the transformation of the American family, racial disparities in health, trends in socioeconomic inequality, and the social and economic consequences of immigration.PRI fosters interdisciplinary research on topics such as these, blending biomedical and developmental perspectives with traditional approaches in the population sciences.

The Population Research Institute is an National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) supported population center.Infrastructural resources from the NICHD and the University have been the catalyst for PRI's development as a synergistic center for innovative population research. PRI offers colloquia, workshops, lecture series and conferences to foster professional development and intellectual exchange among PRI researchers. Grants Administration services, through the Social Science Research Institute, are provided for developing and managing large-scale externally funded population research.PRI also leverages resources by providing common services through research cores including Information, Computing, Statistics, and Geographic Information Analysis.

PRI is the home of Penn State's Graduate Program in Demography.Graduates of this interdisciplinary training program receive dual Ph.D. degrees combining demography with sociology, economics, anthropology, human development and family studies, rural sociology, and agricultural, environmental and regional economics.The program draws on 42 faculty from the 6 participating departments.The training philosophy is that research and policy questions in demography are best pursued through the integration of demographic knowledge and methods with paradigms in sociology, developmental psychology, economics, and anthropology.

PRI is also the home of a postdoctoral training program in the demography of aging.

PRI Website >>

The John A. Dutton e-Education Institute

The Dutton e-Education Institute was founded in March 2000 to enrich teaching and learning in the university's College of Earth & Mineral Sciences (home to the Departments of Geography, Geosciences, Meteorology, Materials Science and Engineering, and Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering) through the use of information technology, particularly the Internet.

The e-Education Institute's five strategic initiatives are:

  1. Help every EMS department to design, create, and sustain Web-only general education courses that prepare undergraduates for life-long learning while generating significant new enrollments
  2. Contribute to a more student-centered College and University by supporting students who develop e-portfolios and instructors who incorporate e-portfolio assessment in their courses
  3. Produce and publish new knowledge about best practices in e-education through sponsored research
  4. Help every EMS instructor who wishes to use the University's ANGEL course management system to enrich his or her classroom course

One of the Institute's biggest success stories has been an online Certificate Program in GIS, a project carried out in partnership with the Department of Geography and Penn State's World Campus. Geared toward adult professionals who find it difficult to attend traditional college courses, the Certificate Program in GIS has produced over 450 graduates since its inception in 1999. Students have come from each of the 50 U.S. states and 13 foreign countries. Because of the success of the Certificate Program, it is being expanded into an online Master of GIS degree program. The MGIS is set to accept its first cohort of students in January 2005.

e-Education Website >>

The GeoVISTA Center

The Penn State Department of Geography is home to the GeoVISTA Center, one of the world's foremost labs specializing in the visualization of geographic data. The GeoVISTA Center's mission statement reads as follows:

Diverse critical scientific and societal issues are prompting generation of large volumes of geospatial data and demands for geospatial information technologies that allow these data to be used effectively. The issues include understanding health-environment interactions, assessing terrorist threats, planning for dramatic changes in regional demographics across the country, and fusing perspectives for strategic environmental risk management. The data being generated and corresponding demands for useful and usable technologies, in turn, pose an array of research challenges and opportunities that the GeoVISTA Center is working to address.

GeoVISTA's specific mission is to coordinate integrated and innovative research in Geographic Information Science (GIScience), with an emphasis on geovisualization. The focus is on developing powerful human-centered methods and technologies that make it possible for scientists and decision makers to solve scientific, social, and environmental problems through computer-supported, visually-enabled analysis of the growing wealth of geospatial data.

We have identified four core research foci:

  1. geocollaboration
  2. integrated methods for knowledge construction
  3. human interaction with geospatial information
  4. 4. decision-support and risk management tools

Alan MacEachren and Mark Gahegan are the Director and Associate Director of GeoVISTA. Faculty associates come from a number of departments across the university including Geography, Information Science & Technology, Computer Science, and Landscape Architecture

GeoVISTA Website >>

The Online Certificate and Master of GIS Programs

The Penn State Department of Geography offers GIS education via the Internet through the university online college, the World Campus. Since 1999, the non-credit Certificate Program has provided continuing education opportunities for adult professionals who find it difficult to attend traditional college courses. Over 450 students representing each of the 50 U.S. states and 13 foreign countries have completed the program, which requires the completion of four ten-week courses.

Because of the success of the program and the encouragement of its graduates, the Certificate Program is being expanded into an online Master of GIS degree. Beyond just completing additional coursework, students will be paired with an advisor when they enter the program. In place of the traditional thesis, students will present the results of a work-related project at a professional conference in their field. The MGIS program is set to accept its first cohort of students in January 2005.

Courses in both the Certificate and MGIS Programs are characterized by:

  • An instructional format that attempts to take full advantage of the World Wide Web medium. In place of the traditional reading/exercise format, the lessons are typically activity-based from the start. When an important geographic concept is encountered for the first time, students follow a link to the course Concept Gallery. There they read a concise explanation of the concept, then return to the activity.
  • Threaded discussion moderated by the instructor through a course message board. Students may ask questions about course concepts, seek help with the software, or discuss GIS and how it relates to their jobs. Good discussion on the message boards not only reinforces the course materials, but also builds a strong sense of community amongst the students.
  • Students demonstrating their mastery of the course material through the use of online portfolios. Beyond simply providing a means for the instructor to assess student progress, portfolios enable the students to see how their classmates may have approached a problem differently. In addition, students who design their portfolios carefully have an effective means of showing what they have learned to their current or prospective employers.

GIS Programs Website >>

The Geographic Information Analysis Core

The Geographic Information Analysis (GIA) Core of the Population Research Institute (PRI) was created in 1996 as part of the PRI's Population Center Grant (P30).

A goal of the GIA Core is to develop a capacity for geographic information analysis among population scientists, to encourage and facilitate the innovative use of geospatial data and methods to address population research questions, and to develop and maintain geographically referenced databases and tools relevant to population research. To achieve these goals the GIA Core provides services to PRI faculty in seven functional areas: (1) offering expert advice, (2) applying spatio-analytical methods, (3) providing GIS programming and technical support, (4) supporting GIS fieldwork activities, (5) archiving and managing geo-referenced spatial data, (6) producing and analyzing census geo-demographic maps, and (7) conducting user training.

In brief, the GIA Core supports both traditional GIS data entry and manipulation tasks, as well as, the application of spatial analytical techniques (spatio-temporal GIS, spatial statistics, visualization and exploratory data analysis) to population science research. The GIA Core supports ArcGIS 9.x (ArcInfo, ArcEditor, and ArcView), Arcview 3.3, GeoDa, CrimeStat and other relevant software as well as peripheral devices for data entry (scanning and digitizing) and for presentation (color output).

GIA Website >>

The Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Council

In Spring 2001 Dr. Eva J. Pell, Vice President for Research at Penn State, created the GIS Council composed of representatives from various campuses, research units and colleges.

The GIS Council was asked to report on five specific charges:

  1. facilitate GIS-related activities
  2. facilitate preparation of large-scale proposals
  3. increase awareness of the use of GIS
  4. identify the places where expertise exists
  5. define other GIS-related issues University wide

In November 2002, Tina Enderlein was appointed as the first Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Officer for the University.The position was created resulting from a key recommendation in a GIS Council report commissioned by Eva J. Pell. Vice President for Research, and Dean of the Graduate School.The position has been made possible by financial commitments from eight academic units across the University. The contributing academic units include:

  • College of Agricultural Sciences
  • College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • Applied Research Laboratory
  • The Pennsylvania State University Capitol College, Harrisburg
  • Hershey Medical College
  • Penn State's Institutes of the Environment
  • Social Science Research Institute
  • Office of the Vice President for Research

A recent Research Penn State article about the GIS Council

GIS Council Website >>

The Social Science Research Institute

The mission of the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) at The Pennsylvania State University is to promote research encompassing the wide range of skills and perspectives that are needed to solve complex social problems.SSRI fosters communication and collaboration across the full range of social science disciplines and provides a shared infrastructure for social science research that enables faculty to conduct high-quality studies.Created by the Colleges of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Development, and The Liberal Arts, SSRI is open to all social scientists at Penn State. Uniting outstanding social science faculty across the university, SSRI encourages and supports:

  1. Research of individual investigators from diverse fields
  2. Research collaborations across disciplinary lines, across colleges and research centers, and across universities
  3. Programs to support multidisciplinary graduate training
  4. Multidisciplinary centers of activity within SSRI that focus on different areas of social concern.

In addition to the overall institute, SSRI includes a number of research centers focusing on specific issues in the social sciences.The Population Research Institute (PRI) is one of the foremost research and training programs in the population sciences in the United States.The Children, Youth and Families Consortium (CYFC) was created to encourage and develop faculty expertise and to promote the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that could place Penn State in a position of national and international leadership, demonstrating the role a land-grant university could and should play in addressing critical social issues and serving community needs.SSRI also houses the Survey Research Center (SRC), which advances research and training in survey methods and meets the need for state-of-the-art and comprehensive survey services to support social science research, and the Network for Policy Research (NPR), which is an extensive network of Penn State faculty and researchers interested in applying social science research to public policy issues.

SSRI offers a range of high quality services to all Penn State social scientists regardless of college or research unit.These include: (1) proposal development and grants management, (2) Computing, (3) Data management and statistical programming, (4) Survey design and data collection (through SRC), (5) Electronic data archiving, and (6) Geographic Information Systems.

SSRI Website >>

University of California, Santa Barbara

The Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science

The Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science (CSISS) is founded on the principle that analyzing social phenomena in space and time enhances our understanding of social processes. CSISS recognizes the growing significance of space, spatiality, location, and place in social science research and cultivates an integrated approach in these areas. It seeks to develop unrestricted access to tools and perspectives that will advance the spatial analytic capabilities of researchers throughout the social sciences.

The goal of CSISS is to integrate spatial concepts into the theories and practices of the social sciences by providing infrastructure to facilitate: (1) the integration of existing spatial knowledge, making it more explicit, and (2) the generation of new spatial knowledge and understanding.

    CSISS Objectives:
  1. To encourage and expand applications of new geographic information technologies and newly available geographically referenced data in social science.
  2. To introduce scholars to an integrated approach to social science research.
  3. To foster collaborative interdisciplinary networks that address core issues in the social sciences using this approach.
  4. To develop online access to the tools, case studies, educational opportunities, and other resources needed by this approach.

The initial core funding for CSISS (1999–2005) was from the National Science Foundation under its program of support for infrastructure in the social and behavioral sciences. CSISS is host to SPACE (Spatial Perspectives on Analysis for Curriculum Enhancement), an NSF-supported program (2003-2009) that trains undergraduate social science instructors to use spatial analysis methodologies in undergraduate teaching.

CSISS Website >>

The Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research

The Institute for Social Behavioral, and Economic Research (ISBER) serves as a facilitator of research in the social and behavioral sciences at UCSB, providing help to scholars in conceptualizing research proposals, seeking funds, and administering projects. ISBER currently serves more than 130 principal investigators in research that reflects the intellectual diversity of the social sciences. It also provides administrative support for 14 research centers, including Centers for the Advanced Study of Individual Differences, Communication and Social Policy, East Asia, Evolutionary Psychology, Global Studies, Health Data Research, Information Technology and Society, MesoAmerican Research, Middle East Studies, Police Practices and Community, Sexual Minorities in the Military, Spatially Integrated Social Science, the Study of Religion, and Social Science Survey Center (and Benton Survey Research Laboratory). ISBER plays an important role in promoting interdisciplinary work that spans the boundaries of the social and behavioral sciences, the humanities, and, in some cases, the physical and life sciences. In this regard, ISBER contributes significantly to the intellectual life of the university and to the knowledge needs of society.

ISBER Website >>

The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis

The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis is an independent research consortium dedicated to basic research and education in geographic information science and its related technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS). The three member institutions are the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University at Buffalo; and the University of Maine. The consortium was formed in 1988 to respond to a competition for funding from the National Science Foundation, and continues to receive much of its funding from that source. Topics of current research within the NCGIA consortium include:

  • Accuracy and uncertainty in spatial data
  • Cognition
  • Modeling and representation

Today, the NCGIA stands as an international focus for basic research. Its three sites attract short- and long-term visitors from around the world, and its educational programs address the needs of students at all levels.

NCGIA Website >>

The Map and Imagery Laboratory

The Map and Imagery Laboratory advances the interdisciplinary use of spatial data and provides technologies for integrating diverse information formats. The facility is nationally recognized for the quantity of spatial data it holds and the availability of equipment for utilizing both analog and digital materials. It is the home of the Alexandria Digital Library (ADL) providing, via the Internet, geospatial searching as well as data access. ADL includes a 6 million item gazetteer of place names and a 2 million item catalog, that includes metadata for several terabytes of online digital data.

MIL serves the academic and research needs of the University of California, the state university system, business, industry, federal and state government, and other domestic and foreign educational institutions. Since its opening in 1979, MIL has become a primary information source for regional, national and global academic research and has hosted many symposia and seminars.

MIL Website >>

The UCSB Spatial Studies Center (spatial@ucsb)

spatial@ucsb seeks to enhance UCSB’s position as a leader in spatial knowledge by focusing on new innovations and applications of spatial thinking in all areas of scientific, social, and artistic investigation. The Center provides a forum for faculty and students at UCSB (and beyond) to share the results of their spatially-focused work and to engage in collaborative research and teaching. The center’s public lectures, brown-bag presentations, and short courses act to create an ever-widening spatial community of scientists and scholars.

spatial@ucsb Website >>