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The design and implementation of SPIRIT: a spatially aware search engine for information retrieval on the Internet

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Much of the information stored on the web contains geographical context, but current search engines treat such context in the same way as all other content. In this paper we describe the design, implementation and evaluation of a spatially aware search engine which is capable of handling queries in the form of the triplet of 〈theme〉〈spatial relationship〉〈location〉. The process of identifying geographic references in documents and assigning appropriate footprints to documents, to be stored together with document terms in an appropriate indexing structure allowing real-time search, is described. Methods allowing users to query and explore results which have been relevance-ranked in terms of both thematic and spatial relevance have been implanted and a usability study indicates that users are happy with the range of spatial relationships available and intuitively understand how to use such a search engine. Normalised precision for 38 queries, containing four types of spatial relationships, is significantly higher (p<0.001) for searches exploiting spatial information than pure text search.
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Keywords: Geographical information retrieval; Geographical ontology; Information retrieval; Spatial indexing; Spatial relevance ranking

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland 2: Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, UK 3: School of Computer Science, Cardiff University, UK 4: Institute of Information and Computing Sciences, Utrecht University, Netherlands,Now at: Archives and Information Studies - Faculty of Humanities University of Amsterdam, Netherlands 5: Laboratoire COGIT - Institut Géographique National, France 6: School of Computer Science, Cardiff University, UK,Now at: Environment Agency, Bath, UK 7: School of Computer Science, Cardiff University, UK,Now at: School of Computing, University of Leeds, UK 8: Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, UK,Now at: Department of Computing Science, University of Glasgow, UK 9: Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland,Now at: Center for Spatial Information Sciences, International Institute of Information Technology, India

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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