TerraPop: Changing the way we manage geospatial data

The Journal of Map & Geography Libraries is pleased to announce the winner of the 2016 Best Paper Award: “Terra Populus: Workflows for Integrating and Harmonizing Geospatial Population and Environmental Data,” by Tracy A. Kugler, David C. Van Riper, Steven M. Manson, David A. Haynes II, Joshua Donato, and Katie Stinebaugh.

Researchers in sociology, geography, history, economics, ecology, forestry, food systems, computer science, and public health alike all rely on spatially detailed, multidecadal data sets to understand changes to the earth's social and ecological systems. Managing, curating, and preserving the data necessary for understanding complex human-environment interactions present a number of challenges. That’s where TerraPop comes in. In the words of the authors, “The goal of TerraPop is to enable research, learning, and policy analysis by providing integrated spatiotemporal data describing people and their environment.”

The paper describes TerraPop's collection strategies, details the geospatial workflows involved in preparing data for ingest into the project database and those used to transform data across formats for dissemination, and discusses the system used to capture and manage provenance metadata throughout the project. A key aspect of the project is the development of global current and historical administrative unit boundaries that can be linked to census data.

The Journal of Map and Geography Libraries’ Best Paper Award is presented annually to the best paper published in the previous year. The evaluation criteria for the award are the papers’ quality of research and writing, interest in the topic by current and future readers, and the likely influence of the article on future research.