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Harshness in image classification accuracy assessment

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Thematic mapping via a classification analysis is one of the most common applications of remote sensing. The accuracy of image classifications is, however, often viewed negatively. Here, it is suggested that the approach to the evaluation of image classification accuracy typically adopted in remote sensing may often be unfair, commonly being rather harsh and misleading. It is stressed that the widely used target accuracy of 85% can be inappropriate and that the approach to accuracy assessment adopted commonly in remote sensing is pessimistically biased. Moreover, the maps produced by other communities, which are often used unquestioningly, may have a low accuracy if evaluated from the standard perspective adopted in remote sensing. A greater awareness of the problems encountered in accuracy assessment may help ensure that perceptions of classification accuracy are realistic and reduce unfair criticism of thematic maps derived from remote sensing.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Geography, University of Nottingham, University Park, UK

Publication date: 2008-06-01

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