Title page for ETD etd-08152011-234921

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Foy, Andrew Scott
Author's Email Address foya@vt.edu
URN etd-08152011-234921
Title Making Sense Out of Uncertainty in Geospatial Data
Degree PhD
Department Geospatial and Environmental Analysis
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Carstensen, Laurence William Jr. Committee Chair
Campbell, James B. Jr. Committee Member
Dymond, Randel L. Committee Member
Prisley, Stephen P. Committee Member
  • GIS tool
  • error-band framework
  • spatial data fusion
  • uncertainty
  • GIS
  • overlays
Date of Defense 2011-07-29
Availability unrestricted
Uncertainty in geospatial data fusion is a major concern for scientists because society is increasing its use of geospatial technology and generalization is inherent to geographic representations. Limited research exists on the quality of results that come from the fusion of geographic data, yet there is extensive literature on uncertainty in cartography, GIS, and geospatial data. The uncertainties exist and are difficult to understand because data are overlaid which have different scopes, times, classes, accuracies, and precisions. There is a need for a set of tools that can manage uncertainty and incorporate it into the overlay process. This research explores uncertainty in spatial data, GIS and GIScience via three papers. The first paper introduces a framework for classifying and modeling error-bands in a GIS. Paper two tests GIS users’ ability to estimate spatial confidence intervals and the third paper looks at the practical application of a set of tools for incorporating uncertainty into overlays. The results from this research indicate that it is hard for people to agree on an error-band classification based on their interpretation of metadata. However, people are good estimators of data quality and uncertainty if they follow a systematic approach and use their average estimate to define spatial confidence intervals. The framework and the toolset presented in this dissertation have the potential to alter how people interpret and use geospatial data. The hope is that the results from this paper prompt inquiry and question the reliability of all simple overlays. Many situations exist in which this research has relevance, making the framework, the tools, and the methods important to a wide variety of disciplines that use spatial analysis and GIS.
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