RSPSoc 2017:

Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 13:53:24

RSPSoc 2017 looked to have a fine set of talks this year hosted by the marvelous people at the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College. Check out the abstracts. SfM had it’s only session (naturally!), preceded by a plenary from Mike James (Lancaster). This session also included talks from myself/James O’Connor on our work reviewing camera settings for UAVs and the impact of image quality on SfM photogrammetry. The first set of slides are below and the second set on this page.


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Evidence Matters

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 12:58:36

Sense About Science kicked off their Evidence Matters campaign earlier this year and this month held a meeting in parliament to push the importance of policy decisions based upon factual evidence. That is, making decisions that have impact upon society for the benefit of all, not simply to push a political agenda or because it’s what politicians believe but not what evidence shows. And the corollary is ignoring evidence - when it has been collected and presented, don’t make a decision because you don’t like the evidence (the so-called “post-truth society”). It’s critically important for the community we share and the environment we inhabit. There shouldn’t be elitist strongholds on decision making, but egalitarian approaches that value all.

Studio of Objects at RGS

Saturday, September 3, 2016 at 17:30:46

The Studio of Objects (see all my previous posts on the project), which recorded the interior space of Paolozzi’s studio at the Scottish National Gallery, was available for viewing and interaction at the Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference last week in London.

I took part in a panel discussion on the arts and sciences (see my personal page for slides and mp3) and then for the rest of the day the latest beta version was available in the main hall. In fact, the installation was so popular that it made a return visit on Friday where delegates had a second bite at the interactive cherry!

Food in Vienna

Friday, April 29, 2016 at 11:06:12

I was away at the European Geosciences Union last week presenting in a number of sessions. EGU has long been in Vienna which is a wonderfully cosmopolitan city with by far one of the best transit systems I have used. It works on an honour system and is just efficient and effective. The underground (U-banh) and buses get you anywhere quickly. It also has one of the highest number of hotel beds and apartments available for a major city making it is to stay in comfort.

Anyway, no EGU would be complete without a quick rundown of some of the extensive restaurants that are available throughout the city (and their TrustedReviews links):

Le Pho: specialising in pho (doh!), a Vietnamese soup. Freshly cooked and great price. Was a great start to the week. Yes, James had the large portion!

Pizzeria Osteria da Giovanni: a real backstreet underground cellar feel and a moderate wait for the pizza, but when it came…. O, mamma mia it was good!! Great prices again.

Da Michele: the best host in Vienna, bar none!! A great family feel restaurant, extremely fast and friendly with really great homely Italian food. Big thumbs up!

Universitatsbrauhaus: a piazza in the university quarter that is quiet and pleasant. Great Austrian/German cuisine.

AGI Open Source Presentation

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 22:47:44

Great to be back at the AGI Annual Conference today and speaking about open source and giving a live demo. As ever things didn’t quite work to plan - I ran the risk of demonstrating on the venue PC and the Microsoft C++ dependencies werent installed for QGIS to run happily. So no QGIS demo. GIMP worked well and my XAMPP demo worked great (bar the time pressure!) until I had brain freeze and forgot the URL for localhost when loading my freshly made leaflet webmap pulling in lat/long from a local MySQL database. That’s life!! For those that want the slides, they are below. Enjoy!

Footnote: The Army win the prize for the best give-aways on the stall. One great Army Spork in my collection. Hotly followed by OS with their great benchmark tin mug. Back to the trenches!


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**EGU 2016** Unmanned Aerial Systems: Platforms, Sensors and Applications in the Geosciences (SS12.18)

Monday, November 2, 2015 at 15:09:14

EGU 2016 General Assembly Session (search for SS12.18)
Conveners: Mike J Smith (Kingston), Mike James (Lancaster), Damią Vericat (Lleida), Saskia Keesstra (Wageningen)
Abstract Deadline: 13 Jan 2016


The aim of this session is to bring together scientists who are working with UAS in soil science, geohazards, geomorphology, vegetation and agronomy and share experiences with a focus upon platforms, sensors, data processing, and applications. The session will provide an overview of the current state of research and challenges that need to be tackled.


We encourage any scientist working with small aerial platforms to submit an abstract. Possible topics can include, but are not limited to:

Platform development
Light-weight sensor development
Methods of data processing
Multispectral and hyperspectral data analysis
Pre-processing and time-series analysis
Applications in soil science, geohazards, geomorphology, cryosphere, ecology, agriculture, forestry, vegetation mapping and monitoring, etc.


Recent enhancements in the performance and endurance of autonomous flying platforms, such as multi-copters and fixed wing aircraft, coupled with lighter and better performing sensors, has led to a dramatic increase in the deployment of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for scientific applications. The pace of development has been breath-taking and this is no better realised than in the low-cost consumer market where products are viable for scientific deployment. Yet we also see the development of aerial platforms for laser scanning, medium format visible cameras and multispectral scanners. These now approach the capability of traditional manned airborne systems. Within the geosciences the increasing use of photogrammetry, and particularly Structure from Motion (SfM), has led to a range of exciting applications.

Peer Review (event summary)

Thursday, June 11, 2015 at 11:03:30

I was recently on a panel discussion organised by Sense About Science on peer review specifically targeted at PhD and early career researchers. This series has been running 4 or 5 years now and has slowly evolved over time in to its current format of 2 group discussion sessions followed by brief panel member presentations and then a long Q&A (a good review of the event by my PhD student James O’Connor). Elizabeth Moylan of BioMed Central spoke about how the system currently operates commenting upon single/double blind and open review, the cycle of review, potential biases and the problem of reviewer fatigue. This is particularly a problem where journals seek fast review times and if papers get cycled between different journals. She noted new developments that uncouple review from the journal (Peerage of Science and Axios Review), as well as ideas for collaborative review and receiving credit for review. All important discussions and developments in the peer review process.

I spoke next (see my slides) covering why people choose to publish before moving on to the process (and emotions!) of submitting a paper, receiving a review and (hopefully) seeing it in print before concluding on why people review.

Irene Hames spoke on some of the developments in peer review and how we can and should be making the most of these. They included (in no particular order) retraction watch, PubPeer, PeerJ, Faculty1000 and Rubriq. She also highlighted how journals are now competing for peer reviews and that this is an area ripe for credit (dont forget to get your ORCID ID and list them there) as well as abuse!! See this story over at Retraction Watch for example. She also briefly talked about what you can do with a review - this is actually a piece of work by the reviewer and being able to use these reviews is potentially a valuable output. Check with the journal!

The discussion was really thought provoking and highlighted, first and foremost, the strong biomedical interest in the attendees. Questions relating to supervisors taking credit for reviews students had undertaken, unhelpful reviews, rude reviews, why rejections happen, how reviewers are selected, differences between subjects, journal funding models…. all really pertinent topics. It’s also worth noting that authors compete for space where journals have page budgets - so whilst a paper may well be publishable, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be accepted. And that writing well goes a long way to helping a paper along in the review process - you can never practice enough at writing!!

A hugely valuable day and well worth being a part of the debate.

Credit card for travel?

Friday, March 27, 2015 at 14:01:28

I’m off to the 6th Argentine Congress on Quaternary Geomorphology (or the rather handy Google Translate version!) shortly so have been prepping various academic and travel things ready for the trip. One thing I stumbled across which might be useful to other (UK) travelers is paying abroad - credit cards are obviously dead handy in this regard but usually charge a foreign transaction fee. Not so the Halifax Clarity Credit Card which is free on foreign transaction and, indeed, free on cash withdrawals. If you pay off your card monthly then this is a great deal.

Mount Everest Foundation

Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 14:11:22

Late last year I became a trustee at the Mount Everest Foundation, an charity (and company) dedicated to “provide grants and recognition to assist particularly deserving expeditions for the exploration of, and scientific work in, the mountain regions of the world.” It was set up after the successful 1953 expedition to climb Everest and uses income from surplus funds and subsequent media royalties to support these activities. The website is of a relatively old design (its currently being updated) but has a wealth of information on it including application information and details of supported expeditions and brief trip reports.

All applications for funding are passed through a screening committee which assesses them against the Memorandum of Association of the charity. On the MEF website it also notes:

“The aims of the Foundation are to encourage and support expeditions exploring mountain regions, and both education and research pertaining to a wide range of subjects in mountain areas, including geography, glaciology and the effects of altitude.”

It goes on to note the way the charity is incorporated:

“Affairs are controlled by a Committee of Management, of which half is appointed by the Alpine Club and half by the Royal Geographical Society.Unless an expedition has research as its primary objective, it must have a strong exploratory element to be deemed eligible for support. Expeditions planning geographical exploration, first ascents of, or major new routes on high or remote mountains are likely to qualify. Applications from expeditions proposing to visit little explored or formerly inaccessible areas are particularly encouraged, as are those pursuing worthwhile research. Normally, the MEF will only support expeditions where the majority of memberscome from Great Britain or New Zealand.”

However its worth quoting the relevant objects themselves:

1. To encourage, or support, (whether financially or otherwise) expeditions for the exploration of the mountain regions of the Earth

2. To encourage, or support, (whether financially or otherwise) education in or research into the geography, topography, geology, ethnology, meteorology, botany, zoology (including entomology), and glaciology of the mountain regions of the Earth and allied subjects relating thereto.

3. To encourage, or support, (whether financially or otherwise) education in or research into the effect of altitude upon the human organism and the means of countering such effect in so far as it may be harmful

4. To encourage, or support, (whether financially or otherwise) the dissemination of any information acquired in pursuance of the foregoing objects or any of them and the provision of publicity for the results of education research and exploration as aforesaid

5. To relieve or contribute relief, of persons injured or suffering from sickness contracted in pursuance of such researchers or explorations or to encourage or support either alone or in combination with others arrangements or instructions for the purpose of affording such relief

“Mountain regions of Earth” are generally taken to mean outside Europe for climbing expeditions. However note the wide remit of the charity to include “geographic” research, education, altitude based physiology and relief of injured persons. Its a wide remit and as a charity we have a responsibility to target all aspects of the Memorandum of Association. Grants are typically of the order of hundreds to several thousands of pounds and need to show financial support from other areas.

MEF is a valuable and worthwhile charity with a 60 year heritage of supporting work in high mountains built upon the foundations of the early Everest expeditions. It’s a heritage that should long continue and I would urge those that undertake research or expeditions in high mountains to submit a grant application.

For those interested the charity (208206) files its accounts with the Charities Commission and is also a listed company at Companies’ House.

Mapping Workshop - Loughborough 3 Sept 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 08:01:06

If you haven’t clocked it already, I am involved in organising a workshop on the mapping of glacial landforms this September. Titled GMapping, it is concerned with:

“….the “GMapping Workshop” will present and discuss results from glacial gemorphological mapping by different interpreters for statistically representative synthetic drumlins within a real landscape. This can then inform both the differences/similarities in mapping and quantify the impacts upon the calculation of derived metrics. The key outcomes of this workshop will be the initial development of a set of objective criteria for geomorphological mapping.”

This is a highly topical area at the moment as manual, interpretive, mapping of visually complex landscapes is used extensively throughout the geosciences. And whilst it is preferable to have objective, repeatable, automated techniques, these approaches are still some way off sufficient levels of accuracy. So manual mapping remains the tried and tested approach….. yet comparability of results remains unquantified. Part of the problem is that with a real landscape we cannot a priori know what actually exists meaning it is hard to test the efficacy of individual maps.

One solution to this problem I was involved in with a my colleague John Hillier over in Loughborough….. here we used a real landscape but removed drumlins from it and then inserted our own back in to the landscape. We now have a real landscape with known landforms which means we can test how well individuals are able to identify them and, more importantly, variations in this identification and impacts upon the subsequent calculation of landform metrics.

So the workshop fast approaches and we now have a large set of mapped data (and shortly a preliminary report!) from which discussion can follow - perhaps the most important outcomes of this workshop are twofold:

1. gain a better understanding of mapping error and its impact upon landform metrics
2. development of a protocol for manual mapping to maximise accuracy

RGS Children’s Lecture

Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 20:21:44

Christmas sees a proliferation of lectures and meetings with, increasingly, many aimed at children (perhaps exemplified by the Royal Society). Not to be out done, the Royal Geographical Society holds their own Children’s Christmas Lecture…. and an excellent event it was this year. Chris Lloyd, author of the What on Earth books brought along his giant wall map and gave a spell binding talk on the history of the universe and everything in 55 minutes, with the able assistance of his 14 pocket coat and an enthralled group of 500 children. A great mix of comedy, history, science, performance and language - a real tour-de-force in allowing kids to explore and see an overall structure to understanding the universe so that when they delve in to bits of it later on they understand where it all fits. This was followed by some dinosaur themed activities and a giant map of the world which transfixed my daughter. A brilliant afternoon, so keep your eyes peeled next year.


p>Giant Map, Royal Geographical Society by mike48 ) on
Giant Map, Royal Geographical Society by mike48

Conference: Objective Geomorphological Representation Models

Friday, May 11, 2012 at 18:51:52

The IAG/AIG WG on Apllied Geomorphological Mapping (, together with the Italian Association of Physical Geography and Geomorphology (AIGEO), the University of Salerno, with the support of National Park Cilento and Vallo di Diano, and Geoparks are organizing an International Workshop on “Objective Geomorphological Representation Models: Breaking through a New Geomorphological Mapping Frontier” on 15-19 October 2012, in the Salerno University Campus, Italy. This comes as a natural follow up on the recently published book ‘Geomorphological Mapping methods and applications’ edited by the AppGeMa IAG WG.

Four renowned Key Note Lectures, oral and poster session will be hold, and a field excursion to discuss the geomorphological mapping of a landslide on the coast of the Tyrrhenian sea (Cilento and Vallo di Diano Geopark).

More information and the registration form are available on the IAG website

Deadlines Summary:
Registration August 31, 2012 
Abstract submission June 30, 2012 
Abstract acceptance July 31, 2012 

Looking forward to seeing you in Salerno!

Travel with SAS……

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 22:19:06

As a follow-up to that last post, we are pretty well served for flights to Stockholm with Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted all flying out. No surprise that Heathrow has the greatest choice so I ended up going SAS. A faultless, efficient, flight with an online or txt based check in. The online version allows you to choose your seat (would be nice to try that EasyJet…. and if RyanAir did it you know youd have to pay an extra £20 for it!)…. txt based version intrigued me, but I didnt try it. This is actually an important point because you need to print your boarding card out most of the time (although there are a few smartphone apps that allow you to retried it). SAS only allow you to check in 22 hours ahead, which means if you are staying over then you somehow have to print out a boarding card. Often a strangely difficult thing to do!! EasyJet allow check-in 60 days ahead which is far more flexible.

Swedish PhD Defence

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 07:49:40

Just got back from a PhD defence at the Stockholm University in Sweden. Never having assessed a PhD outside the UK this was interesting as a process, as well as seeing some new research. Unlike the UK, this is a public event held in a lecture theatre. The student (Martin Margold), known as the “Respondent”, gave a short 30 minute presentation before the “Opponent” (Chris Stokes, Durham) spent around 2 hours questioning him. As this is a dissertation by publication (4 papers published, 1 in review and 1 to be submitted), it is “wrapped together” with a short introduction and provides a good structure for questioning. The Opponent is meant to be neutral but provide the context for the student to be questioned and evaluation to be made. After this is complete, the Evaluation Committee (myself, Brent Ward (Simon Fraser) and Henriette Linge (Bergen)) had about 10 minutes each to ask specific questions. They can be a little more probing. At this point questioning is thrown open to the floor, but no one tool the opportunity!

The committee, Opponent, supervisor and faculty representative then retire for a discussion with an outcome of “Pass” or “Fail”. No in-between!

Martin successfully defended his thesis (in photo) and did a very good job too. Many congratulations!

University of Ulster Visit

Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 21:43:38

I’m visiting the University of Ulster tomorrow, so took the opportunity to fly up from Southampton to Belfast. The last time I flew to Belfast was by EasyJet from Luton which is pretty standard fare. So imagine my surprise when I boarded the FlyBe aircraft and noticed these blade shaped things spinning around on the outside. Spooky.

RSPSoc 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 12:46:06

I’m currently attending RSPSoc2011 which is again producing a wide variety of topics all centred around remote sensing. The conference is organised around three parallel sessions, with plenaries at the beginning of each day. Vegetation remains a key topic, but urban, UAVs, object based classifiers, archaeology, sensors and hazards are all key topics. There is pretty good commercial support (both journals and service/software/hardware companies) and its good to see these companies giving talks as well.

I missed the keynote yesterday, but Bob Binschadler gave a great historical overview and contemporary evaluation of how remote sensing has fed in to glaciology. A very interesting talk.

So another good RSPSoc, which is moving to U Greenwich next year.

Imagining the future of the journal - RGS Discussion Panel

Monday, September 5, 2011 at 08:38:06

I was invited on to a discussion panel entitled “Imagining the future of the journal” at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference last week (very brief coverage in THES). This is warming up in to quite a topic at the moment with a (slightly over the top!) piece by George Monbiot in The Guardian last week. He makes some salient points about profit making in what is largely a monopolistic, unregulated and closed market. Anyway, the discussion panel was made up of

Noel Castree (University of Manchester)
Toby Green (Head of Publishing, OECD)
Sarah Porter (Head of Innovation, JISC)
Mike Smith (Editor in Chief, Journal of Maps; slides

Using Kindles in HE

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 06:19:48

I gave a talk yesterday about using Kindles in HE and, in particular, using them for marking, reading research papers and briefly pondering about their student use. This really comes out of my initial reactions to using the Kindle and further experience. Slides are linked below if they are of interest.

AGI’10: Open Source GIS

Monday, November 8, 2010 at 10:53:02

I gave a talk at the AGI this year on Open Source GIS. I’ve now placed the slides online as there were loads of URLs in them. The talk is by no means comprehensive in terms of open source geospatial software, but I gave a broad-brush approach providing examples of software from a wide range of domains we often use in the geospatial world. One extra element (as I’m a proponent of portable apps) is that, where possible, I’ve given links to portable (USB) versions of the apps. Hopefully this will prove useful to people.

Photogrammetric Week

Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 08:24:42

Photogrammetric Week has a long and enviable record as a high profile, quality, conference. In fact, amazingly for a “conference”, it held its 100th Anniversary last year. And whilst it obviously focuses upon photogrammetry, there are many talks devoted to related topics (LiDAR, IfSAR etc). And, somewhat like RSPSoc Annual Conference they publish a set of extended abstracts which are really very useful. If you’ve missed these then the entire back catalogue is available. This is a fantastic resource and, being open access, means they are index by Google as well. RSPSoc need to take a leaf out of PW’s book and do the same, otherwise they will languish on a dusty shelf.

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