The fall of 2014 marks the completion of the first five years of the libraries’ Data and GIS Services Department. In 2009, when Mark Thomas and I formed the department, the name accurately reflected our staffing and services as Mark focused on GIS-related issues and I focused on data-related issues. As an increasing number of scholars have embraced data-driven research over the last five years , our services and staff have grown to support an increasingly diverse set of research needs at Duke.
In 2010-2011 academic year, the Libraries launched services around data management and sharing plans in anticipation of new funding rules surrounding research data. In 2012, the library expanded data services in collaboration with OIT’s Research Computing to offer one of the first data visualization consulting positions in the country. In 2013 and 2014, we expanded services and staff to include consultations on research computing and big data.
At this year’s Data and GIS Services annual retreat, we decided that the time has come to change the name of the department to reflect the broader range of staff and consulting services available. While we continue to support our traditional dimensions of data and GIS research, we intend to support a range of data needs across the following five themes:
We appreciate the research community’s support as we’ve grown over the last five years. We look forward to working with you on a larger range of data challenges in the future!
Here at Data & GIS Services, we love finding new ways to map things. Earlier this semester I was researching how the Sheets tool in Google Drive could be used as a quick and easy visualization tool when I re-discovered its simple map functionality. While there are plenty of more powerful mapping tools if you want to have a lot of features (e.g., ArcGIS, QGIS, Google Fusion Tables, Google Earth, GeoCommons, Tableau, CartoDB), you might consider just sticking with a spreadsheet for some of your simpler projects.
I’ve created a few examples in a public Google Sheet, so you can see what the data and final maps look like. If you’d like to try creating these maps yourself, you can use this template (you’ll have to log into your Google account first, and then click on the “Use this template” button to get your own copy of the spreadsheet).
Organizing Your Data
The main thing to remember when trying to create any map or chart in a Google sheet is that the tool is very particular about the order of columns. For any map, you will need (exactly) two columns. According to the error message that pops up if your columns are problematic: “The first column should contain location names or addresses. The second column should contain numeric values.”
Of course, I was curious about what counts as “location names” and wanted to test the limits of this GeoMap chart. If you have any experience with the Google Charts API, you might expect the Google Sheet GeoMap chart to work like the Geo Chart offered there. In the spreadsheet, however, you have only a small set of options compared to the charts API. You do have two map options — a “region” (or choropleth) map and a “marker” (or proportional symbol) map — but the choices for color shading and bubble size are built-in or limited.
Region maps (Choropleths)
Region maps are fairly restrictive, because Google needs to know the exact boundary of the country or state that you’re interested in. In a nutshell, a region map can either use country names (or abbreviations) or state names (or abbreviations). The ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes seem to work exceptionally well for countries (blazing fast speeds!), but the full country name works well, too. For US states, I also recommend the two letter state abbreviation instead of the full state name. If you ever want to switch the map from “region” to “marker”, the abbreviations are much more specific than the name of the state. (For example, when I switch my “2008 US pres election” map to marker, Washington state turns into a bubble over Washington DC.)
Marker maps (Proportional symbol maps)
Marker maps, on the other hand, allow for much more flexibility. In fact, the marker map in Google Sheets will actually geocode street addresses for you. In general, the marker map will work best if the first column (the location column) includes information that is as specific as possible. As I mentioned before, the word “Washington” will go through a search engine and will get matched to Washington DC before Washington state. Same with New York. But the marker map will basically do the search on any text, so the spreadsheet cell can say “NY”, or “100 State Street, Ithaca, NY”, or even the specific latitude and longitude of a place. (See the “World Capitals with lat/lon” sheet; I just put latitude and longitude in a single column, separated with a comma.) As long as the location information is in a single column, it should work, but the more specific the information is, the better.
When you have your data ready and want to create a map, just select the correct two columns in your spreadsheet, making sure that the first one has appropriate location information and the second one has some kind of numerical data. Then click on the “Insert” menu and go down to “Chart…” You’ll get the chart editor. The first screen will be the “Start” tab, and Google will try to guess what chart you’re trying to use. It probably won’t guess a map on the first try, so just click on the “Charts” tab at the top to manually select a map. Map is one of the lower options on the left hand side, and then you’ll be given a choice between the regions and markers maps. After you select the map, you can either stick with the defaults or go straight to the final tab, “Customize,” to change the colors or to zoom your map into a different region. (NB: As far as I can tell, the only regions that actually work are “World,” “United States,” “Europe,” and “Asia”.)
The default color scale goes from red to white to green. You’ll notice that the maps automatically have a “mid” value for the color. If you’d rather go straight from white to a dark color, just choose something in the middle for the “mid” color.
And there you have it! You can’t change anything beyond the region and the colors, so once you’ve customized those you can click “Update” and check out your map. Don’t like something? Click on the map and a little arrow will appear in the upper right corner. Click there to open the menu, then click on “Advanced edit…” to get back to the chart editor. If you want a bigger version of the map, you can select “Move to own sheet…” from that same menu.
Pros and Cons
So, what are these maps good for? Well, firstly, they’re great if you have state or country data and you want a really quick view of the trends or errors in the data. Maybe you have a country missing and you didn’t even realize it. Maybe one of the values has an extra zero at the end and is much larger than expected. This kind of quick and dirty map might be exactly what you need to do some initial exploration of your data, all while staying in a spreadsheet program.
Another good use of this tool is to make a map where you need to geocode addresses but also have proportional symbols. Google Fusion Tables will geocode addresses for you, but it is best for point maps where all the points are the same size or for density maps that calculate how tightly clusters those points are. If you want the points to be sized (and colored) according to a data variable, this is possibly the easiest geocoder I’ve found. It’ll take a while to search for all of the locations, though, and there is probably an upper limit of a couple of hundred rows.
If this isn’t the tool for you, don’t despair! Make an appointment through email (email@example.com) or stop in to see us (walk-in schedule) to learn about other mapping tools, or you can even check out these 7 Ways to Make a Google Map Using Spreadsheet Data.
As we begin our summer in Data and GIS Services, we spend this post reflecting back on some of the services, software, and tools that made data work this spring more productive and more visible. We proudly present our top 10 list for the Spring 2014 semster:
While we enjoy working directly with researchers crafting data management plans, we realize that some data management needs arise outside of consultation hours. Fortunately, the Data Management Planning Tool (DMPTool) is there 24/7 to provide targeted guidance on data management plans for a range of granting agencies.
9. Fusion Tables
A database in the cloud that allows you to query and visualize your data, Fusion Tables has proven a powerful tool for researchers who need database functionality but don’t have time for a full featured database. We’ve worked with many groups to map their data in the cloud; see the Digital Projects blog for an example. Fusion Tables is a regular workshop in Data and GIS.
8. Open Refine
You could learn the UNIX command line and a scripting language to clean your data, but Open Refine opens data cleaning to a wider audience that is more concerned with simplicity than syntax. Open Refine is also a regular workshop in Data and GIS.
7. R and RStudio
A programming language that excels at statistics and data visualization, R offers a powerful, open source solution to running statistics and visualizing complex data. RStudio provides a clean, full-featured development environment for R that greatly enhances the analysis process.
6. Tableau Public
Need a quick, interactive data visualization that you can share with a wide audience? Tableau Public excels at producing dynamic data visualizations from a range of different datasets and provides intuitive controls for letting your audience explore the data.
ArcGIS has long been a core piece of software for researchers working with digital maps. ArcOnline extends the rich mapping features of ArcGIS into the cloud, allowing a wider audience to share and build mapping projects.
A Python library that brings data analysis and modeling to the Python scripting language, Pandas brings the ease and power of Python to a range of data management and analysis challenges.
Paste in your spreadsheet data, choose a layout, drag and drop your variables… and your visualization is ready. Raw makes it easy to go from data to visualization using an intuitive, minimal interface.
2. Stata 13
Another core piece of software in the Data and GIS Lab (and at Duke), Stata 13 brought new features and flexibility (automatic memory management — “hello big data”) that were greatly appreciated by Duke researchers.
1. R Markdown
While many librarians tell people to “document your work,” R Markdown makes it easy to document your research data, explain results, and embed your data visualizations using a minimal markup language that works in any text editor and ties nicely into the R programming language. For pulling it all together, R Markdown is number one in our top ten list!
We hope you’ve enjoyed the list! If you are interested in these or other data tools and techniques, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
On Thursday, April 17 and Friday, April 18, Duke University will host a visit from Francesca Samsel, a visual artist who uses technology to develop work on the fulcrum between art and science. Francesca works as Research Assistant Faculty in the Computer Science department of the University of Texas at El Paso, is a Research Affiliate with the Center for Agile Technologies at the University of Texas at Austin, and is also a long-term collaborating partner with Jim Ahrens’ Visualization Research Team at Los Alamos National Labs.
Francesca will give two presentations during her visit. A presentation on Thursday afternoon for the Media Arts + Sciences Rendezvous series will address the humanities community and present recommendations for work with scientists and visualization teams. A presentation over lunchtime on Friday for the Visualization Friday Forum will describe a variety of collaborations with scientific teams and address the benefits that can come from incorporating artists into a scientific research team.
Francesca’s visit is sponsored by Information Science + Information Studies (ISIS), with additional support from Media Arts + Sciences. We hope you can join us for one or both of the presentations!
The second annual Duke Student Data Visualization Contest brought in another round of beautiful and insightful submissions from students across the university. The judging panel of five members of the Duke community evaluated the submission based on insightfulness, broad appeal, aesthetics, technical merit, and novelty. This year, the panel awarded a first place, second place, and two third place awards.
Each of these winners will be honored at a reception on Friday, April 4, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m, in the Brandaleone Center for Data and GIS Services (Perkins 226). They will each receive a poster version of their projects and an Amazon gift card. The winners and other submissions to the contest will soon be featured on the Duke Data Visualization Flickr Gallery.
Third place (tie):
Third place (tie):
Please join us on the 4th to celebrate another year of exciting visualization work at Duke!
How do you support 57,860 online students learning R and statistics ? Late last fall, Data and GIS Services shared this challenge with Professor Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel and the staff of CIT as we sought to translate Professor Çetinkaya-Rundel’s successful Statistics 101 course to a Coursera class on Data Analysis and Statistical Inference. While Data and GIS Services has supported Statistics 101 students for several years identifying appropriate data and using the R statistical language for their assignments, the scale of the Coursera course introduced new challenges of trying to provide engaging data to a very large audience without having the opportunity to provide direct support to everyone in the class.
In our initial meetings with Professor Çetinkaya-Rundel, she requested that Data and GIS create data collections for the course that would provide easy access in R and would include a range of statistical measures that would appeal to the diverse audience in the class. The first challenge — easy access to R — required some translation work. While R excels in its flexibility, graphics, and statistical power, it lacks some of the built in data documentation features present in other statistical packages. This project prompted Data and GIS to reconsider how to provide documentation and pre-formatted R data to an audience that would likely be unfamiliar with R and data documentation.
The second challenge — finding data that covered a wide range of interesting topics — proved much easier. The General Social Survey with its diverse and engaging questions on a wide range of topics proved to be an easy choice for the class. The American National Election Studies, also offered a diverse set of measures of public opinion that suited the course well. With these challenges identified and addressed, we spent the end of 2013 selecting portions of the data for class (subsetting), abridging the data documentation for instructional use, and transforming the data to address its usage in an online setting (processing missing values for R, creating factor variables).
As Professor Çetinkaya-Rundel’s class launches on February 17th, this project has given us a new appreciation of providing data and statistical services in a MOOC while also building course materials that we are using in Statistics 101 at Duke. While students begin the Coursera course on Data Analysis and Statistical Inference, students in Professor Kari Lock Morgan’s Statistics 101 class will use these data in their on-campus Duke course as well. We hope that both collections will reduce some of the technological hurdles that often confront courses using R as well as improving statistical literacy at Duke and beyond.
Confused about Data & GIS Services? Not sure what questions you should be asking us or what kind of services we provide? Here’s one handy chart we’ve come up with to explain what exactly we cover in our consultations and workshops.
When it comes to picking what day to stop by our walk-in hours or knowing how much of the data life cycle our consultants cover, this graphic might be your first stop. Whether it’s finding data, processing or analyzing that data, or mapping and visualizing that data, we have staff with expertise to help!
Still not sure who to approach or what kind of help you might need? Just email email@example.com to get in touch with all of us at once. Some questions can be answered quickly over email, but we’re also happy to schedule an appointment to talk in person.
Explore network analysis, text mining, online mapping, data visualization, and statistics in our spring 2014 workshop series. Our workshops provide a chance to explore new tools or refresh your memory on effective strategies for managing digital research. Interested in keeping up to date with workshops and events in Data and GIS? Subscribe to the dgs-announce listserv or follow us on Twitter (@duke_data).
Currently Scheduled Workshops
Thu, Jan 9 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Data Management Plans – Grants, Strategies, and Considerations Mon, Jan 13 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Webinar: Social Science Data Management and Curation Mon, Jan 13 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Google Fusion Tables Tue, Jan 14 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Open (aka Google) Refine Wed, Jan 15 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Stata for Research Thu, Jan 16 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM Analysis with R Tue, Jan 21 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Introduction to ArcGIS Wed, Jan 22 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM ArcGIS Online Wed, Jan 22 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Open (aka Google) Refine Mon, Jan 27 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Introduction to Text Analysis Wed, Jan 29 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Analysis with R Thu, Jan 30 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM Stata for Research Mon, Feb 3 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Data Visualization on the Web Mon, Feb 3 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Data Visualization on the Web (Advanced) Tue, Feb 11 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM Using Gephi for Network Analysis and Visualization Wed, Feb 12 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Introduction to ArcGIS Tue, Feb 18 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Introduction to Tableau Public 8 Tue, Feb 25 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM ArcGIS Online Thu, Feb 27 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Historical GIS Mon, Mar 3 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Designing Academic Figures and Posters Tue, Mar 4 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Useful R Packages: Extensions for Data Analysis, Management, and Visualization
Say you’ve been making hella maps or data stories all day. Now you need to move to your comfy work spot and you need your data to come with you. If you use Duke’s CIFS, moving around is easy, and all of your files are already backed-up.
In this example we follow the researcher, Ms. Stu Fac-Staff. Stu is part student, part faculty, and part staff at Duke University. She needs a portable place for her data and wants easy access from her home, lab, and devices. Stu also needs to easily share data with colleagues. No problem! Stu uses CIFS.
Here’s the scenario. Ms. Stu Fac-Staff walks into the Data & GIS Lab in the Duke University Libraries with a flash drive full of data tables. She gathers more supporting data and some advice about crunching the numbers. Stu finishes her day with a visualization and map. (Proudly, Stu imagines this is going to get the A. “Is this grant worthy?” Stu asks herself. “You bet your NSF Application it is!”) Meanwhile, her flash dive is now full and all she wants is to SAVE THE DATA, CONVENIENTLY for later retrieval back home. So Stu stores the data on the Duke Cloud (CIFS.)
How do I get the free CIFS Space and how much can I use/access?
- Duke University provides 5 GB (at least!) of easily accessible Cloud-storage space to all faculty, students, and staff
- If you need more space, larger quantities are available upon request
- The space is called CIFS and is an OIT supported personal home directory of portable file space; CIFS is a mappable drive on your device and the files are backed up
- Students are provisioned CIFS space automatically. Faculty & Staff must request the space through the OIT Service Desk
How do I access the data from my device?
- In the Data & GIS Lab, after using your NetID to login, open the Windows File Explorer and your CIFS space will be mapped as drive Z.
- After you leave our Data & GIS Lab, all you have to do is “map the drive” on your own machine
- Web – For easy distribution to colleagues, you might want to access or distribute your files through the web. To do this, store the files in your ‘public_html‘ directory inside of your CIFS space. Now the files can be downloaded via a web browser. This method is, by default, open to the world; you may want to take additional steps to secure this public_html directory (see below.)
Can I Secure the Data?
- Are you trying to access your mapped drive from off campus?
- Use the VPN directions
- The CIFS protocol encrypts NetID/password but it does not encrypt your data stream over the Internet. If you’re connecting from an unencrypted or untrusted network (e.g. wireless in the coffee shop), the VPN allows for a secure connection.
- Did you put files in your public_html folder?
- Unlike the default CIFS space, placing files in the ‘public_html’ directory means they become accessible to the world
- You can control and limit access by following OIT’s “htaccess” instructions
Data & GIS Services will soon be accepting submissions to its 2nd annual student data visualization contest. If you have a course project that involves visualization, start thinking about your submission now!
The purpose of the contest is to highlight outstanding student data visualization work at Duke University. Data & GIS Services wants to give you a chance to showcase the hard work that goes into your visualization projects.
Data visualization here is broadly defined, encompassing everything from charts and graphs to 3D models to maps to data art. Data visualizations may be part of a larger research project or may be developed specifically to communicate a trend or phenomenon. Some are static images, while others may be animated simulations or interactive web experiences. Browse through last year’s submissions to get an idea of the range of work that counts as visualization.
The Student Data Visualization Contest is sponsored by Data & GIS Services, Perkins Library, Scalable Computing Support Center, Office of Information Technology, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.
For more details, see the 2014 Student Data Visualization Contest page. Please address all additional questions to Angela Zoss (firstname.lastname@example.org), Data Visualization Coordinator, 226 Perkins Library.
AboutData and Visualization Services provides support for researchers at Duke in the areas of data visualization, data analysis, and data management.
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