Visibility of GIScience

Example image from paper

Top Left: Protestant (blue) and Catholic (yellow) demographics; Top Right: Swiss cantons; Lower Left: risk of violence without accounting for canton borders; Lower Right: risk of violence with administrative borders included. Image: Rutherford et al/arXiv

I recently stumbled upon a research article that let me wonder about the visibility of several decades of Geographic Information Analysis / Science research outside of its disciplinary boundaries. In this paper (Good Fences: The importance of setting boundaries for peaceful coexistance; a – flawed- summary can be found at Wired), the authors describe how they used a wavelet filter to analyze differences in the spatial distribution of languages and religion in Switzerland, adjusting the process for natural and political boundaries, and trying to predict areas of tension. In other words, they investigated the geographic distribution of two variables and looked for patterns showing significant heterogeneity in close spatial proximity. Nevermind that there is not a single reference to any research on geographic analysis, I also wonder how explanatory their results are: The authors never mention how they determined the critical parameter of wavelet diameter, nor do they consider sufficiently the development over time of their variables. The model correctly “predicts” the violence in the Jura region using data from after the formation of a new canton, and we cannot know how much calibrating was necessary to achieve this result. In other words, the validation seems vague. Maybe I am too harsh in my verdict here, and I welcome any comments disproving me.

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