Geography is critical in a many aspects of social science research e.g., economics, demography and urban studies and in allied domains such as health e.g., population health and epidemiology.

The trick with geographies is the spatial dimensions are always changing (think about electoral boundaries) and place or area names change as well.  So the ability to compare and sometimes map across different versions of the same spatial area over time is the art of spatial scientists.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides a range of geographies e.g., Statistical Area Levels (SAL), Local Government Areas (LGA), Significant Urban Areas (SUA), and Indigenous Areas (IARE) as part of the Census collection.  There is also an Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) produced by the ABS and used for the release of data.  

The Australian Data Archive in partnership with AURIN through the Tinker platform project has already explored data integration with historic Australian Census data for 1981, 1986 and 1991 with ASGS.  Several ABS geographies were used to enable units of analysis (for social science) to be integrated with spatial units such as Local Government Areas and Collection Districts.  Integrated datasets comprised of survey and spatial units from the ABS Census are now available via AURIN.      

Data integration is the result of careful analysis of the social and spatial data and based on a rationale for the techniques used to bring the different units in the data sources together.  A good example of the power of data integration and critical explanations on methodology can be found in section “4.3 Geography” of HILDA Survey User Manual.  

Data integration work is a key enabler of data-centric social science research. The IRISS project team are working with longitudinal survey data available from the Australian Data Archive and spatial data (as vocabularies) available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. New integration methodologies and datasets will be produced for researchers in social science and in allied domains.  

Image credit: dg weave epic is jessica eaton’s art Roland Tanglao public domain 1.0