Spring 2019 - 60145 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

This course assists students to develop skills in information discovery and problem-solving applying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to public affairs.

Local, state and country governments face increasingly complex decision on how to maintain or regain economic prosperity. In a world with consistently more information and limited resources, governments seek to ensure social stability and achieve improvements in quality of life for most residents. A quest for factual information, well-documented data facts from authoritative sources and its analysis are commonly first steps towards these goals. The tools, to be effective, need to be tuned to the conditions and integrated with the available resources. Decision makers who design these policies in some instances have limited analytical resources. Facts and data in the US are abundant, these datasets need to be sorted from opinions. Converting data into relevant and useful information requires time, skill, and judgment. A Geographic Information System can often facilitate the policy decision-making by spatially painting a clearer picture of the conditions and advance their analysis.

How can a GIS be used to evaluate or help solve public affairs or policy questions?

This course begins with a survey of geographic information, including maps, satellite imagery, census data, and tabular data. The class lecture discusses approaches to spatial data analysis and tools for integrating and examining spatially-explicit data. The course emphasis is on fundamental concepts of geographic information science and associated technologies. Class and lab topics include a geographic data structure, cartography, remotely sensed data, statistical analysis of geographic data, spatial analysis, map design, and geographic information system applications.

Student progress will be evaluated on the basis of performance along the following criteria: (1) lab assignments, (2) quizzes (3) a mid-term project; (4) a final project on a topic of the student’s choice; and (5) class participation.

Most lab assignments will be based on the Getting to Know ArcGIS, fourth edition, a comprehensive introduction to the features and tools of ArcGIS® for Desktop. Other software will be touched upon, but ArcGIS will be provided for all the students as an academic license and is available at LBJ’s lab computers and the CLA lab. 

GIS skills have proven to be helpful in a variety of fields, including public affairs. Upon completion of this course, students should have the necessary skills to assemble relevant information, construct maps and perform an analysis which can be used in a variety of settings. Students will be exposed to a variety of introductory GIS concepts and topics. Students who desire to know more about the theoretical basis of mapping may continue with more advanced GIS courses.