Geo at #RGSIBG15

The many faces of flooding: Wed 2 Sept, Alumni Auditorium

We are delighted to be sponsoring a public event, ‘The many faces of flooding: Policy, science, and art’, at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)’s Annual International Conference in Exeter this year. This panel debate will explore ways we can effectively, and fairly, build resilience to future flood events. It takes place on Wednesday 2 September (18.45) in the Alumni Auditorium, followed by a drinks reception from 20.00.

If you’re interested in flooding and climate change, you might want to take a look at some of the papers recently published in Geo on these themes:

  • Climate and its changes: a cultural appraisal. By Mike Hulme, doi:1002/geo2.5.
  • Understanding local community construction through flooding: the ‘conscious community’ and the possibilities for locally based communal action By Tracey Coates, doi:1002/geo2.6

The full list of papers published by Geo can be accessed via the journal’s website. We’re delighted that our first publications include papers by physical and human geographers, policy contributions, reviews, digital humanities papers and commentaries. There are some very exciting papers in production too, so watch this space!

Talk to us about publishing in Geo!

Both editors (Gail Davies and Anson Mackay) will be attending the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference next week, so please do come talk to us about publishing open access in Geo. Anson will be at the conference on Wednesday 3 Sept, and Gail will be at Wiley stand (in the Forum) on Wednesday 3 Sept, during session 3 (from 14.40), and on Friday from 9.30 to the end of coffee.

Mapping the “Tribes” of London

By Alex Singleton, University of Liverpool, UK

Our paper, The internal structure of Greater London: a comparison of national and regional geodemographic models, recently published in Geo, explores the geography of where we live to identify 19 distinctive “tribes” that characterise London neighbourhoods. This London Output Area Classification (LOAC) was created in collaboration with the Greater London Authority.

We employ an area classification technique referred to as geodemographics, which are a set of methods that were initially developed in the 1970s (with a model of Liverpool) by Richard Webber. Further details are given our paper, however, in brief, geodemographics are created using a computational technique that compares multiple attributes of areas (e.g demographics, employment, built structures etc.) and places them within clusters aiming to maximise similarity. These are then summarised with names and descriptions.

Within the UK, the Output Area Classification (OAC) is an example geodemographic classification, and was created on behalf of the Office for National Statistics from census data. A classification exists for both 2001 and 2011, and both were built with an entirely open methodology. However, one criticism of national classifications such as OAC is that they do not adequately accommodate local or regional structures that diverge from national patterns, which is an acute issue for London. This can be illustrated with maps of the 2011 OAC for London and the much smaller city of Liverpool.

A map of OAC SuperGroups in Liverpool. Source:

A map of OAC SuperGroups in Liverpool. Source:


A map of OAC SuperGroups in London. Source:

A map of OAC SuperGroups in London. Source:

The problem with the national classification in context of London is evident from these images, with the majority of London classified into 3 clusters. However, the London classification presents a much more variegated picture of London.


A map of OAC SuperGroups in London. Source:

A map of LOAC SuperGroups in London. Source:

The best way to view the classification is on the website:  or you can search for your postcode – you can even let us know if you think we got your neighbourhood wrong!

About the author:

Alex Singleton is Professor of Geographic Information Science at the University of Liverpool. Alex’s Geo paper was co-authored with Paul Longley. Paul is Professor of Geographic Information Science at UCL)


Singleton, A. D., and Longley, P. (2015) The internal structure of Greater London: a comparison of national and regional geodemographic models. Geo: Geography and Environment, doi: 10.1002/geo2.7.

Further reading:

  • More London-Liverpool Geodemographics Factoids:

In addition to the first UK geodemographics being created for Liverpool by Richard Webber (also a graduate of the University of Liverpool); and this paper a University of Liverpool / UCL collaboration; one of the earliest examples of area classification within the context of London includes the maps of Charles Booth created between 1889-1903 . Charles booth was a Liverpudlian philanthropist. His maps were created through direct observations, and partitioned London into a series of summarising groups which are available to view online.

  • For more on the history of geodmeographics in the US and the UK, see our other open access paper on the subject:

Singleton, A. and Spielman, S. (2013). The Past, Present and Future of Geodemographic Research in the United States and United Kingdom. Professional Geographer, 66(4), 558-567.

Reflexion: Does the logic of the University sector allow space for Open Science? A response to Leonelli et al.

By George Adamson, King’s College London, UK

How does a researcher gain legitimacy? Within the UK context legitimacy is increasingly informed by the 6-yearly Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise, which drives departmental funding. Researchers must demonstrate entrepreneurial innovativeness, international relevance, and situate the wider relevance of their research against a shifting definition of ‘impact’, as well as being able to demonstrate the ability to attract and maintain a satisfied student body. In a hyper-competitive academic market, such neoliberal codes of success are increasingly important. The Open Access issue must be considered within this context.

The fields of historical- and palaeoclimatology (my own disciplines) have made large strides towards the kind of open access described in the paper by Sabina Leonelli and colleagues, recently published in Geo (Leonelli et al, 2015). Web-portals such as the National Climatic Data Center  provide a repository for the results of published climate reconstructions. Further moves are being made towards the establishment of repositories of raw data, particularly narrative information from sources such as diaries, personal correspondence and government reports. Such descriptions of meteorological variability and climate-related phenomena and activities can be used for both quantitative reconstructions of climate in the past and for a multitude of perspectives on human-environment relationships. The ongoing ACRE (Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth) project, run from the UK Met Office, are envisaging a dynamical global 4-dimensional database of historical weather that incorporates data from state-of-the-art reanalysis through to cultural interpretations of climate. This is in addition to existing databases such as Euro-Climhist  and the archive (the climate and environmental history collaborative research environment).

Such approaches are important for encouraging the cross-disciplinary work that is increasingly recognised as necessary within the field of climate change research (Hulme 2011). Online repositories also allow for a public ownership of climate data, an endeavour that can be at times frustrating, given the ways that climate data are used by some elements for personal attacks on climate scientists. This is not to say that such endeavours are imprudent. The sharing of climate data should ultimately break down, rather than reinforce disagreements. Citizen science projects such as Old Weather ( take public ownership even further, with non-academics actively involved in the data management process.

Such ownership, however, can only really be partial. The institutional culture outlined above creates huge pressure to analyse, interpret and publish before any data is shared. Departments, competing for ‘world class’ research outputs, are reluctant to relinquish ownership of data before outputs are be generated. The goal of ‘research for all’, as witnessed from outside the academy, is at odds with this individualised logic within. This is a long way from Science 2.0, at least within geography. To reach the point where science can be undertaken in collaboration with any interested parties would require a paradigm shift in the way that Universities are run and what is prioritised, something which could have been given more emphasis in the paper (Leonelli et al, 2015). The ongoing implications of the 2012 European Commission Recommendation (EC 2012), which recommends a fundamental change in the way academic careers are evaluated to include data-sharing, will therefore be interesting to follow. Such a cultural shift would not be unwelcome.

About the author: 

Dr George Adamson is Lecturer in Geography at King’s College London. George’s research is situated at the interface between palaeoclimatology, environmental history and climate change adaptation and policy.


European Commission (2012) Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information. Accessed on 12 November 2014

Hulme, M. (2011) Meet the humanities. Nature Climate Change 1 177-179

Leonelli, S. et al. (2015) Sticks and Carrots: Encouraging Open Science at its source. Geo: Geography and Environment, doi: 10.1002/geo2.2.

Geo: Geography and Environment. Open.

November 2014 has seen the celebrations for the 8th annual Open Access Week, seeking to promote open access as a new norm. It has also featured the announcement of the Anthropocene as the theme for the 2015 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) annual conference in Exeter. Both raise questions of the relations between academic communities and academic communication, and the links between the practices of naming and the practices of research. These further prompt the question: why Geo? And why now?

Geo is the fourth geography journal, encompassing the breadth of the discipline, published by the RGS-IBG, in association with Wiley[1]. It joins three other successful Society journals, all established in different contexts, which, at their launch, drew different relations between academics, audiences, publishers and the learned society.  The Geographical Journal was launched in 1831 as the main forum for news from the RGS. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers was set up in 1935, facilitating academic communication amongst the growing group of university-based geographers.  Area followed in 1969, as a newsletter for the Institute of British Geographers (IBG), with the primary remit to share research group news.  All three have changed substantially as the institutions (RGS and IBG) have merged and evolved, and they now contribute in distinctive and complementary ways to further the work of the RGS-IBG, serve the community of academic geographers and connect readers in cognate disciplines, policy communities and the wider audience for geographical research.

These echoes appear in their names as well as their printed forms. The Geographical Journal was the regular and official record of a learned society, which both carried, and at times challenged, the structures privileging certain groups to produce authoritative geographical knowledge.  Transactions indicates the processes of exchange within an increasingly professionalised of scholarly community, building up Schools of Geography in universities in the UK. Area indicates location, but also a space allocated for a specific purpose: in this case the growing vibrancy of the research groups of the IBG, working in different sub-disciplinary areas. The scope and remit of these journals and the RGS-IBG have changed enormously since these publications were first introduced, nonetheless the geographical imaginaries in these journal titles say much about the changing sites of knowledge production and the means through which research has travelled to shape the complex disciplinary conversations that constitute Geography.

Geo joins this trajectory, but its launch indicates the landscapes of academic publishing are shifting once more.  The name Geo points towards at least three different aspects of these transformations. First, there is its own contemporary moment in the increasing ubiquity of ‘geo’ as a locational prefix to be found in the everyday landscapes of data production, circulation and dissemination. This appears in generic terms, such as the geotagging of data, geospatial analysis, or the potentials of the geoweb; but it also points to more proprietary practices such as ‘geofencing’, or popular pursuits like ‘geocaching’. It is a term which is both associated with and overspills geography’s disciplinary identity. There are a series of epistemic, as well as political, social and economic questions about how these now routinely recorded traces of location are mobilised, accessed and analysed by a wide variety of private and public institutions.

Second, in its earlier usage, and also indicated by the longer title Geography and Environment, there is the ontological aspect to the prefix of Geo in referring to the earth. This also derives its meaning in combination, drawing attention to the ways in which the materiality of earthly processes are increasingly recognised as critical constituents across both physical and human geography. This leads to renewed debates over disciplinary identity, as geography considers its position in relation to the emergence of the ‘Anthropocene’, as well as animating new questions, as a ‘geological turn’ takes root in previously disparate sub-disciplinary areas, like geopolitics or geoaesthetics.  There is more than disciplinary identity at stake in these questions. The proliferation of sites making up the distributed experiments of unintentional, and intentional, planetary geo-engineering raise significant challenges for the place, theory and practice of geographical debate.

Thirdly and finally, the title was almost an acronym; but not quite. Whilst Geography and Environment Open would have bought the two parts of the title together and made the ambitions of this first fully open access journal published by the RGS-IBG unmistakable, we held back on this point. We recognise facilitating the transition from these first steps in open access to more fully open participation across academic communities is going to be a complex part of conversations initiated by and in this new journal. But, there was a sense that as moves towards open access publishing gather pace, internationally and across interdisciplinary contexts, the explicit designation of ‘open’ in a journal title would quickly become redundant. Here we would draw attention to the recent provocations to the geographical community in Jenny Pickerill’s commentary on open access.  She concludes we need to both recognise that publishing is always political and to experiment with what works best in a period of rapid change.

We are looking forward to publishing our papers in progress and to new submissions which pick up questions over data, that progress debates over the geo, and that demonstrate how experiments with open access can contribute to new institutional norms promoting the productive redistribution of expertise.

Gail Davies, co-Editor

[1] The RGS-IBG also publishes the cross disciplinary journal WIRES Climate Change in association with Wiley and the Royal Meteorological Society.

Conference Updates

Launching a new online open access journal with the RGS-IBG and Wiley has been an exciting and interesting process. It has also, at times, raised some unexpected issues. Not least, what does it mean to launch an online journal that, as yet, has no content? How best to share the news that we are now open – really open – as well as signal the content we are hoping to publish?

The opening editorial has been a key part of this early exchange. This sets out what we want the journal to achieve with research papers, agenda-setting review essays, and innovative data papers, which advance opportunities for interdisciplinary, online and open exchange.

We are also delighted to be sponsoring the following sessions at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference 2014. We have been inspired by their commitments to collaboration, their conceptual inventiveness, their interest in digital and visual methods, and their desire to push the boundaries of academic exchange in productive ways. This is very much in the spirit of what we want Geo to publish and promote.

We would like to thank the organisers of these sessions, and the contributors to them, for joining us in widening awareness of the launch of Geo. We hope to attend many of these sessions and contribute to the exciting conversations around them.

The conference will be also be an occasion for attendees to meet the editors and publishers of Geo, ask questions and explore opportunities for submission. The Wiley stand will be open during conference hours and we will be joining them on Wednesday morning. We are happy to answer your questions about our activities, at any time, during the conference, and of course by email after.

Finally, no journal launch would be complete without the sponsored conference drinks. We are delighted to invite you all to the opening drinks on Tuesday 26 August, at about 19.45, after the Chair’s Opening Panel on Co-Producing Public Geographies.

We look forward to celebrating the journal launch later this month and to continue working with you on generating the content that will realise the journal’s aspirations into the future.

Gail Davies, co-Editor

Introducing the Geo Blog

It’s hard to describe the excitement and trepidation one feels when being involved in setting up a new journal, never mind a journal which breaks the mould of traditional working practises and embraces Open Access from the outset. Part of the trepidation lies with the acknowledgement that the market for academic journals is already a very packed field, yet the excitement is knowing that with Geo we have something distinct and important to offer our discipline. This includes the addition of this blog which has the potential to provide further perspectives on published articles in Geo.

My own contribution to this blog comes from an environmental and physical geography perspective. I should confess from the outset that my own publishing record has not so far included papers in geographical society journals. This is in the main because physical geographers tend to publish in their own discipline-specific journals. This means that debates across disciplines can be rather restricted because readerships are usually discipline-focussed too. A major goal of Geo therefore is to break down some of these barriers by providing a medium where submissions are actively sought from both human and physical geography researchers to the one journal, and where interdisciplinary research findings are particularly encouraged. Blog posts can help to break some of these barriers down even further, because the language of communication is usually more accessible to a wider audience, resulting in wider readership and interaction. Today, this is especially important since tackling global issues such as climate change and its impacts, and environmental inequalities, needs us to collaborate across disciplines.

We hope to commission a whole range of blog posts for Geo. First and foremost, blog posts should address papers, or themes brought up by papers, recently published in Geo. These blog posts may be written by authors themselves or by members of the Editorial Board, to provide a broader perspective on the work just published and make it accessible to a wider readership.

We also welcome expressions of interest from Geo readers who would like to contribute post(s) that engage with papers published in this journal. We encourage interventions that consider how Geo papers shape or challenge wider geographical and environmental debates: for example, the nature of interdisciplinary research in geography; or the role that geography has in shaping policy relevant to the environment and human well-being.

Enquiries should be made in the first instance to either of the Geo Blog editors Martin Mahony ( or Anson Mackay (

Anson Mackay, co-Editor