Finding and sharing GIS methods based on the questions they answer

S. Scheider* (Corresponding Author), A. Ballatore, R. Lemmens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
239 Downloads (Pure)


Geographic information has become central for data scientists of many disciplines to put their analyzes into a spatio-temporal perspective. However, just as the volume and variety of data sources on the Web grow, it becomes increasingly harder for analysts to be familiar with all the available geospatial tools, including toolboxes in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), R packages, and Python modules. Even though the semantics of the questions answered by these tools can be broadly shared, tools and data sources are still divided by syntax and platform-specific technicalities. It would, therefore, be hugely beneficial for information science if analysts could simply ask questions in generic and familiar terms to obtain the tools and data necessary to answer them. In this article, we systematically investigate the analytic questions that lie behind a range of common GIS tools, and we propose a semantic framework to match analytic questions and tools that are capable of answering them. To support the matching process, we define a tractable subset of SPARQL, the query language of the Semantic Web, and we propose and test an algorithm for computing query containment. We illustrate the identification of tools to answer user questions on a set of common user requests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalInternational journal of digital earth
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 7 May 2018


  • GIS methods
  • query containment
  • Question answering
  • semantic workflows
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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