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Research in the spatial sciences: how are Canadian geographers contributing?

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Geographic data collection, manipulation, analysis and visualization options have experienced substantial improvements during the past several decades, largely spurred by advancements in computing capabilities. While geographers are often credited with identifying and expanding many of the emerging application areas and innovations for the analysis of spatially (and sometimes temporally) referenced data, we are specifically interested in the role of Canadian geographers in the rapidly evolving domain of spatial science. We pose the following provocative question with the intent of not only summarizing the Canadian literature, but also to stimulate an informed discussion: ‘are Canadian geographers developers or users of spatial analytical methods?’ We review the refereed literature from 1980 to 2008 to describe the nature of contributions by Canadian geographers, beginning at about the time of widely accessible computing (1980s). Our summary broadly classifies subdisciplinary contribution areas as being best described as GIS, remote sensing, or spatial statistics, while each contribution area may take the type of algorithm development, advancement and synthesis of theory, or the application of existing methods. We paint a picture of the current contribution landscape and reflect on significant achievements while commenting on some potential weakness that with increased resources and focus might become future realms of advancement.

Keywords: Canadian geographers; applications; développement théorique; géographes canadiens; logiciels; sciences spatiales; spatial sciences; theoretical development

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3 ( ), Email: 2: Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3G5 ( ), Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2010


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