Geographic Information Analysis Core (GIA)

GIA Pilot Hours for Social Science Research

The GIA Core provides services to facilitate the use of geospatial data and a spatial perspective in social science research. Our services emphasize spatial statistics, advanced spatial analysis methods, exploratory spatial data analysis, and customized GIS/spatial analysis programming. In addition, GIA Core services support the collection of intensive longitudinal geospatial data and the building of contextual and ecological databases. We also provide traditional GIA services, including geocoding, mapping/cartography (including web-based mapping) and geospatial data acquisition, archiving and management. As GIS and spatial analysis are not typical research methodologies in the social sciences, the GIA Core’s services aim to promote interdisciplinary collaborations and help social scientists to think outside the box.

Functions

The GIA Core is organized around four goals:

  • Assist social science researchers in collecting, organizing and processing geospatial data
  • Provide sound advice and access to highly trained personnel and software that bring a spatial perspective to social science research
  • Use spatial analysis to address sophisticated social phenomena and/or questions
  • Assist social science researchers in collecting, organizing, and processing geospatial data

The volume, sources, and forms of geospatial data are growing rapidly. The collection of new types of individual and area-based data can greatly facilitate the measurement of appropriately defined contexts and individual exposure to contexts--and provide opportunities for more explicit spatial analysis using exploratory methods and advanced spatial analytical tools. The GIA Core helps researchers take advantage of new developments in geospatial data, such as the use of mobile computing, remote sensing, wireless technologies and volunteered geographic information (VGI).

  • Provide sound advice and access to highly trained personnel and software that bring a spatial perspective to social science research

The main goal of the GIA Core is to facilitate a spatial perspective in social science research. The GIA Core has been collaborating with scholars from various social science disciplines. One example is the development of methods that integrate qualitative data and GIS (geoethnography) to create personalized geographies of resource use outside the local residential neighborhood. Another example is the creation of spatially-explicit measures of segregation that are not dependent on the utilization of census boundaries. An area of emerging strength within the core is the application of advanced spatial methods, including spatial econometrics, Bayesian spatial models, multilevel modeling and GWR. Enhanced capacity in the application of these techniques within the GIA Core has led to significant changes in the types of analytical questions being asked by social scientists.

  • Use spatial analysis to address sophisticated social phenomena and/or questions

Conventional social science research methods have often failed to capture the complexity of contextual phenomena. For instance, survey-based research may not objectively measure the environments to which respondents are exposed and the associated analysis may be limited to individuals.  Such an approach overlooks the fact that individual behaviors are shaped by environments and that environments, in turn, may be reshaped by individual behaviors. Associations between individuals and environments can be captured/measured in a more sophisticated way by incorporating a spatial perspective. The services provided by the GIA Core are designed to capture these person-environment interactions.