GIS in socio-demographic and population-environment research

In the practical exercises you have now completed for this module, you have turned attention to uses of GIS not just for assessing current conditions but also for assessing future ‘what if?’ scenarios. Hopefully you have seen that planning for these sorts of scenarios can be useful for a number reasons e.g., identifying numbers of people potentially affected by a given type of change or event, to whether that change or event may impact evenly across all locations or social groups.
For this project assignment, you will not turn thought to consider other ways in which scenarios can be used. The assignment calls you to think about the in which planning for future changes and events may also be useful towards identifying and improving more effective use of GIS. We should not automatically assume that all requirements for effective use of GIS (covering, hardware, software, data, people and procedures) are automatically in place for dealing with any future situation. Rather, scenario planning can help in understanding areas of both opportunity and weakness, and where further development is required, in order to make most effective use of GIS in a given scenario context.
For the present project you are given a choice of scenarios consider You should select one of these scenarios to focus to and should your attention on, and should then research prepare a more extensive scenario for the assessment.
Learning outcomes for this assignment
By completing this assignment you should be able to gain greater appreciation of how forward scenarios can be used to develop plans for GIS projects connected to needs of different users and stakeholders.
In addition you should gain greater knowledge and understanding of the different ways in which GIS can be applied/deployed to real-world situations.
Your report on your chosen scenarios could be 2500 words excluding words in tables and figures, appendices and list of references.
For further information on how to submit this assignment, please also refer to the relevant section in the module guide.
Assessment criteria
The content and organization of the report will be assessed against the elements described in the section below headed ‘criteria for scenario development’.
In addition, your report will be assessed against the presentation standards detailed in the module guide. Please refer to the section of the guide which discusses the presentation standards expected for this assignment.
Choice on scenarios
A range of different scenarios is outlined below. You should choose one to focus you project assignment on.
For each scenario, you will see that only a brief initial description is provided.
It is up to you to develop your chosen scenario further. This will require you to elaborate the future situations associated with your chosen scenario in an appropriate, realistic way. (See also further below.)
Importantly, how develop your scenario should provide a basis for assessing the opportunities and requirements for using GIS effectively to address the future situations you include. You should also think about the actions, changes, resources etc. which should be put in place, in order for GIS to be used effectively given the scenarios under consideration.
The scenarios are as follows:
Scenario 1 – A new ‘Rapid Response’ funding scheme for social science researchers has been established, intended to enable a fast social research response to urgent or unforeseen events. Proposed research will focus solely on urgent data collection and essential initial analysis. Grants must last no more than 12 months with a maximum award of around £125.000. You are a ‘GIS-literate’ social science researcher, and you are preparing a funding application to submit to this scheme. Your proposal is to study the current EU ‘migration crisis in particular focussed on understanding the journeys and experiences of migrants to the EU from across the Mediterranean, and you think it is important to include use of GIS within the study. If choose the scenario, focus on the ways you would develop and use GIS. You should divide the year-long timeframe into quarters.

Criteria for scenario development
You should aim to develop your chosen scenario with reference to the following general points.
• You will see that each initial scenario description omits detailed specifics – e.g. the day, time year of the event under consideration. You are encouraged to fill in those gaps yourself in your writing, giving plausible answers to those sorts of questions.
• Each scenario is divided into a number of sequential time periods. For each time period you should outline in a few paragraphs the state of progress or impacts you would expect, considering the type of event, and other characteristics of the study area under consideration.

NB each scenario has different time periods associated with it – be sure that you work to the time periods specified for your chosen scenario.

• Key leverage points for GIS – i.e. you should identify appropriate examples of the way in which GIS could be used, considering examples of effective usage and requirement for these. You should also consider the possibility for different uses of GIS across the individual time periods, as uses spanning across multiple/all time periods.

Uses of GIS could relate to the needs of multiple different organisations and agencies connected to the scenario in some way, including both organisation-specific needs and possibilities based on partnership and sharing.

• To help convey realism you should link in references to e g. particular organisations, web-based material, pictures, maps, schematic illustrations or other graphics at appropriate points in your scenario. This should be carefully selected and positioned to support the written narrative. If you have ideas for GIS workflows, include them in graphical form.

• Your scenario should be compelling and realistic – e.g. in a format suitable for another group or organization to us as a starting point for reviewing their own readiness for future challenges.

Further guidance on the use of scenarios
Scenarios may be regarded as ‘realistic storylines’ that describe possible futures that could occur given a particular set of changes or events. Having developed for assisting with planning readiness for disasters, they are used widely than this.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the value of scenarios is to look at a few yourself.
• A leading example to consider is the work by Lloyd’s of London – one of the world’s largest insurance markets – on what it calls Realistic Disaster Scenarios (RDS). Lloyds prepares these to explore the potential effects of catastrophes caused by natural events on insurance markets. You can about the Lloyds RDS at – from that web site you can link to pdf documents containing detailed sets of scenarios.

• Giving a quite different perspective are the scenarios developed by the US Department of Homeland Security (part of the US Federal Government set up by the Bush Administration following 9-11). These scenarios are contained in a 2005 report, links to which are available on several web sites including The report covered a wide range of scenarios, including two on ‘Natural Disaster’, though you find others valuable as well.

• Scenario-ing has been central to climate change assessments. For instance in 2000 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) for use in its Third Assessment Report, introduced here: Closer to home the UK Climate Projections (UKCPO9) also uses socio-economic scenarios and emissions scenarios., see

• Scenarios can also be prepared based on real events from the past. One example of an attempt to capture experience and use it for forward planning is a report by Arup (a global consultancy) on recovery and reconstruction efforts in Aceh following the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The report is available in a pdf download from

• Planning for scenarios often go hand-in-hand with ‘table top’ exercises. Table top exercises are simulated response activities. Usually these exercises involve bringing various stakeholders together, hooked up via their laptops. Typically the exercise begins with a scenario description, and then moderator provides additional information during the response activities to throw things into further chaos and test the limits of what people are prepared for. Again from the USA, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has some resources available if you’d like to do one of these yourself – see

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