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Geospatial Frontiers in Health and Social Environments

In connection with the AAG Initiative for an NIH-Wide GIS Infrastructure, the AAG recently received a competitively awarded grant from NIH's cross-cutting OppNet Program for an R13 proposal entitled Geospatial Frontiers in Health and Social Environments. This funding supports a series of three scientific symposia to examine the possibilities and challenges for health-and-environments research that are associated with innovative developments in the fields of geography and GIScience. Senior project personnel include: Michael Goodchild, Douglas Richardson, Mei-Po Kwan, Jonathan Mayer, and Sara McLafferty. Each symposium is organized for a 1½ day period, and limited to approximately 25 leading geographers, GIScientists, biomedical scientists, public health researchers, and senior NIH officials to encourage interactive dialogue.

The first two symposia were scheduled in April 2012 and July 2012. The April symposium focused on the theme of Spatiotemporal Analysis for Health Research. The July symposium focused on the theme of Enabling a National Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure for Health Research. The third symposium, held in June 2013, had the theme Synthesis and Synergy: Towards a Shared Vision. The final symposium served as a capstone to the project, building on the first two symposia. An innovative research agenda to enhance the integration and sophistication of GIScience-based approaches in health and environments research is now being prepared.

For more information about NIH and its Basic Behavioral & Social Science Opportunity Network (OppNet), please visit http://oppnet.nih.gov.


About the April 2012 Symposium: Spatiotemporal Analysis for Health Research

The first interdisciplinary research symposium on Spatiotemporal Analysis for Health Research was held April 27-28, 2012 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC. Participants included high-level officials from NIH and leading researchers drawn from geography, GIScience, biomedical science, public health research, computer science, and other social and behavioral sciences. The symposium agenda included research presentations and active discussions of key research, technical and policy challenges.

The past decade has seen major advances in methods to analyze health and environmental information over space and time and to explore the implications of people's everyday activity patterns for a host of health-related issues, including environmental exposures and access to social and healthcare resources. These methods increasingly rely on real-time monitoring devices such as GPS-enabled cell phones and exposure monitors. Building knowledge about health from data that are spatially distributed, and subject to varying degrees of uncertainty, presents a series of opportunities and challenges that will be addressed in this symposium.

The following are examples of the principal questions relevant to the April 2012 symposium:

  • What are the main research challenges in collecting and analyzing real-time GPS data?
  • What is the best temporal scale for representing and analyzing a particular dynamic phenomenon that optimizes the tradeoff between analytical refinement and analytical difficulties?
  • What is the best spatial scale that optimizes the trade-off between accuracy of the analytical results and protection of individual privacy?
  • How can meaningful patterns be derived from massive amounts of multidimensional spatiotemporal data collected by location-aware technologies?
  • How can we define and operationalize geographic context in relation to the dynamic trajectories of people’s daily lives?
  • How can existing spatiotemporal modeling methods and computational algorithms be improved?
  • What conceptual and analytical perspectives hold the greatest promise for major breakthroughs in the future?

Selected April Symposium Presentations


About the July 2012 Symposium: Enabling a National Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure for Health Research

The second interdisciplinary research symposium on Enabling a National Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure for Health Research was held July 27-28, 2012 (Friday-Saturday) in San Diego, CA. Participants included leading researchers drawn from geography, GIScience, biomedical science, public health research, computer science, and other social and behavioral sciences. The symposium agenda included research presentations and active discussions of key research, technical and policy challenges. 

Cyberinfrastructure together with GIS (CyberGIS) offers the potential of collaboration between remotely located researchers and practitioners who communicate using a common language and share access to common tools and data. It is now widely accepted that collaboration, across disciplinary and geographic lines, is the answer to the complex research questions that now demand attention. CyberGIS thus reflects the maturing of the GIS vision in line with current trends in science generally.

The following are examples of the principal questions relevant to the July 2012 symposium:

  • In what ways does the vision of cyberGIS need to be adapted to the special needs of the health sciences generally, and NIH specifically?
  • Is it possible to identify a set of compelling examples of how breakthroughs in the health sciences will result from the use of cyberGIS?
  • What education and training programs are needed to advance cyberGIS among the health sciences?
  • What factors inhibit the widespread adoption of cyberGIS in the health sciences?
  • What gaps exist in our current knowledge that might impede the realization of the vision of cyberGIS for health research?
  • What further steps are needed to move the community towards the implementation of cyberGIS for health research?

Selected July Symposium Presentations

This project is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R13CA162823. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Related Documents: April 2012 Symposium (Spatiotemporal Analysis for Health Research)



Related Documents: July 2012 Symposium (Enabling a National Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure for Health Research)