Diving into Faculty Scholarship: Data & Digital Humanities Edition: Dr. Dan Runfola

Dan Runfola seated in front of multiple computer displaysOur faculty at William & Mary are making great contributions to academia with their research. In this new addition to our Diving into Faculty Scholarship blog series, we interview faculty with recent data and digital humanities projects for insight into their scholarship.

Dr. Dan Runfola, (Associate Professor, Data Science & Applied Science) shares his geospatial data project, geoBoundaries, which he published about in PLOS One, “geoBoundaries: A global database of political administration boundaries”.

In 2-3 sentences, describe your scholarship to someone unfamiliar with the field.
Built by the community and William & Mary geoLab, the geoBoundaries Global Database of Political Administrative Boundaries Database is an online, open license (CC BY 4.0) resource of information on administrative boundaries (i.e., state, county) for every country in the world. Since 2016, we have tracked approximately 1 million boundaries within over 200 entities, including all UN member states. All boundaries are available to view or download in common file formats; the only requirement for use is acknowledgment.

What was the most exciting/interesting part of this project for you?
Getting to work with colleagues from the international community to solve a targeted challenge.

Any tips for those interested in working with data for their research?
Think about research problems that necessitate collecting data that can be used by a wide range of scholars. Today, geoBoundaries provides around 80 terrabytes of files a month to thousands of users; we provide information into Open Street Map and the Overture Foundation, and are used by practitioners across multiple commercial and nonprofit domains.

How did W&M Libraries help support your scholarship?
My students regularly use our library resources - especially the Center for Geospatial Analysis - to help identify geographic boundaries that may not have clear legal definitions provided by the host country (which is, surprisingly, the majority of countries!).

Where can people learn more about your project?
A journal article about geoBoundaries was published in PLoS ONE and can be found at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231866