About this site…

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) hold a great deal of promise for addressing a number of public health challenges we face today. This site is a collection of content that can be used by public health professionals and others to learn how to apply GIS to their work. Much of the content comes from courses, training workshops or seminars I’ve taught (more on that below), and I attempt to organize it along consistent themes that you’ve likely encountered, or will encounter on the job.

These resources may also help other educators who are already teaching a GIS course but want to add a bit of public health content into their lesson plans. While my focus is primarily on a graduate student audience, many of these materials can be modified for a different audience.

This site is most consistently updated around the time that I’m teaching a course of some sort, and less frequently in between courses. I do include resources that I encounter elsewhere and will post them here when I think there’s a broad applicability to visitors to this site.

I also maintain this site advertising-free, and the same goes for the video tutorials. There’s enough of that elsewhere, and I intend this to be eventually as complete a resource as possible. So, if you’re aware of something that you think would work particularly well here, feel free to suggest it!

About me…

I’m Chris Goranson. I’m particularly interested in how the public’s accessibility to geographic data and the ability to collect, analyze, contribute and query their own data has led to a renaissance in Geographic Information Science. I’ve seen how changes in awareness of one’s on geographic footprint can immediately affect how they think of geographic information in terms of the confidentiality and privacy of information. In particular, the ethical considerations surrounding the release, aggregation and distribution of geographic information that can be identifiable still has not been sufficiently explored, nor controls put in place on those who collect and use such information. Public health practitioners and other researchers are keenly aware of such issues, are regularly trained and retrained on how to conduct responsible research, follow good clinical practice, and perform human subjects research. However these same controls are not widely available nor followed by many who have access to potentially personally identifiable information in IT or other environments. Data and privacy breeches seem to be more commonplace, and contols are late to arrive.

I am interested in exploring further how human subjects protections, such as those required when conducting human subjects research can be extended to protect the geographic identifiers of individuals in a community – in particular, those identifiers that could be easily exploitable for illicit, political, ideological or discriminatory uses. Data visualization tools in general has seen an ever increasing expansion of tools that can be used to tell stories, promote or dispel positions, and categories groups of individuals. As tools involving geospatial data – but that do not necessarily require an in-depth knowledge, much less an appreciation for Geographic Information Science are increasingly seen as merely subsets of broader data visualization tools, there is a need to develop guidelines to protect the individual.

My Background…

I’m faculty in Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University.

Previously I worked for 18F and as a Presidential Innovation Fellow working at the U.S. Department of the Interior. The U.S. Government is making tremendous strides in IT innovation and has great resources to be explored if you’re in to that sort of thing. Among them: the U.S. Digital Services Playbook, and the U.S. Digital Services team.

Before my time in federal government I was the Director of the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping at The New School in New York City, and taught GIS for Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Some of our recent work at PIIM involved supporting the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairswith innovative information design support for medical records systems, and working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on design guidelines for big data. Nearly all of this work is open source; if interested you can find a lot of it on the PIIM website, through OSEHRA, or DARPA’s Open Catalog. The work also supported a number of other interesting initiatives, including a climate change project with Parsons the New School for Design and Aalborg University, a sacred landscapes mapping project in Nepal with the India-China Institute, and a conference on ethical hacking, big data, and the crowd.

The design and development teams at PIIM had supported re-thinking electronic medical records in general, and in 2013 began competing in the broader challenge.gov competitions, winning Best Medication Section - 2nd Place in the Health Design Challenge, supporting the HP Open Community Team to win 3rd Place in the VA Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest, and a finalist in the Military Health System’s Quadruple Aim Challenge.

Before working at The New School, I was the Director of the GIS Center at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Our team was responsible for providing consulting, map production and geographic information analysis support to the department’s many public health professionals. On average we taught between 6-10 GIS courses per year in the form of GIS Bootcamps - courses designed to rapidly develop GIS skills amongst health researchers. I had the opportunity to work on a number of interesting projects, including the National Children’s Study, the annual Nicotine Replacement Therapy program, spatial analysis support for the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, the epidemiologic H1N1 investigation and subsequent school vaccination program, FGDC training with Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), spatial analysis and mapping support for New York City’s Community Health Survey.

I’ve also worked as a land use planner, IT Manager for an environmental engineering company, and provided GIS and other professional services support to a number of federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, and General Services Administration.

While pursuing a Master of Geographic Information Systems from Penn State, I completed my Thesis on cluster detection comparisons used in syndromic surveillance. I had the opportunity at the time to pursue my work through a National Science Foundation award, comparing approaches of disease cluster detection methods between the NYC Dept. of Health and Japan’s National Institute of Public Health.

Views are my own.

Talks, Presentations, and Other Such Things

Below is a shortened list of lectures, talks, workshops or presentations I’ve given over the past few years. Where possible, I’ve included slides and / or links to the presentations themselves.

Transparency in organizational knowledge doesn’t have to be hard (but unfortunately it often is). World Bank Group, 2016

U.S. Digital Services – Explaining the Playbook. U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 2015

Every Kid in a Park / myAmerica, White House Mapathon, Washington, D.C., 2015

Impact of increased access to data and new modes of consumption (panelist). George Washington University, 2015

Data Visualization for Qualitative Patient Discovery. OSEHRA, 2013.

Open Source Design Assets for EHRs and Big Data. MUCMD, 2013.

Who owns your geographic footprint? Alumni Day 2013: New School Minute. The New School, 2013.

Visualizing Health Data: Introduction to GIS. Mount Sinai, 2013.

The Mayan Calendar and GIS Class are Ending: What Now? New York University, 2012.

The Changing Landscape of GIS. Columbia University, 2012.

The Future of Security: Ethical Hacking, Big Data and the Crowd. The New School, 2012.

Who’s Reading Your Map? NYCARC, 2012.

It’s Private: Volunteered Geographic Information in Public Health. University at Albany, 2012.

HealthBoard: an Open-Source Visual Display for the Patient-Centered Medical Home Environment. OSEHRA, 2012.

Thinking Outside the Map: Data without Borders. NYCARC, 2011.

Applications of VGI for Public Health Practice: Using Crowd-Sourced Data to Measure Alcohol Ad Exposure. Vespucci, 2011.

Geographic Information for Public Health Surveillance. SUNY Downstate Medical Center, 2010.

Spatially Enabling Water Projects in the Dominican Republic. Polytechnic Institute, 2009.

Characterizing the geographic and temporal spread of H1N1 in New York City in spring 2009. AAG, 2009.

Volunteered Geographic Information - Present and Future. Columbia University, 2009.

Using GIS Analysis to Understand and Target Large-Scale Distribution of Nicotine Replacement Therapy in New York City. Epi Grand Rounds, 2008.

GIS Bootcamp: GIS for Public Health. Food and Drug Administration, 2008.

Cluster Detection Comparison in Syndromic Surveillance: FleXScan and SaTScan. Sokendai Graduate University, 2008.

Maps for the Masses: How GIS’ move to the mainstream is transforming information for decision-makers. Interagency Workshop, 2007.

Managing Event-Based Spatial Data in a Public Health Environment. Esri UC, 2006.

Disease Surveillance and Response Systems. Esri UC, 2005. Select Papers, Chapters, and Articles

Goranson C, Thihalolipavan S, di Tada N. “VGI and Public Health: Possibilities and Pitfalls.” Crowdsourcing Geographic Knowledge. Ed. Daniel Sui, Sarah Elwood, and Michael Goodchild. Netherlands: Springer, 2013. Chapter 18. Print.

Goranson C, Huang X, Bevington W, Kang J. Data Visualization for Big Data. Design and Visualization Best Practices for Big Data: Enhancing Data Discovery through Improved Usability - DARPA Award No. FA8750-12-2-0325. 2013.

Riedel B, Goranson C. Expediting Cooperation in Government-funded Open Source Programs: Incremental Agent-based Mapping, a Pattern Language for Collaborative Cognition. Design and Visualization Best Practices for Big Data: Enhancing Data Discovery through Improved Usability - DARPA Award No. FA8750-12-2-0325. 2013.

DiBiase D, Harvey F, Goranson C, Wright D. “The GIS Professional Ethics project: practical ethics for GIS professionals.” Teaching Geographic Information Science and Technology in Higher Education. Ed. David Unwin, Nicholas Tate, Kenneth Foote and David DiBiase. New York, NY: Wiley, 2011. Chapter 14. Print.

Smith L, Goranson C, Bryon J, Kerker B, Nonas C. “Developing a Supermarket Need Index.” Geospatial Analysis of Environmental Health. Ed. Juliana Mantaay and Sarah McClafferty. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media B.V., 2011. Chapter 10. Print.

Davis K, Goranson C, Ellis J, Vichinsky L, Coady M, Perl S. Using Geographic Information System Analyses to Monitor Large-Scale Distribution of Nicotine Replacement Therapy in New York City. Preventive Medicine. 2010.

Goranson C, Konty K, Lu J, Mostashari F. Visualization of Syndromic Surveillance Using GIS. Advances in Disease Surveillance. Vol 1 (2006).