Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Open Access Health GIS Journals

My background is in public health and GIS, so one of my favorite open access GIS journals is the International Journal of Health Geographics.  The breadth of topics and analysis covered is impressive and it is a good place to start when conducting a literature search. In addition, the Public Library of Science Journals (PLoS) frequently contain spatial analysis.

One problem with health and GIS is performing literatures searches. Since geographers and public health professionals use many terms to describe GIS, it can be very difficult to search for and identify relevent articles.  For example, a search of PubMed finds only 1,200 articles for 'health and GIS' but almost 8,000 for 'health and geography.'  So, watch what terms you use to search!

Besides health, there are an extensive list of GIS journals, some pay-per-access and others open access. Although published only a few times per year, I came across the URISA journal which is an interesting read for anyone involved in GIS in government.  The Journal of Geographic Information System has an international scope.

Lastly, as I have considered writing, I have found some 'open source' journals charge to have an article published while others absorb the cost.  Fyi, and something to keep an eye on when you start to write.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


GRASS GIS is one of the oldest open source software out there, and has extensive capabilities for GIS.  It was my initial encounter with an open source GIS.  While many parts of GRASS will feel familiar, adopting to folders, workspaces, mapfiles, naming conventions, and ensuring projections are correct will help you get acclimated a lot faster.  Be sure to understand all of these and where they are located on your computer before you begin.  Other open source GIS desktop software have adopted similar convetions, so learning in GRASS will be a good investment.

Moreover, GRASS has extensive 3D capabilities --an increasingly important part of GIS. If all maps are representations of reality, then putting them into 3D certaintly goes a long way towards feeling more real.  I am not a 3D analyst, so for me GRASS is a great learning tool that also carries over occasionally to work.

Open Source GIS

Open source desktop software for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have impressed me over the last six months.  Therefore, I have begun to expand into other open source areas, namely image processing with Opticks and, time allowing, open source web publishing tools in the months to come. At first I struggled with some of the software packages, but the hard work is beginning to pay off. My hope is to share some of the benefits, negatives, and advanced applications available to users of open source GIS.

For those looking to start using open source GIS, is the place to start:

In my next few posts, I will describe some of the major open source GIS software starting with GRASS GIS, Quantum (QGIS), and Opticks remote sensing and image processing software.  In addition, I will talk about free sources of geospatial data.