The Right Tools for the Job: The Case for Spatial Science Tool-Building
Transactions in GIS 2020, https://doi.org/10.1111/tgis.12678
23 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2020
Date Written: August 1, 2020
This paper was presented as the 8th annual Transactions in GIS plenary address at the American Association of Geographers annual meeting in Washington, DC. The spatial sciences have recently seen growing calls for more accessible software and tools that better embody geographic science and theory. Urban spatial network science offers one clear opportunity: from multiple perspectives, tools to model and analyze non-planar urban spatial networks have traditionally been inaccessible, a theoretical, or otherwise limiting. This paper reflects on this state of the field. Then it discusses the motivation, experience, and outcomes of developing OSMnx, a tool intended to help address this. Next it reviews this tool's use in the recent multidisciplinary spatial network science literature to highlight upstream and downstream benefits of open‐source software development. Tool-building is an essential but poorly incentivized component of academic geography and social science more broadly. To conduct better science, we need to build better tools. The paper concludes with paths forward, emphasizing open-source software and reusable computational data science beyond mere reproducibility and replicability.
Keywords: GIS, Open Source, Open Science, Open Data, Open Street Map, Social Science, Urban Theory, Geographic Data Science, Urban Geography, Reproducibility, Replication, Network Science, Network Theory, Spatial Networks, Street Networks, Transportation, GIScience, Geography
JEL Classification: C8, L86, L91, R42, O18, R12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation