Building a Geospatial Lab – The People, The Tools, and The Process

Amruth Kiran, Teja Malladi  | 2023


Across academia and industry, there is a growing need to complement the exponential growth of Big Earth Observation (EO) data and the numerous possibilities for processing, rendering, visualization, and sharing geospatial data and its derivatives. The challenges that come with such opportunities include the identification of efficient tools, hiring and training of people at different skill levels, and the outreach activities that enable easier communication of scientific findings. These silos need to be broken into at each step of the process that helps sustain the growth of a lab in the long run.

One such example is the Geospatial Lab (GSL) at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore, India. Over the years, GSL has catered to many research, practice, and capacity-building initiatives of the institute that has helped bridge the gap and bring about a cultural change in the appreciation of the geospatial sciences. Developing a robust Research Data Infrastructure (RDI) using the foundational principles of open-source Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) at all levels of community engagement, has proven effective in reaching the right audience and decision-makers. Standard practices within the lab such as technical documentation, internal capacity building, extensive metadata, modern spatial/computing practices, spatial data management frameworks, and the interdisciplinarity of the team have seen greater adoption across the institution as well. These factors, coupled with excellent institutional support have been at the forefront of building a scalable, inter-operable, and distributed RDI that aims to prioritize the people over the pixel.