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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Center for Spatial Studies was founded at UCSB in 2007 with the vision that spatial thinking and computing serve all scientific disciplines and support trans-disciplinary problem solving.

Specialist Meetings hosted and sponsored by the Center promote intensive discussion on themes related to theoretical issues, technological developments, and applications of geographical information science and spatial thinking in science and society. Such meetings are often catalysts for new research and teaching programs, new software developments, and funded research initiatives. Position papers, selected presentations, and final reports from these meetings are archived on eScholarship for public access.

This series also includes reports on workshops and conferences hosted, sponsored, or co-sponsored by the Center for Spatial Studies. Notices of future events are posted at

Cover page of Spatial Discovery Expert Meeting, Final Report

Spatial Discovery Expert Meeting, Final Report


This report summarizes a two-day expert meeting on “Spatial Discovery,” organized jointly by the Library and the Center for Spatial Studies of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and held on June 16–17, 2015 at the Upham Hotel, in Santa Barbara. The 24 participants contributed expertise in Library Science, as well as knowledge pertaining to spatial information and relevant research on data-seeking behavior. Five keynote addresses as well as several plenary and break-out discussions explored the challenges, best practices, and potential strategies associated with the cross-platform discovery of spatial data in the context of modern libraries.

Cover page of Spatial Search, Final Report

Spatial Search, Final Report


This specialist meeting on the theme of spatial search provided a platform for exploring research frontiers at the interface of computer science, cognitive science, and other disciplines, especially in the context of geographically referenced information. This report reviews the discussions among 36 experts from academia and industry over two days, and draws attention to research gaps that will require broad interdisciplinary efforts over the next five to ten years.

Cover page of Spatial Information for Human Health, the 2015 Spatial Unconference, Call for Proposals

Spatial Information for Human Health, the 2015 Spatial Unconference, Call for Proposals


A call for proposals to participate in the Spatial Unconference on Spatial Information for Human Health. The unconference takes place in Santa Barbara, CA, 9-11 December 2015. The deadline for submitting proposals is May 31, 2015.

Cover page of Spatial Search, Position Papers

Spatial Search, Position Papers


The Spatial Search specialist meeting in Santa Barbara (December 2014) brought together 35 academic and industry representatives from computational, geospatial, and cognitive sciences with interest in focused discussions on the development of an interdisciplinary research agenda to advance spatial search from scientific and engineering viewpoints. The position papers from participants represent the shared expertise that guided discussions and the formulation of research questions about processes of spatial search and about the conceptual ideas, infrasturctures, and tools needed to enhance the search experience in both physical and virtual spaces. The call for position papers is included.

Cover page of Advancing the Spatially Enabled Smart Campus, Final Report

Advancing the Spatially Enabled Smart Campus, Final Report


The meeting on Advancing the Spatially Enabled Smart Campus (Santa Barbara CA, 11-12 Dec 2013) yielded four principal outcomes:

First, it brought together experts from diverse fields (e.g., sustainable development, building information management systems, geographic information systems, library information science, computer science, geography, spatial cognition, and education), providing opportunities to build collaborative relationships that, beginning with this report, will encourage publications that advance our understanding of the technological, institutional, and social aspects of sustainable smart campus innovations.Second, the establishment of a repository of ongoing smart-campus projects is encouraged, highlighting best practices that emphasize spatial perspectives on the implementation of smart campus initiatives in support of sustainability. This began with the posting of position papers and presentations from this specialist meeting at, a resource that will be expanded through solicitations and volunteered contributions.Third, the meeting helped in the dissemination of information about the globalized Linked Universities Network ( for data that supports intercampus knowledge infrastructures.Fourth, the meeting itemized arguments and evidence for building a case for the spatially enabled smart campus and presenting it to university administrators, highlighting sustainability, knowledge sharing, cost effectiveness, student involvement and learning, safety, and other perspectives.

Cover page of Advancing the Spatially Enabled Smart Campus, Position Papers

Advancing the Spatially Enabled Smart Campus, Position Papers


This 2-day specialist meeting in December 2013 was conceived and organized by The Center for Spatial Studies (spatial@ucsb) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).The meeting combined “thinking big” (asking what will make campuses smarter in the future) with “acting small” (focusing on specific organizational and technological measures and their evaluation). Making our daily environments smart through technologies has been on research and political agendas for more than three decades, featuring a primary interest in the outdoor environments of cities. Smart city projects are now found throughout the world, focusing on environmental sustainability, e-governance, transportation, health, and other public goods by deploying innovative technologies for sensing, social networking, and knowledge integration. To some extent, campuses can be seen as “small cities,” raising similar concerns for their unique populations. Additionally, smart campuses have their own challenges and opportunities for support of creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration in science along with the involvement and education of technologically savvy students. Spatial thinking and computing are thought to be key enablers of smart campuses, but this case needs to be made more effectively with university administrators and domain scientists. The scope of these opportunities and challenges provided impetus for bringing together researchers and educators from multiple disciplines, campus planners, and representatives from industry, all of whom share interest in addressing issues of sustainability and knowledge infrastructures. The initial position papers from participants were distributed in advance of the meeting to help nurture discussions and collaborations.

Cover page of Spatial Thinking across the College Curriculum, Final Report

Spatial Thinking across the College Curriculum, Final Report


This report summarizes the major conclusions from a 2-day meeting of educators and researchers from more than a dozen disciplines that regard spatial thinking as a core activity that warrants consideration for a more prominent role in the education of undergraduate students.

To make the case for space in the curriculum, the meeting concluded that basic research must come to a more fundamental understanding of what is meant by spatial thinking, including different varieties of spatial thinking across the college curriculum, and identifying what is common to spatial thinking across disciplines. At the same time there is a need to continue to develop methods of teaching spatial thinking. Additionally, there is a need for research on teaching spatial thinking, including assessments of what is learned from programs that aim to teach spatial thinking. Finally, there is a need to document and demonstrate where and how spatial thinking prepares students for academic success and allows them to better compete in the job market and global economy.

Cover page of Spatial Thinking across the College Curriculum, Position Papers

Spatial Thinking across the College Curriculum, Position Papers


More than 40 position papers were prepared by participants prior to meeting in Santa Barbara. The objective was  to explore from a multi-discipline perspective the potential values and challenges of formulating curricula to advance the role of spatial reasoning in undergraduate education.

The authors consider the following general questions:

• What are best current practices in spatial education at the college level?

• What role do technologies, such as geographic information systems and virtual environment technologies, play in developing spatial thinking skills?

• Can we identify a set of general spatial skills that are relevant to spatial thinking across several disciplines?

• Are spatial skills best trained in the context of a discipline or in a domain of general knowledge? For example, if a student is taught to imagine cross sections in the context of a geology course, does this skill transfer to imagining sections in engineering or biology?

• What are the connections between “spatial thinking” courses and curricula organized for disciplines? For example, do all geography or geometry courses naturally or automatically support spatial thinking processes?

• What are learning outcomes for spatial thinking curricula, and what form should assessment take?

• What are the administrative challenges and opportunities for implementing spatial thinking courses and programs at the college level?

Cover page of Future Directions in Spatial Demography, Final Report

Future Directions in Spatial Demography, Final Report


The “Future Directions of Spatial Demography” specialist meeting (Santa Barbara, 2011) brought together 41 specialists from multiple disciplines to discuss the future of spatial demography. Whereas the majority of attendees were geographers and sociologists, many other disciplines were represented, including anthropology, economics, epidemiology, health economics, and political science.

This report outlines the primary outcomes of the meeting, including recommendations about training-related activities and cross-site collaborations, and activities that promote spatial demography within the wider academy. The report follows the structure of the meeting, focusing on:

1. The state of the science in spatial demography2. Emergent geospatial data and measurement issues3. Spatial statistical methods4. A synthesis of challenges

Cover page of Future Directions in Spatial Demography, Position Papers

Future Directions in Spatial Demography, Position Papers


More than 40 researchers participated in a 2-day meeting on future directions in spatial demography (Santa Barbara, Dec. 2011). Each participant prepared a position paper that addressed such questions as the following:

• How are demographers measuring place and the interrelationships among places?

• How can demographers harness emerging developments in the generation of geospatial data (e.g., volunteered geographic information and crowd-sourced data)?

• How can new measures be validated for use in neighborhood and contextual research?

• What visualization and spatial analytical methods make up the current tool kit of the spatial demographer?

• What new methodological developments in spatial analysis are possible in the next five years and how might these be integrated into mainstream demographic research?

• What are the training challenges to the enhancement of future research in spatial demography?

• What research priorities will best advance the applicability of spatial demography to address issues in reproductive health.