Using Social Science Data and Tools
The social science disciplines provide insight into why people make the choices they do, given the information they have available.
How Can Social Science Data Help Me?
Social science data offers the opportunity to better understand people, their institutions, and their decision-making processes. The social disciplines provide insight into why people make the choices they do, given the information they have. Finding effective ways to provide individuals and institutions with important information, and understanding how this information will influence their choices, will facilitate a more informed decision-making process.
- How do the data relate to my coastal issue?
- How are data being used by others?
- How do the data fit into a decision-making process?
How does the data relate to my coastal issue?
|What you may be wondering||Where the data fits in|
|Where are the economic development opportunities in my county?||ENOW data evaluate which economic sectors offer the ability to produce more jobs|
|How vulnerable are my community members to natural disasters?||SOVI data locate your most vulnerable populations|
|I know more about the plants and animals than I know about the people who live in my community, and I need to better understand what they care about. (more)||STICS data analyze human population dynamics and trends|
Where are the economic development opportunities in my county?
Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW) data help you find potential areas for job growth in your community. The data also help you evaluate which areas are more resilient and less susceptible to economic downturn. The following job sectors are included:
- Living resources
- Marine construction
- Marine transportation
- Offshore mineral resources
- Ship and boat building
- Tourism and Recreation
You can download the ENOW data set for your area of interest. Or view your county’s data using Coastal County Snapshots, an online data visualization tool. Coastal County Snapshots provides basic analysis and shows the role played by the six economic sectors included in ENOW. In addition, the ENOW Explorer data viewer allows you to explore the data in a Web browser. You are able to look at cross-sections of data for a single area, trends that show multiple years of data, and comparisons of multiple geographic areas (such as county to county and state to state) without having to download and analyze the data.
How vulnerable are my community members to natural disasters?
Social Vulnerability Index (SOVI) data shows you the where your most vulnerable populations are. This information is critical in understanding how the larger community can respond to environmental hazards. The following data factors are included:
- Wealth and class
- Race and ethnicity
You can download the data. Additionally, some SOVI data have been incorporated into the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer (SLR viewer) which shows where vulnerable populations could be impacted by rising waters (Note: The initial project areas for the SLR viewer include Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of Texas and Florida, with additional coastal counties to be added in the near future).
I know more about the plants and animals than I know about the people who live in my community, and I need to better understand what they care about. Can I use demographic data to understand who lives here? Whether they are young or old? How people get to work? What kinds of jobs they have? Whether they own or rent their homes?
Spatial Trends in Coastal Socioeconomics (STICS) data provides information on populations living in coastal areas. Information about jobs, earnings, demographics, and population projections helps inform your decisions on economic development and planning for change or growth.
How have you used this data? Please share your story with us.How are data being used by others?
There are a variety of ways that social science data can be integrated into coastal management. Here are some examples.
Here is how non-profits are using ENOW data:
- To develop fact sheets on the value of ocean resources
- To characterize economic trends for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in support of their management plan
- To illustrate the economic importance of habitat conservation in the Puget Sound region
Here is how universities are using ENOW data:
- To study the relationship between harmful algal blooms and the level of tourism and recreational activity
- To examine seasonal impacts by applying the ENOW framework to quarterly data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
In Miami, Florida, the Miami-Dade Office of Sustainability worked with the NOAA Coastal Services Center to host a workshop in which county department representatives learned how sea level rise could affect their county and generated ideas for how to adapt to these changes. SOVI and U.S. Census Bureau data were just some of the data used. This case study demonstrates how coastal communities and states are integrating demographic and other geospatial data to address coastal issues.
Coastal communities and states are integrating demographic and other geospatial data to address coastal issues.How do the data fit into a decision-making process?
Participatory mapping and data visualization are two powerful techniques used to engage community leaders and stakeholders, and to elevate understanding of social data in the context of coastal management. Participatory mapping brings people and data (social and physical) together in a powerful way. Not only do the resulting maps represent the insights of the participants, but people who engage in the mapping process often find themselves more involved and knowledgeable about the issue at hand than they would have been otherwise. Data visualizations provide clarity to complex issues. If created and presented correctly, a visualization can say more in one image than a policy paper or report can convey in several pages.
What is participatory mapping?
Participatory mapping can be defined in many different ways.
Participatory GIS, Public Participation GIS or Voluntary GIS are different terms for the process of combining a range of geospatial tools and methods to spatially represent stakeholders’ knowledge, discussions, information exchange, analysis, decision making, and advocacy. This is frequently done through a workshop or team environment and may involve consensus building activities. Some additional examples include:
- Community mapping visually represents geographical data through simple sketches, objects, or other materials on hand in order to support social and economic change on a community level. Community mapping identifies patterns and provides a way of communicating those patterns quickly, to a broad audience.
- Crowdsourcing allows community members to engage in communication and receive feedback, increasing transparency. The capabilities for crowdsourcing have increased with the rise of Web applications, and the term often refers exclusively to Web-based activity.
- Cultural mapping combines methods, tools, and techniques that help users identify, describe, promote, and plan how the combined cultural assets of particular regions or cities will be used in the future.
Participatory maps are used to help communities set priorities and inform managers of their preferences in managing coastal resources. Participatory maps can represent many aspects of a community, including hazards, community values, and uses. Bringing spatial data into a group’s decision-making process through participatory mapping can add a measure of objectivity and validity to decisions that otherwise might be more political in nature and opinion-oriented.
There is no “one size fits all” approach or “right” answer when it comes to participatory mapping.There is no “one size fits all” approach or “right” answer when it comes to participatory mapping. The methods that are chosen depend on the group being engaged, the available technology, the timeline for the work, and the project’s final purpose. The mapping approach should be firmly based on the desired outcome of the process and people involved.
Participatory Mapping In Action
|Objective||Project Description||Mapping Process|
|Gather information on traditional practices||Kapuna Kupuna mapping in Oahu, Hawaii||Conducted mapping workshops to gather information about historical land management practices, uses, and traditional ecological knowledge.|
|Inform other data collection methods||Strategic conservation planning in southern Maine||Paired mail-based surveys and interviews to identify geographies and land types important to land trust members.|
|Facilitate decision-making||Conservation and restoration planning in Mobile and Baldwin counties, Alabama||Used a geospatial visualization tool with stakeholders to identify and prioritize critical habitat in an interactive setting.|
|Educate stakeholders||Adaptation planning in Miami-Dade, Florida||Used “Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk” framework to empower county offices to work across sectors and advance informed decision-making.|
What are visualizations?
Visualizations help people understand complex information. When local images or maps are used, people become more involved in the discussion because they better understand how the issue might impact their lives. Visualizations help local officials overcome many of the challenges associated with communicating proposed community projects with the public.
Maps aren’t the only type of visualizations used by coastal communities. Graphs, infographics, animations, photorealistic rendering, and mapping scenarios are all included in the definition.
Visualizing sea level rise
An example of a visualization tool is the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer. The viewer shows how communities might be impacted by various levels of sea level rise. This Web-based tool is based on the following visualization techniques:
- Map visualizations display potential future sea levels, communicate spatial uncertainty, and feature economic and social data
- Simulations provide photorealistic visualizations of sea level rise and potential marsh migration at local landmarks
- Graphs and slider bars show how tidal flooding will become more frequent with sea level rise
Types of Visualizations
Photorealistic – Digital photographs are used as baseline images. Software (such as Adobe Photoshop or CanVis) is then used to edit the photos to recreate specific scenarios. A limitation of photorealistic visualizations is that existing photographs can only be edited, and not recreated. Access guidance in Using Photorealistic Visualizations.
GIS maps – GIS refers to a geographic information system, where data layers representing spatial features can be displayed and manipulated on a map. Customized maps can be created and shared in a digital or printed format. GIS techniques may require significant expertise and resources to complete, but the process is becoming easier with the development of online tools that are more user-friendly (such as Google Earth and ArcGIS.
3D – Three dimensional (3D) software can be used to create a virtual environment that can be edited as the designer sees fit. The only limitations are software capabilities (for instance, SketchUp, Revit, or CommunityViz) and the designer’s imagination. Of all the visualization techniques described here, 3D images take the most time and effort and require greater technical skills and resources.
Animation – Most animations start with a two- or three-dimensional model. A series of frames or images of this model are then strung together to create the animation. Skill and time requirements are high, but if expertise is available, animation is a proven visualization technique, primarily because it allows users to view models from multiple perspectives.
Infographic – Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge. Using images along with words, infographics help to communicate complex information quickly and clearly.
Illustration – Drawing, or hand rendering, is the most basic form of visualization. Drawings can range in complexity from a rough sketch to a very detailed and comprehensive design. Quickly drawn images, as opposed to a simulation, may be best for conceptual ideas.