I am a Professor of Geographic Information Science in the Department of Geography, University College London. I am also the co-director of the UCL Extreme Citizen Science group, which is dedicated to allowing any community, regardless of their literacy, to use scientific methods and tools to collect, analyse, interpret and use information about their area and activities.
In the late 1980s, I worked in a company that developed computer mapping systems on early personal computers (IBM PC with 80286 and 386 processors). I became interested in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and understood that I need to have proper academic foundations in this area. This has led me to pursue a BSc in Computer Science and Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1994).
Through these studies, I became interested in the role of GIS in the context of environment and society. I heard first-hand reports on Rio conference in 1992, and got an award for a report on spatial aspects of environmental impact assessment. I continued with an MA in Geography (1997, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) with elements of computer science. I came to UCL to do my PhD in Geography (2002, UCL). In 2001 he joined UCL as a lecturer and promoted to a professor in 2011. In 2017. Between 2001 and 2017 I was a member of the department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.
The core area of my research is public access, use, and creation of Environmental Information. This is an aspect of environment and society relationships – we construct our understanding of environmental issues through scientific research and information, and environmental decision making is relying on scientific and professional information. This creates a major obstacle for public participation in environmental decision making – because participants are expected to have the ability to access, use, and understand the information in order to argue for a specific course of action. There are many side effects that are caused by the interface between environmental information and the public.
In the process of trying to make sense of the public and environmental information, I’ve explored many related areas. This include:
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Usability Engineering (UE) aspects of GIS – most environmental information have a spatial component, and therefore it is stored and managed in GIS. To understand how it is being produced and how to make it easier to use, I ventured into the area of HCI. My interest here is in using theories, approaches, and tools from HCI/UE in the service of building participatory mapping systems, or in sharing environmental information with the public. These techniques are also helpful in understanding and researching how environmental information is used.
Societal aspects of geographical technologies – I have an ongoing interest in considering the wider implications of geographical technologies: from GIS to GPS, to mobile phones and the way geographical information is evolving and used. I have been exploring the literature on philosophy of technology, science and technology studies, and public engagement in science and technology. These frameworks are helpful in considering the societal aspects of these technologies, as well as considering how interventions and new technologies should be developed.
Participatory and crowdsourced mapping – participatory mapping is an important method that allows the public to create their own environmental information and use it. I have been working in this area on a range of scales – from small scale mapping with local residents who live near UCL in central London, to the analysis of OpenStreetMap contributions from across the world during the Haiti earthquake in 2010. The technologies that are developed within the ExCiteS groups are especially geared towards this area – for example the Sapelli application that is aimed at allowing illiterate participants to participate in environmental information production. Fundamental to this area is the integration of technology and social practices to ensure that participation in inclusionary and meaningful.
Citizen Science – Citizen science opened up the possibilities for participants from all walks of life to participate in creating environmental information that is actionable and usable. I am interested in participatory forms of citizen science that include extended peer communities (as suggested by Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993), the citizen-led concept of scientific knowledge production (as suggested by Irwin 1995), and bottom-up activities that are inclusive and participatory. In particular, in ExCiteS we’re developing a form of citizen science that is situated, bottom-up practice that takes into account local needs, practices and culture and works with broad networks of people to design and build new devices and knowledge creation processes that can transform the world.
Policy aspects of environmental information, crowdsourced geographic information, and citizen science – the access and use of environmental information and its role in environmental decision making is linked to regulations, conventions, and policies. A common aspect of my reserach is the analysis of the policy landscape and understanding how the technical and societal aspects of producing and using information fit within wider organisational and governance systems.
Since 2001, I have secured over £13.5 million in research funding, from research councils, and the public, private and third sectors. Some of these projects include:
- EU Horizon 2020 ‘Doing it Together Science‘ – Collaborative project with Natural History Museum of Brussels, Université Paris Descartes, Waag Society, European Citizen Science Association, Medialab Prado, Kapelica Galery, Meritum Poland, Tekiu, Eutema, and Université de Genève. It is aimed at increasing the awareness and participation in citizen science across Europe.
- European Research Council ‘Extreme Citizen Science: Analysis and Visualisation‘ (ECSAnVis) – Development of geographical analysis and visualisation for non-literate and technically illiterate users.
- EPSRC project ‘Design for Wellbeing: Ageing and Mobility in the Built Environment’ – understanding community severance impact on older people. The project ran from 2013-2016.
- Challenging Risk, funded by EPSRC. Funding to develop an understanding engineering and participatory methods to reduce fire and earthquake impact on communities
- EU FP7 ‘Citizen Cyberlab’ – Collaborative project with Université Paris Descartes, France; European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), United Nations Institute For Training And Research (UNITAR) and Université de Genève, Switzerland; Imperial College and Gold Mobile Innovation Ltd, UK. Research and evaluation of on-line collaborative environments and software tools that stimulates creative learning in the context of Citizen Cyberscience and citizen science. The project ran from 2012-2015.
- EU FP7 project ‘everyAware’. Collaborative project with the Fondazione ISI – Institute for Scientific Interchange, Italy; Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany; and the Flemish Institute of Technological Research, Belgium to explore participatory sensing of urban environment and behaviour change. The project ran from 2011 to 2014.
- Extreme Citizen Science, funded by EPSRC through their ‘Challenging Engineering’ award to create the ExCiteS research group. The project ran from 2011 to 2016.
- Adaptable Suburbs, funded by EPSRC and ESRC and focusing on a detailed study of four suburban town centres in London. The project ran from 2010 to 2013.
- Bridging the Gaps: Sustainable Urban Spaces, funded by EPSRC to encourage multi-disciplinary research at UCL, especially in the areas of engineering and the built environment. The project ran from 2008 to 2011.
- Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres, funded by EPSRC and focusing on London’s suburban town centres. The project is already influencing policy by being part of a policy review, carried out by URBED on behalf of the North West London strategic alliance. The project ran from 2006 to 2009.
- Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs. The project focused on the development of longitudinal evaluation of their activities and was part of their strategic evaluation programme. The project ran from 2006 to 2008.
- Mapping Change for Sustainable Communities – an UrbanBuzz project aimed at mapping environmental change and development in London. The project combined both community development and participatory mapping, using a public mapping system to monitor local sustainability and local development plans. The project was carried out in collaboration with London 21 Sustainability Network and Planning Aid for London. The project ran from 2007 to 2008.
More details about my experience and various projects on which I have worked on in the past 20 years can be found on my page at Academia.edu
Over the past 20 years, I have contributed to wider societal and economic activities through consultancy, promoting social enterprise activities at UCL (and setting the first UCL owned social enterprise), and through contribution to policy.
I have been involved in over 20 consultancy projects in the past 15 years, working on usability aspects of public GIS (with Wandsworth Council, Camden Police), geographic information management (with the MoD, Ordnance Survey, Argent King’s Cross), and participatory mapping (London Sustainability Exchange, URBED). The most recent projects were with the World Bank-GFDRR on managing a study and report writing about VGI use in government; Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars writing a report about Citizen Science and policy; and with Client Earth adaptation of the Saepelli app to handle HTML files so it can be used to navigate legal documents about logging.
I have promoted social enterprise at UCL and through work with UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs. In particular, I’ve co-founded Mapping for Change a social enterprise that will support sustainable communities through online mapping, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and citizen science. Details of Mapping for Change activities are covered in the impact case study that is available here.
I have contributed to policy formation through reports, discussions and briefing. An example for this contribution see the talk that I gave at the Wilson Center on environmental information, contribution to policy document of the League of European Reserach Universities on Citizen Science, or the policy briefs that are being developed within the Doing It Together Science project.
Media and communication
I was on the advisory board of the NSF funded series “The Crowd and The Cloud“, and the work of ExCiteS have received coverage in Nature, Science, Le Monde, BBC Click and many other outlets.
I was the course tutor of the University of London M.Sc. in GIScience from 2002 to 2006, again in 2010 and continue to teach on this and other programmes at UCL. Course material is published on the UCL Moodle system. This system is accessible only to registered users.
I’m the course convener of a postgraduate module GEOGG159 ‘introduction to citizen science and scientific crowdsourcing’
I have supervised 32 PhD students as a first and secondary superviser since 2003. These students were at UCL, the Univeristy of Malta, Ben Gurion University, Tel Aviv University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
As a Primary Supervisor, I have worked with
- Claire Ellul (funded by the EPSRC and Laser Scan Ltd). Topic: 3D Topological Queries in Spatial Databases. Peter Woodsford [visiting professor, Geomatic Engineering] second supervisor. Subsequently Lecturer in GIS, UCL.
- Katerina Christopoulou (funded by the government of Greece). Topic: Spatial Data Mining for Property Valuation. Paul Cross [Geomatic Engineering] second supervisor. Subsequently Risk Modeller at RMS.
- Ana Rocha Simao (funded by the government of Portugal). Topic: Spatial Decision Support for Wind Farm Siting. Paul Densham [Geography] second supervisor. Subsequently Lecturer in GIS, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
- Hanif Rahemtulla (funded by the ESRC through a 1+3 arrangement). Topic: Mobile Alerting Service for Community Activities. Paul Longley [Geography] second supervisor. Subsequently post-doctoral researcher, McGill University, Montreal
- Byron Antoniou (funded by the Greek Government). Topic: Mapping in the era of Web 2.0. Jeremy Morley [Nottingham CGS] second supervisor. Subsequently officer in the Greek Military Survey.
- Tyng-Rong Roan (self funded). Topic: Modelling Pedestrian Evacuation in Emergency Situations. Claire Ellul [CEGE] second supervisor. Subsequently researcher at DfT.
- Zhiwei Cao (self funded). Topic: Implementing Map Calculus in GIS. Dr. Tao Cheng [CEGE] second supervisor. Subsequently researcher at Cranfield University.
- Jessica Wardlaw (funded by EPSRC and Dr Foster Intelligence). Topic: Usability of Maps and GIS in Health Informatics. Angela Sasse [CS] second supervisor. Subsequently a researcher at the University of Nottingham.
- Seong K. Choi (self funded). Topic: A geospatial ontology for intelligent transport systems. Pragya Agarwal [Lancaster] second supervisor. Completed his studies in 2015.
- Thomas Koukoletsos (funded by the Greek Government). Topic: Spatial Data Quality of Volunteer Geographical Information. First supervisor and Claire Ellul [CEGE] second. Subsequently officer in the Greek Military Survey.
- Diana Masstracci Sanchez (funded by EU FP7). Jerome Lewis [Anthropology] second supervisor.
- Christian Nold (funded by EU FP7). Topic: Community participation in environmental monitoring. Jennifer Gabrys [Goldsmiths] second supervisor. Subsequently a postdoctoral researcher at UCL.
- Gianfranco Gliozzo (funded by EPSRC and the Zoological Society of London). Topic: Developing citizen science mobile application using gaming concepts. Nathalie Pettorelli [Institute of Zoology] second supervisor.
- Michalis Vitos (funded by EPSRC). Topic: scientific visualisations for non-literate users. Claire Ellul [CEGE] second supervisor. Subsequently a postdoctoral researcher at UCL.
- Cindy Regalado (funded by EU FP7). Topic: Public Initiated Scientific Research. Subsequently a postdoctoral researcher at UCL.
- Valentine Seymour (funded by TCV & UCL). Topic: Patterns of environmental volunteering.
- Gretchen Fagg (funded by UCL). Topic: Community participation in earthquake and fire preparedness.
As a secondary supervisor, I’ve worked with
- Kate Jones (funded by the ESRC and Camden Primary Care Trust through a KTP arrangement). Topic: Modelling Health Behaviour s Using Geodemographics. Paul Longley [Geography] first supervisor. Subsequently post-doctoral researcher, UCL and then Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Portsmouth.
- Christian Castle (funded by the ESRC and Camden Primary Care Trust through a CASE arrangement). Topic: Evacuation Modelling for Kings Cross Underground Station. Paul Longley [Geography] first supervisor. Subsequently consultant in Mott-MacDonald.
- Tina Thomson (funded by the EPSRC and the Ordnance Survey through a CASE for New Academics arrangement). Topic: The Enrichment of Spatial Databases using an Ontological Approach. Rod Béra [Geomatic Engineering] first supervisor. Subsequently analyst, Risk Management Solutions.
- Catherine Lowe (funded by the ESRC through a 1+3 arrangement). Topic: Evaluation Vulnerability of Volcanic Island Communities. Jointly supervised by myself, Paul Longley [Geography] and Bill McGuire [Benfield Hazard Research Centre]. Subsequently analyst, Aon Benfield Analytics.
- Karin Talmor, Tel Aviv University (self-funded). Topic: the Effect of ICT on Urban and Regional Planning. Juval Portugali [TAU Geography] first supervisor. Appointment approved by TAU.
- Artemis Skarlatidou (funded by EPSRC and Arup). Topic: Trust in Web-GIS for Nuclear Waste Siting. Tao Cheng [CEGE] first supervisor. Subsequently researcher, UCL.
- Andrew Chilvers (funded by EPSRC and Arup). Topic: Engineering Engagement. Sarah Bell [CEGE] first supervisor. Subsequently researcher, UCL.
- Nama Raj Budhathoki, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Topic: Motivations of contributors to Volunteer Geographical Information project. I was requested to join the Thesis Committee. Subsequently post-doctoral researcher, McGill University, Montreal.
- Enrica Verrucci (funded by EPICENTRE and ImageCat Ltd). Topic: Multi-disciplinary Indicators to measure and monitor Earthquake Resilience by using Remote sensing and GIS. Tiziana Rossetto [CEGE] first supervisor.
- Therese Bajada (funded by the Maltese government). Topic: modelling changes in public transport policy. Helena Titheridge [CEGE] first supervisor.
- Julia Altenbuchner (funded by EPSRC). Topic: geographic information visualisation for non-literate users. Claire Ellul [CEGE] first supervisor.
- Wendy Jo Attard, the University of Malta (self-funded). Topic: participatory planning in historical cities regeneration. Paul Gauci [UoM] first supervisor.
- Hagit Keisar, Ben Gurion University, Israel (self-funded). Topic: participatory mapping and DIY science in contested cities. Haim Yacobi [BGU] and Michal Givoni [BGU] first supervisors.
- Carlos Cañas Sanz, the University of Malta (self-funded). Topic: modelling walkability in Malta with volunteered geographic information. Maria Attard [UoM] first supervisor.
- Sofia Papadopoulou (funded by the EU H2020). Topic: Human Computer Interaction and Spatial Data Quality for Online Civic Engagement. Artemis Skarlatidou [UCL] first supervisor.
Publications and presentations
The publications and presentations list is available on the UCL publication system and include access to the full text where copyright permits.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the name: Po Ve Sham means ‘Here and There’ in Hebrew…
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