Those of us who remember grammar-school geography lessons as a tedious affair involving a pink and green window shade map and a chalky wooden pointer would probably never guess that, in fact, it is estimated that 80 percent of all data contains a spatial component. That point was made clearly and colorfully at the launch of the new Center for Geographical Analysis (CGA), held May 5, 2006 at the Tsai Auditorium in the Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS) South building on Cambridge Street.
A string quartet played in the lobby while a full house of attendees mingled and viewed the approximately two dozen posters on display detailing research from areas of the University as diverse as the Graduate School of Design, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Center for the Environment, the Kennedy School, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Medical School’s Center for Biomedical Informatics, and the departments of Economics, Anthropology, and Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The common denominator was GIS, or geographic information systems, computer hardware and software that offer interactive, panoramic, three-dimensional views, overlays, simulations, real- time tracking, and cool little flying seagull cursors, among other things. GIS is the centerpiece of the new center, which is housed at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) and aims to support research and teaching that relies on geographic analysis, administer a standardized University-wide infrastructure, collect and disseminate spatial datasets from many sources, and enable interdisciplinary collaboration through centralized access to GIS resources.