Open Atlas Project

CensusAtlasThere are some clever people about!

Alex Singleton, a lecturer in GIS at the University of Sheffield, has published the entire 2011 census as a series of PDF maps broken down by local authority area. With 378 census variables and 347 local authorities that means that he created 131,166 PDF maps.¬†Alex has made them all available ‘free of charge’ on his blog-site as a set of 347 down-loadable Atlases, the Open Atlas Project.

Manually, the fastest you could have created one of these maps would have taken a couple of minutes. With 131,166 maps, ignoring mistakes, this would have taken just under 4,400 hours or with eight hour working days around 550 days, amounting to two and a half years of effort.

Even University lecturers don’t have this much spare time on their hands!

Alex used ‘R‘ to automate the process. After downloading the Census variables statistics from the Office of National Statistics website and used this data under the Open Government License. He generalised the boundary data to make the mapping quicker, settled on a blue thematic map schema, and refined his script to create the atlases.

Each run takes around four days, but within a month Alex felt that he had a set of atlases that he could share with the world.

On his blog-site he says why he did it;

  1. To demonstrate the value of the 2011 census
  2. Provide a free 2011 static Census atlas to anyone who wants one
  3. Because I do not believe web maps should necessarily be the default way of distributing geographic data
  4. To illustrate how open data and software can be used in creative ways to generate insight
  5. An attempt to save local authorities money who might be thinking of doing these type of analyses themselves
  6. To provide reproducible code that enable others to generate similar maps at Output Area level
  7. For fun!
  8. Because R is awesome!
  9. Because R really is awesome!

Go and download your local atlas and have a look at his good work (caution, very large files)!

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