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Jessica Hepburn

Decision making and user interaction with spatial data.


Project title

Geovisualisation of risk


Area of research

Project description

Multi-disciplinary projects are common within large engineering consultancies. They incorporate large volumes of varied and volatile high-dimensional geospatial data that often exhibits uncertainty.

Attached to such projects are Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). They are legally embedded in engineering practice as an EU directive. They use a combination of data types, sourced from many disciplines. They provide information:

  • for stakeholders, including planners, local authorities, and the public
  • about projects that affect neighbourhoods, districts, and landscapes

Contemporary geovisualisations can incorporate, support and add value to the outputs from a variety of analysis and models, including EIAs. This enhances decision-making processes inherent in all engineering projects.

This research project considers four main themes:

  • cognition (decision making)
  • visualisation
  • risk
  • EIAs

Although discrete, these all contribute to decision making in an engineering consultancy within large development projects.

A major aim is to understand how users interact with spatial data. I will consider the role of uncertainty in decision making within industrial practice. I will assess methods of visualising such uncertainty. This requires investigation of user interaction with such visual, graphical and map-based representations.

We have used eye tracking as the main method for data collection within this project. This will be supported by information which will help segment up the data during analysis. We will analyse eye movements within realistic decision making scenarios. This will enable us to gain an insight into the behaviour of the participant. We will develop an understanding of what information they use to come to a decision. This information could personalise and improve outputs within EIAs. It could offer tailored geovisualisations. It will provide a better understanding of the utility of decision support tools.

This project is funded through the DREAM CDT with Atkins as the industrial partner.



  • BSc Geographical Information Science