Citation manipulation: busted!

[via Ben Goldacre] Retractionwatch reports on what could be the first retraction of a paper on the grounds on citation manipulation. 

For those of you not fully au fait with academia, every time someone refers to your published work in a peer reviewed article that citation is noted. Citation frequency is a metric used in everything from academic appointments/tenure, salary negotiations to the evaluation of funding proposals and other commissions. It’s quite a big deal (though not uncontroversial). In the cases discussed here journal editors have acted to inflate the referencing of papers in their journals and which they have authored. Very naughty.

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Helpful radar animations

Check out Iain Woodhouse’s “Helpful radar animations” over at cArbomap. Dr Woodhouse has a gift for explaing radar concepts in an accessible way (he is the author of the excellent Introduction to Microwave Remote Sensing): he doesn’t disappoint with these animations explaining key concepts in synthetic aperture radar.


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HR Geostationary Imaging

In the last post I briefly touched on Disaster Monitoring Constellation (s): a system of satellites that provide high temporal resolution data for environmental monitoring. It turns out that Astrium, the European space giant, is touting a  high resolution (HR) geostationary, dubbed HR Geo, satellite called the Geostationary Orbit Space Surveillance System, GO-3S. The system will feature spatial resolutions on metre scales with a very high “refresh rate”, what they are calling video from space. Not surprisingly, Astrium are calling GO-3S a flagship innovation project.

This reminded me of an Invitation to Tender (ITT) i saw on EMITS, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ITT system. Unfortunately I can’t find it at the moment. However, I did find an ESA press release about their HR geostationary user consultation workshop in 2010 (the presentations are online here). ESA has indeed set it’s sights high. Having established a user need, and an engineering challenge, ESA are providing leadership in  a crucial future technology. One can ask if Astrium are targeting this future market; trying to get their foot in the door early.

Regardless of Astrium’s engagement in HR Geo, think of the possibilities. Real disaster monitoring capabilities: near real time, very high temporal resolution HR data. Even panchromatic data would be awesome, but HR Geo multi-spectral would be beyond awesome. It’d revolutionise Earth Observation. Landsat type missions would become redundant (Landsat Data Continuity Mission, Sentinel-2, SPOT). Three or four satellites could provide global coverage. Vegetation monitoring would be hyper-temporal; classification algorithms would be adapted to cope with growing season characteristics for example; Glacier dynamics would be monitored using feature tracking with much better confidence using temporal averaging; flooding, wildfires, oil spills and other hazards could be monitored in near real time, greatly improving our ability to assess threats, a coordinate responses.

Just think about the potential!  Fingers crossed for a HR Geo system in the near future.

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Commercial Earth Observation

I was just reading Peg Shippert’s post on environmental monitoring constellations at Imagery Speaks. In a succinct post two constellations are described: the inter-governmental Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) and commercial Rapideye constellation. See the post for more details.

The post reminded me of the differences between public providers of Earth Observation data and commercial providers ( I’d be interested to hear what Dr Shippert thinks of this too). Way back when, the USGS used to charge for Landsat data, and it wasn’t all that cheap. SPOTs pricing was higher, reflecting in part, the higher spatial resolution. Eventually the US agency reduced the price to $500 then released the archive data free. Possibly in response SPOT released more and more data at reduced prices and ESA and the EU made data available for scientists for free. ESA itself has only recently embraced wider or near-open access data in a way that the US adopted a decade or so ago. Hence today we have parallel structures where moderate and high resolution public data are available for free. Very high resolution data is largely the domain of (US) commercial data providers such as Digital Globe and GeoEye. In Europe Rapideye tried to compete but this year was sold to a Canadian company Iunctus following bancruptcy.

Pricing clearly separates the different data provision models. Imagery from the likes of Digital Globe and GeoEye are not cheap despite the business model being heavily subsidised by the US taxpayer. Indeed, a threatened reduction in government business led the Senate to rally behind the commercial satellite operators, despite the lean times. But that is not all that separates the commercial entities from their government counterparts.

When I want to hunt for high or moderate resolution imagery from Landsat, Envisat or EO-1, I go online and search Glovis (USGS), Reverb (NASA) or EOLI SA (ESAs Stand Alone catalogue). If I want to look for Rapideye data I can search their catalogue online (implemented only recently though). Digital Globe and GeoEye also have searchable catalogues. BUT, try finding a price…. RapidEye asks you to “contact a Sales Partner”. Digital Globe allows you to email an enquiry to Customer Service. When I asked about data in 2009 I received a quote of £2250 for a 152 km^2 region of Antarctica covered by a Quickbird Natural Colour Composite mosaic.  This was Antarctica for heavens sakes! Who pays that kind of money? Furthermore, the pricing is opaque and customer service is rather slow and inconvenient.

We’re often told how innovative and flexible business is compared with monolithic state entities. Often this is true but when in comes to the provision of satellite imagery to professional users my experience tells me I am in the best hands when I am in my own hands: I’d like to search the catalogue and order the data myself. Online automated orders such as those offered by ESA, USGS and NASA are by far and away superior to email discussions that including licensing ‘options’.

So, if you are planning to launch the next generation of commercial EO platforms here are my tips:

-be upfront and honest about your pricing and licensing (and inject some realism),

– offer a simple catalogue interface for customer searches: by all means offer access to customer service specialists too,

– support online ordering, even if it requires registration and confirmation/validation.

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India’s new RISAT-1 SAR returns it’s first images

Better late than never (sorry for being a bit slow). As reported by Flight Global’s Hyperbola blog (on May 14th) the first images from the Indian RISAT-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) have been released by the ISRO. RISAT-1 SAR is a C-band SAR; with Spotlight mode it is apparently able to image with a pixel spacing of up to 1 m. RISAT-1 provides India with a whole new range of Earth Observation capabilities.

If you view the gallery I suggest taking the ‘Snow’ label in the first image with a large pinch of salt. I suspect the object is in fact a lake (snow would not scatter so brightly; firn would but that is not a plateau icecap).

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JAXA Launches GCOM-W1

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has successfully launched the GCOM-W1 satellite. GCOM-W1 will undertake orbital manoeuvres for 45 days to place it in constellation with the A-train satellites.

GCOM-W1 is carrying the Advanced Microwave Scanning  Radiometer 2 (AMSR-2): a passive microwave instrument used for measuring the brightness temperature (and microwave emissivitty) of the Earths’ surface. AMSR-E the instrument’s predecessor died this year depriving climatologists and glaciologists of a great data source.

AMSR-2 has deployed the largest mirowave antenna in space. JAXA has a lovely image of the antenna on their website. We look forward to the successful commissioning of AMSR-2 and the start of data delivery!

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ImagerySpeaks discusses the Satellite Sentinel Project’s work with geodata to monitor the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.


Everyday unique applications for geospatial imagery and image analysis are being developed, outside of traditional applications, to understand what is happening around the world.  Currently, geospatial imagery and GIS are playing a role in the work to end the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. A group created by Not on Our Watch, Enough, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, DigitalGlobe, and Google, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) is working on “deterring a return to full-scale civil war between northern and southern Sudan and deterring and documenting threats to civilians along both sides of the border. SSP focuses world attention on mass atrocities in Sudan and uses its imagery and analysis to generate rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns.” (SSP)

The concept of utilizing commercial satellite imagery to monitor a country’s activities is not a new one; however according to the Satellite Sentinel Project’s…

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