Tag Archive | GIScience

Nurture affects gender differences in spatial abilities

As an undergraduate in physics many years ago, I asked my adviser about whether to pursue a career in GIScience. His response — “women are not as good spatial thinkers as men.” But research demonstrates otherwise — it’s nurture, not nature. This research, published in the highly distinguished Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that the “gender gap in spatial abilities, measured by time to solve a puzzle, disappears when we move from a patrilineal society to an adjoining matrilineal society.” It’s about education, not gender.

Nurture affects gender differences in spatial abilities

Moshe Hoffman, Uri Gneezy, and John A. List

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — Volume 108, Number 36 (2011) 14786–14788

Women remain significantly underrepresented in the science, engineering, and technology workforce. Some have argued that spatial ability differences, which represent the most persistent gender differences in the cognitive literature, are partly responsible for this gap. The underlying forces at work shaping the observed spatial ability differences revolve naturally around the relative roles of nature and nurture. Although these forces remain among the most hotly debated in all of the sciences, the evidence for nurture is tenuous, because it is difficult to compare gender differences among biologically similar groups with distinct nurture. In this study, we use a large-scale incentivized experiment with nearly 1,300 participants to show that the gender gap in spatial abilities, measured by time to solve a puzzle, disappears when we move from a patrilineal society to an adjoining matrilineal society. We also show that about one-third of the effect can be explained by differences in education. Given that none of our participants have experience with puzzle solving and that villagers from both societies have the same means of subsistence and shared genetic background, we argue that these results show the role of nurture in the gender gap in cognitive abilities. Download PDF Here

GIScience Grand Challenges

GIScience Grand Challenges: How can research and technology in this field address big-picture problems?

by Michael Gould, Director of Educational Industry Solutions, ESRI

To a GIS practitioner, the distinction between GIS and GIScience may be difficult to get a handle on. Geographic information science is a term coined in a 1992 paper in the International Journal of Geographic Information Systems by University of California, Santa Barbara, professor Michael Goodchild. The idea actually came from his 1990 keynote speech called Spatial Information Science, delivered at the 4th International Symposium on Spatial Data Handling in Zurich, Switzerland.

I attended that symposium, and I recall some skepticism in the audience: were we witnessing an attempt to turn something methodological into a science merely to build our credibility in the eyes of funding agencies? Some remarked that fields that find the need to add the qualifier “science” to their name (political science, computer science) are by definition not legitimate sciences. But semantics aside, Goodchild’s basic argument that “GIS needs a strong scientific and intellectual component” (or else the technology might be short-lived) was generally accepted. The GIScience term stuck, and almost two decades later, many university graduate programs now focus on GIScience rather than on GIS.

University at Buffalo professor David Mark defined GIScience in 2003 as “the development and use of theories, methods, technology, and data for understanding geographic processes, relationships, and patterns.” Practitioners can think of GIScience as the key foundational ideas (which become algorithms and then code) that make GIS software tick. In many cases, GIS software has become a test bed or sandbox for validating GIScience ideas.

For full text of the article, via GIScience Grand Challenges – ESRI.com.

Also, check out an earlier post on grand challenges from UCGIS members:

Grand Challenges in Geospatial Science Research

The emergence of spatial cyberinfrastructure

Dawn J. Wrighta, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, and

Shaowen Wang, Department of Geography and National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL.

doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103051108 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences April 5, 2011 vol. 108 no. 14 5488-5491

Abstract: Cyberinfrastructure integrates advanced computer, information, and communication technologies to empower computation-based and data-driven scientific practice and improve the synthesis and analysis of scientific data in a collaborative and shared fashion. As such, it now represents a paradigm shift in scientific research that has facilitated easy access to computational utilities and streamlined collaboration across distance and disciplines, thereby enabling scientific breakthroughs to be reached more quickly and efficiently. Spatial cyberinfrastructure seeks to resolve longstanding complex problems of handling and analyzing massive and heterogeneous spatial datasets as well as the necessity and benefits of sharing spatial data flexibly and securely. This article provides an overview and potential future directions of spatial cyberinfrastructure. The remaining four articles of the special feature are introduced and situated in the context of providing empirical examples of how spatial cyberinfrastructure is extending and enhancing scientific practice for improved synthesis and analysis of both physical and social science data. The primary focus of the articles is spatial analyses using distributed and high-performance computing, sensor networks, and other advanced information technology capabilities to transform massive spatial datasets into insights and knowledge.

via The emergence of spatial cyberinfrastructure.

Emerging Field of “Web Science” – How does geospatial fit in?


Puneet Kishor, Ph.D. candidate in the Nelson Institue for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, had the privilege of attending the Summer Doctoral Program (SDP) at Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute this past summer. Following is a brief report from his experience.

Puneet wrote: The theme of the two week long workshop was “Web Science,” a term coined to describe the emerging “science of the web.” The logic is that “in order to: understand what the web is; engineer its future; ensure its social benefit, we need a new interdisciplinary field that (we) call Web Science.” [http://webscience.org].

Among the several program tutors, the notable personalities (for me) were Hal Abelson (co-founder of Creative Commons), Gerry Sussman (co-founder of Free Software Foundation) and Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the web).

The presentations could be broadly aggregated under the themes of social networking and Second Life; semantic web; and privacy and security. There was an all too brief digression into matters of public policy, and I was the only participant from the geospatial arena. Most of the presentations can be accessed from [http://students.oii.ox.ac.uk/sdp:sdp2008:readings].

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