- First Name
- Last Name
- Job Title
- Lecturer in Geography
- University of Dundee
- Other discipline / Specific area of work
- Human Geography / GIS
- Website 1
- Short Biography
Alistair’s undergraduate and Masters degrees are both from The University of Edinburgh, in Geography and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) respectively. He did his PhD in Geography at the Pennsylvania State University. In between the latter degrees he worked at Lancaster University and then at the Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen.
Alistair’s research continues to involve GIS. As GIS is unlikely to be familiar to all in AQMeN it is worth saying a bit more about. Data on which geographic information is built consist in their most primitive form of two parts: a location, uniquely identified by a set of (x, y) coordinates, and one or more attributes, the latter recording some characteristics (i.e. variables) of interest for that location. These data primitives are the basis for modelling real-world entities in a GIS database. Other GIS functions use this coordinate information -- a simple example being the linking together of values from different data sets which have locations in common.
Another key area associated with GIS is spatial data analysis, in which the core concern is to investigate how and why recorded values vary with location. Frequently the geographical distribution of values is not random, and instead exhibits spatial autocorrelation -- i.e. whereby values for adjacent or nearby locations are more likely to be similar than values for locations further apart from one another. Spatial autocorrelation is problematic for conventional non-spatial statistical analysis because it violates the assumption of independence. In contrast, much spatial data analysis focuses on exploring, describing and modelling spatial dependence.
As well as spatial autocorrelation, spatial data analysis spans other well-known challenges. Challenges posed by ‘census geography’ have been a theme in Alistair's own work. Primary issues with census geography concern the fact that census results are usually produced for multiple sets of reporting areas, the boundaries of which are often defined arbitrarily, and may have been modified from one census to the next. In turn this affects the patterns, relationships and changes observed using census results. Alistair’s research on census geography has focussed on understanding the effects of census area definition on regression modelling, on spatial dis-aggregation methods, and on the potential to develop and apply optimised 'regionalisations' of census data.
At Dundee, Alistair teaches modules in quantitative methods and in GIS. As well as undergraduate level he also teaches on the Masters programmes in Applied Population Geography and Social Research Methods. A selection of materials Alistair uses in this teaching may be of interest to those seeking further information.
• Fotheringham, Brundson and Charlton (2002) Geographically Weighted Regression: The Analysis of Spatially Varying Relationships, Wiley
• Goodchild and Janelle (2004) Spatially Integrated Social Science, Oxford
• O’Sullivan and Unwin (2003) Geographic Information Analysis, Wiley
• Rees, Martin, Williamson (eds) 2002, The Census Data System, Wiley
• Wilson, J. and Fotheringham (eds) (2008) The Handbook of Geographic Information Science, Blackwell
Web-based resources of UK relevance
• GEO-REFER project (Geographical Referencing Resources for Social Scientists) – http://www.restore.ac.uk/resources/grefer.php
• University College London Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis – http://www.casa.ucl.ac.uk/
• The Office for National Statistics ‘Beginners Guide to UK Geography’ – http://www.statistics.gov.uk/geography/beginners_guide.asp
• Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center – http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/
GIS / spatial data analysis software:
• GeoDa (and more recent software) – http://geodacenter.asu.edu/software
• Software for Geographically Weighted Regression – available for purchase from http://ncg.nuim.ie/ncg/GWR/software.htm
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