Mapping US megaregions: Open access, open data, open research
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In this short talk Professor Alasdair Rae will discuss the impacts arising from doing 'open' research through an example of mapping commuting patterns in US megaregions.
While the division into 50 states is how many think of the US, geographers have for the last 50 years also studied networks of closely connected metropolitan areas, known as ‘megaregions’, which often cut across state lines. Previously megaregions have been typically identified by an interpretative method that links large metropolitan regions through similar environmental and infrastructure systems, economic links and cultural similarities. These approaches are often based on a ‘best guess’ kind of approach, and do not rely on the analysis of large datasets.
Now Dr Alasdair Rae and his co-author Dr Garrett Nelson have developed an empirical approach to identify megaregions using a dataset of more than 4 million ‘commuter flows’ involving the travel to work patterns of 130 million Americans using open source tools to analyse their data. It is hoped that the research will provide a basis for further empirical approaches to studying megaregions and allow policymakers in areas including infrastructure, transit planning and electoral geography to evaluate how they approach the limits areas.
Prof. Rae will particularly reflect in this talk on the story of open research that is, doing research which is not hidden behind a paywall and where the underlying data is made freely available for anyone to use, and digital connectivity, serves as a good example of the new possibilities and outcomes associated with taking a more open approach to scholarship. They used Amazon Web Services cloud computing and their paper was all written up collaboratively in Google Docs. They have never met. The paper the talk is based on has now been viewed more than 250,000 times and has featured in media stories throughout the world.
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