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Data and GIS Winter Newsletter 2012

Data driven teaching and research at Duke keeps growing and Perkins Data and GIS continues to increase support for researchers and classes employing data, GIS, and data visualization tools.  Whether your discipline is in the Humanities, Sciences, or Social Sciences, Perkins Data and GIS seeks to support researchers and students using numeric and geospatial data across the disciplines.

New Website for 2012

You can find:

  • Online data or digital maps that you need for your project
  • A workshop on the latest software packages and digital tools

New workshops for 2012
Clean your data with Google Refine. Learn about data management planning. Visualize your data with Tableau Public, or map your results using ArcGIS or Google Earth Pro.  A new series of workshops connects traditional statistical, geospatial, and visualization tools with web based options.  Register online for our courses or schedule a session for your course by emailing

  • StataReview                               (Statistics/Data Management)
  • Introduction to ArcGIS           (Geographic Information Systems / Data Visualization)
  • Data Management Planning  (Data Management/Grants)
  • Geocommons                            (Geographic Information Systems / Data Visualization)
  • Google Earth (Pro)                   (Geographic Information Systems / Data Visualization)
  • Google Refine                           (Data Management/Descriptive Statistics)
  • Tableau Public                          (Data Visualization)

Bloomberg (terminals) have arrived

Duke Libraries in pleased to announce the installation of three Bloomberg financial terminals in the Data and GIS Lab in 226 Perkins.  The terminals provide the latest news and financial data and include an application that makes it easy to export data to Excel.  Access is restricted to all current Duke affiliates.

Get help with Data Management Planning

Data and GIS has launched a new guide that provides guidance for researchers looking for advice on data management plans now required by several granting agencies.  The guide provides examples of sample plans, key concepts involved in writing a plan, and contact information for groups on campus providing data management advice.

New Collections
Explore the Indonesian Village Potential Statistics (PODES), look at household economic behavior in the Indian National Sample Survey, or explore historical digital maps of Europe- the Data and GIS collection collects research data sets and maps of interest to the Duke community covering a wide range of topics.

Support for Restricted Data Contracts and Restricted Data Licensing
Perkins Library has partnered with the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) to support restricted data licensing with Paul Pooley as a restricted data specialist.  Paul is available  to work with researchers licensing restricted data and negotiating restricted data management plans.  Please contact Paul or for more details.

Contact Us! – twitter: duke_data

Joel Herndon
Head, Data and GIS Services
Location: Room 227 Perkins
Mark Thomas
Economics/GIS Librarian
Location: Room 233 Perkins
Teddy Gray
Biological Sciences Librarian
Location: Room 233 Perkins

Converting ArcGIS Layers to Google Earth (KML)

Converting ArcGIS layers to Google Earth allows others to easily see layers without specialized software.  Both ArcGIS and Google Earth Pro contain tools that allow conversion to and saving in KML format.
Note: Be certain you are allowed to share layers if they were not created by you.

Conversion using ArcGIS

  • First, open the layer that you wish to covert.
  • In the ArcToolbox window, expand “Conversion Tools,” then “To KML,” and select “Layer to KML.”
  • When the “Layer to KML” window appears, first select the shapefile or layer for the “Layer” box.
  • Next select a directory for the file to be created and provide a name for the file.
  • Finally, you must enter a number for the “Layer Output Scale.”  If your layer has a scale-dependent renderer, this setting allows you to export the KML at a specific level of resolution.  Otherwise, it has no effect, whatever the number.

For layers with many features, ArcGIS may produce a KML file that does not open in Google Earth due to errors.  There are two ways to solve this problem.

  • First, you can split your shapefile into several smaller shaepfiles.
  • Second, you can (usually) convert the shapefile to KML with Google Earth Pro.

Conversion using Google Earth Pro

  • First, open the shapefile with the Open command.  Be certain to change the file type to “ESRI Shapefile”.
  • When opened, you will receive a warning if your shapefile contains more than 2,500 items.  You will still possess the ability to import the entire file, but it may take some time.
  • You will be asked whether you wish to apply a style template to the document.  If you do so, you will be able to choose the attribute that contains the item name (for example, the address field or the street name field).
    Note: you don’t have to save the style template to select the name field.
  • Finally, right-click the layer added to the Temporary Places folder, and click “Save Place As.”  Provide a location and file name for the file to be created.

What’s hot in molecular biology databases

The journal Nucleic Acids Research has just published its 18th annual database issue. The current issue summarizes 96 new and 83 previously reviewed molecular biology databases, including GenBank, ENA, DDBJ, and GEO. Also included in the issue is an editorial advocating the creation of a “community-defined, uniform, generic description of the core attributes of biological databases,” which would be known as the BioDBCore checklist. Such a checklist would benefit both database users and provides: users would have a much easier time finding the appropriate resource and providers would be able to highlight specialized resources and the lesser known functionality of established databases.

Besides the databases reviewed in the current issue, Nucleic Acids Research maintains a select list of 1330 molecular biology databases that have been profiled in various database issues over the past 18 years.


Welcome to the Perkins Data and GIS blog!  Our goal is to highlight Duke research, collections, policies, and tools surrounding empirical
data and digital maps of interest to the research community.  We hope that this blog will serve as a catalyst to link researchers and resources across the Duke community and beyond!