Large spatial data repositories are being created every day, but discovering and accessing these data sets poses many challenges. As a result, Tufts and Harvard Universities developed the Open GeoData Portal for conducting Geographic Information System research. Launched in November 2011, Tufts new GeoData Portal is an open source federated web application that allows Tufts community members, researchers, members of other academic institutions, and individuals and organizations across the globe opportunity to share geospatial data, maps, metadata, and development resources through a single common interface.
“We wanted to build a system connecting huge repositories where you could search for data in multiple places that used extant mapping tools,” says Geospatial Tech Services Manager Patrick Florance. The Open GeoData Portal aggregates the efforts of of several universities and organizations and makes thousands of geospatial data layers available through a single, open source interface. Partners include Harvard, MIT, MassGIS, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Yale, and UConn. The Open GeoData Portal combines an intuitive, map-based search interface with traditional text-based metadata search tools for rapid data discovery and for use in teaching, learning, and research. Even before beginning text searches, the map-based search interface uses a spatial logarithm that finds data sets relevant to the scale being searched. Researchers can preview data sets before determining whether they wish to create a link to share specific layers of data, stream data sets directly into desktop GIS applications, or transfer data into open source web-mapping software.