Esri and the Scientific Community

Updated: September 28, 2017

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Science at Esri continues to evolve on many exciting fronts, as we focus on supporting both basic and applied science, while also recognizing that there are many major themes of compelling interest to society that will drive scientific research for the next several decades. Thus we view science as helping us to understand not only how the Earth works, but also how the Earth should look (e.g., by way of geodesign), and how we should look at the Earth (i.e., by way of Earth observation in varying forms and the accompanying data science issues of analysis, modeling, developing and documenting useful datasets for science, interoperating between these datasets and between various approaches). These are, in fact, examples of The Science of WhereTM.

There are many major themes of compelling interest to society that will drive scientific research, at least for the next two decades. And thus we view science as helping us to understand not only how the Earth works, but how the Earth should look, and how we should look at the Earth.

In addition to supporting the science community, we seek to do good science at Esri ourselves, as it underpins much of what we do as an organization. This is helping us to evolve ArcGIS into a comprehensive geospatial platform for science; a platform that supports research project management and collaboration, spatial analysis, visualization, open data, and communication of science, all at multiple scales (i.e., from individual researcher to lab workgroup, to multi-department, multi-university, university-to-agency collaboration, to citizen engagement).

There are many natural science domains in which GIS is being used effectively to understand how the Earth works. At Esri, these are the sciences that we are particularly strong in.

Along these lines, Esri is fairly well known to research labs, universities, and other places where great science is done as a vendor of GIS technology. However, Esri continues to work toward contributing as a MEMBER of the scientific community as well. We define the “science community” as scientists within universities, research institutes, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and similar. As such, Esri maintains objective scientific representation on various scientific boards and councils, including several of the committees within these bodies that accomplish important tasks over the long-term. Examples include:

Esri also serves on various advisory boards or collaborative research teams for specific scientific projects, such as:

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Our Major Initiatives and Projects

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Collaborations with Partners in the Academic, Government, and NGO Sectors

  • New! 52 North: Various projects focused on interoperable processing of sensor data and advancement of spatial data infrastructures via publish/subscribe interaction patterns. For example, Sharing Geoprocessing Tools via the Web (via OGC WPS).
  • New! University College London: Various small citizen science and urban risk/resilience projects, including story maps (example 1, example 2) with the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) lab of Professor Muki Haklay.
  • New! NASA: various experiments, prototypes and with climate, ocean, and hydrologic multidimensional datasets particularly with the NASA Earth Science Technology Office
  • New! The GIS Program of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is working with us on developing a series of web services to provision climate data (e.g., netCDF) within the Living Atlas of the World to drive some amazing new apps, particularly in support of the NCAR Community Earth System Model (CESM). They are also working with us on the development of new LearnGIS modules around the use of climate and weather data in GIS, and various other activities to further develop and strengthen the Weather, Climate and Atmospheric GIS Community.
  • New! Esri is pleased to be working with Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) as part of their POPGRID Open Data Collective. POPGRID is a consortium of population and settlement modelers from both the public and private sector that are working on integrated approaches to human settlement, infrastructure, and population mapping, including in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, Esri was recently awarded a semi-exclusive distribution license for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) global LandSCAN and LandCAST data. LandSCAN is an authoritative, high-resolution (1-km), global dataset of population distribution. LandCAST is an empirically-informed spatial distribution of projected population of the contiguous U.S. for 2050 compiled on a 1-km grid.
  • University of Wollongong, Australia: Esri’s Statistical Design Teams will be consulting with Distinguished Professor Noel Cressie and his research group on a range of development projects in areas including geostatistics, space-time pattern mining, R statistical software integration, and statistical clustering algorithms to optimize Esri ecophysiographic, ecological marine, and world population layers.
  • MIT: Esri’s Chief Scientist teamed with the Esri Story Maps and Strategic Marketing Teams in a collaboration with Dr. Amy Glasmeier, Professor of Economic Geography and Regional Planning. The aim was to explore how to better “spatialize” her famous Living Wage Calculator, which analyzes the minimum level of income required for individuals and families to pay for basic living expenses. The result was the Living Wage Story Map, which has received hundreds of thousands of web hits since its launched. It has been featured in dozens of media outlets such as The Atlantic and Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and Politico.
  • Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP): Esri is working with SCCWRP on a variety of collaborative projects including the development of a desktop tool for the assessment of hydromodification via geomorphic landscape analysis. This assessment is focused on changes to stream runoff and sediment supply as a result of land use modifications. Also in the works are the design and development of decision-support tools for adaptation of coastal wetlands to sea level rise, and 3D visualizations for environmental decision support within estuaries.
  • UCSB Space and Time Knowledge Organization (STKO) Lab: Esri and the STKO Lab of Professor Krzysztof Janowicz and his students are pursuing joint research projects of mutual benefit and interest in the areas of Linked Data, semantic search, data-mining-based metadata enrichment, and geo-ontology. This includes experimenting with the ArcGIS ingestion of ontologies and Linked Data for data queries and the associated issues of user experience (UX), semantic search, automatic interpretation, web analytics, and more.
  • The University of Bamberg in Germany has been partnering with Esri on a project focusing on GeoGames and Playful Design, as a medium for education in spatial thinking, for problem-solving in spatial design. The Bamberg team has studied and developed location-based games for different educational scenarios (e.g. river ecology, cultural heritage), and continues to develop prototypes of games and design tools based on ArcGIS technology. See the latest developments at www.geogames-team.org.
  • Indicator-based Interactive Decision Support and Information Exchange Platform for Smart Cities Planning (INDICATE): Our Zurich R&D Center is partnering with IES (a leader in architecture, engineering, and construction or AEC simulation tools), Dublin Trinity College (providing numerical simulations), DHP Consulting (spatial planning experts), and D‘Appolonia (a large Italian AEC and connsulting firm) on this project. The goal is to create an interactive, instant Design-Validate-Feedback loop for urban planning, taking into account energy performance, livability. The project will also share best practices and their impacts using a neutral indicator framework to enable other to assess the effect of measures on their context.
  • SAFECITI: The Esri Zurich R&D Center is partnering with Next Limit (3D Rendering), Golaem (Crowd Simulation), and the Spanish National Police in creating a virtual-reality training and simulation environment for organisations with security mandates using procedural content and crowd simulation. The aim is to develop a simulation platform that will help analysts predict crowd behavior under certain threats in order to help the police develop better safety plans.
  • Open Water Data Initiative: Esri is partnering with U-Texas-Austin, Kisters, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), the US Geological Survey (USGS), the Consortium of Universities for Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUASHI), and others in this project seeking to bring together water information for the whole Earth, at all spatial scales (global, regional, local), linking both geospatial and temporal information, and linking data with modeling.
  • KIC-T: The Esri Zurich R&D Center is partnering with ETH Zurich, IBM Research, and Birmingham City University on using real-time data and simulation for urban planning for climate-change resilient cities. This involves extending the Esri GeoEvent Processor to provide streams of 3D events to the ArcGIS Web3D platform, and in researching and implementing new visualization methods for these real-time streams.
  • Adaptive Composite Map Projections: In 2015 Esri completed a collaboration with Professor Bernard Jenny and his lab at Oregon State University on integrating into the ArcGIS platform a composite adaptive map projection, which seamlessly morphs map space as the user changes map scale or the geographic region displayed. The composite projection adapts the map’s geometry to scale, to the map’s height-to-width ratio, and the central latitude of the displayed area by replacing projections and adjusting their parameters. The result is a scale-aware, adaptive projection, free of the constraint of having to deal with multiple zones or multiple sets of graticules, and ultimately free of the pitfalls of WEB MERCATOR!
  • and many more.

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Staying Connected

There are several ways to keep abreast of science developments at Esri:

  • Get involved in our GeoNet community. This is a different kind of resource center where YOU can provide content as the user and have an opportunity to interact directly with Esri staff or other users, including technical “how-to” questions. This gives us at Esri an opportunity not only to listen TO you, but to ask YOU questions as well. See also this helpful video on Getting Your Questions Answered Quickly on GeoNet.
  • Follow several of the Esri Open Online communities. These contains blog, Twitter streams, discussion forums, videos, case studies, maps, apps, data, and documentation, all of which contain significant content for the science community. Many of these resources are pre-selected to help users in a particular domain complete their work, without having to search through large volumes of content to find what best applies to that domain.
  • Bookmark the Analytics Case Studies site to view various modes of analysis from exploration to decision-making as demonstrated by example, where processes are shown, results are interpreted, data and models can be downloaded.
  • Bookmark the ArcGIS Pro web site, which has significant content for the science community, particularly with regard to geoprocessing and spatial analysis across many science domains.
  • If you enjoy Twitter, follow Esri Chief Scientist Dawn Wright via @deepseadawn, where she makes science and ocean-related postings daily, as well as the @gisandscience and @esriscienceTwitter accounts.
  • Follow the GIS and Science blog of Matt Artz, to see the fascinating array of journal articles, books, and scholarly events where GIS technology is being used to advance scientific understanding.
  • Attend the Esri International User Conference, where there are always high-quality paper sessions and map galleries focused on a wide array of scientific themes (including the annual GIScience Research or Frontiers in GIScience sessions and the new Science Symposium). In addition, there are Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings, and science-related demo theaters (e.g., demo theaters by the wizards in our Applications Prototype Lab are always a treat for scientists).
  • Attend upcoming Esri specialist meetings with science themes (e.g., the Geodesign Summit, Geodesign Summit Europe, the Health and Human Services GIS Conference, the Ocean GIS Forum, the FedGIS Conference, etc.). Consider also the Esri Developer Summit. Information on all Esri events is available at esri.com/events.
  • Esri staffers also do great science themselves, and you are welcome to visit our online Zotero library showcasing our publications.

This diagram shows the various aspects of our comprehensive program to support the science community, showing the interlinkages between and among universities, government agencies, and various consultancies, nonprofits, for profits, and other organizations focused on science. Contact the Chief Scientist, Dawn Wright, dwright-at-esri.com, for more information. (Click image to enlarge)

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Dawn Wright

About Dawn Wright

Dawn Wright joined Esri as Chief Scientist in October 2011 and is responsible for strengthening the scientific foundation for Esri software and services, while representing Esri to the national and international scientific community. She is also professor of geography and oceanography at Oregon State University and has participated in several initiatives around the world over the past 20 years to map, analyze, and preserve ocean terrains and ecosystems. Follow her on Twitter @deepseadawn.
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