Geography and those who practise it have come a long way in a short space of time when it comes to being recognised and celebrated in government circles. In 2018, after much work by the Central Government Geographers Group, geography was established as a new sub-profession within the Government Science and Engineering profession (GSE). In 2020, the Government Geography Profession become a standalone profession within the Government Analysis Function. It is now based at the Cabinet Office with the Geospatial Commission. Its role is to support geographical expertise across the public sector and to recognise and encourage the use of geography and geographical sciences within and across government.
Today, more than 1,200 professional geographers across the public sector are members of the Government Geography Profession.
On 11 November, the Geography in Government awards were held in a virtual ceremony, with winners announced across six categories and one overall winner. The awards were introduced by David Wood, the Head of the Government Geography Profession and the awards were presented by Professor Joe Smith, Director of the RGS-IBG and Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director of Location International Ltd.
Find out more about the winners of each award below (information taken from the Government Geography Profession blog):
Impact on Policy
Winner: Regional Economic Development Team, Scottish Government: Re-establishing Ayrshire as a Functional Economic Geography to benefit its community
Over the past two years the Scottish Government’s Regional Economic Development division has worked to re-establish the idea of Ayrshire, the ancient county and brand, as a functional economic geography underpinned by a commitment to collaborate across its three council areas.
The Ayrshire was used as a geography for a £251m Growth Deal, within which the Scottish and UK Governments agreed long-term regional funding priorities with local partners across a range of place-based economic interventions.
Other nominees: Knowledge & Information Management and Biodiversity & Ecosystem Resilience Group, Natural Resources Wales: Combining business intelligence tools with GIS; Geography Statistics Team, Department for Transport: An interactive internal mapping tool of investment
Excellence in geo-visualisation & cartography
Winner: Monitoring Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE), Natural England: Developing online tools for MENE
Monitoring Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) is the largest survey of its kind which has collected a decade’s worth of data on people’s engagement with the natural environment. This has focused on individual visits and wider visiting habits such as frequency, motivations and barriers. With almost 500,000 respondents the MENE team have spent the last year developing innovative tools to help users access, analyse, view and present the data with confidence.
Other nominees: Ministry of Defence: Development of Cross Country Movement Models; Office for National Statistics Geography GIS and Mapping Unit: ONS’ provision of mapping for Cabinet Office’s Atlas of Democratic Variation
Contribution to the profession
Winner: Jessica Baker, Ordnance Survey: Colourblind accessible mapping
Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) is a genetic condition which makes it hard for the eye to distinguish between different colours, affecting around 8% of men and 0.5% of women. Many cartographic colour schemes don’t take this issue into consideration, which can create significant barriers for colour blind users. The goal of this project is to increase accessibility of geospatial data and maximise usability.
Other nominees: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Research Team, Highways England: Automating RedLine; Defence Geographic Centre, Ministry of Defence: UK Flight Safety
Advancing geospatial data science
Winner: Data Science, Remote Sensing, Data Engineering, Marine Geospatial Data Management Team, UK Hydrographic Office: UKHO Global Mangrove Database
The team designed a deep learning model for image segmentation using a convolutional neural network, trained to detect mangrove. The Data Science and Remote Sensing teams worked collaboratively to create a labelled dataset of 40 Sentinel-2 images used to train the model. Overall, the trained model achieved a balanced accuracy of 82% with well controlled regional differences in performance, demonstrating that the model is geo-generalised. The Data Engineering team then developed a serverless pipeline to deploy the model and make global predictions of mangrove extent.
Other nominees: Issam Al-kenani, Geography Team, ONS: Discrete Global Grid System (DGGS); Gavin Haughton, London Flood Risk Team, Environment Agency: Natural Flood Management opportunity and prioritisation for the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee
Winner: Land & Property Services Northern Ireland: Providing a single view of land and property in Northern Ireland
Land & Property Services (LPS) is responsible for land registration, valuation, rates collection and mapping. LPS plays a vitally important role in supporting economic development in Northern Ireland. LPS collects approximately £1.3 billion of rates revenue helping fund vital public services. Spatial data is helping to inform an ongoing digital transformation programme within the organisation to improve service delivery to clients and citizens. LPS have pulled this information into an innovative map application using Esri ArcGIS Enterprise where staff within LPS can log on and search for information on properties. The integration of this data within a single application has been so successful LPS now have over 300 staff in the organisation using it on a daily basis.
Other nominees: The Oil and Gas Authority: The OGA Geospatial Platform; Billy Bates and Patrick Wood, Home England: The Housing Completions Model
Excellence in Local Government
Winner: Westminster’s Urban Lab Team: Westminster City Council
Westminster City Council has had limited capacity to employ cutting edge urban data science approaches for extracting novel intelligence. Within the borough, University College of London (UCL)’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and King’s College London’s Centre for Urban Science & Progress’ data science teams were looking for real life business problems for their students to address. Recognising this, they partnered to test data-driven solutions to Westminster’s challenges, deploying innovative tools to save public money, generate new insights and improve citizens’ lives transparently.
Other nominees: Growth Zone Team, London Borough of Croydon: Croydon Growth Zone GIS Project; Regional Transport Coordination Centre, Transport for West Midlands
Monitoring Engagement with the NaturalEnvironment (MENE), Natural England: Developing online tools for MENE