Category Archives: PhD

Please seek professional English editing services

Today I heard back from the journal we submitted our paper to a couple of months ago. The article was rejected, which is to be expected I suppose. At least that is what everyone tells me: expect rejections.

In all fairness I was also aware that peer-reviewers can be overly harsh and leave you feeling that your work is of no value whatsoever. Just take a look here if you don’t believe me.

However, what struck me about this rejection was a single sentence from the editor. I’ll provide it here in context:

In addition, the English needs improvements as the reviewers expressed difficulties of understanding or unclear statements throughout the manuscript. Please seek professional English editing services. You are welcome to use any editing service of your liking. If needed, professional English editing services are available at [redacted].

Ok, so my English is now so bad that I need “professional help”? Granted, I am not a native English speaker, but I still feel that I’m able to write rather understandable English. I know I should not be the judge of that myself, and according to the editor the “reviewers expressed difficulties of understanding or unclear statements throughout the manuscript”. Did they, now?

Here is what reviewer 1 has to say: “Finally, there are some grammar issues to fix.”

Reviewer 2 takes a page-by-page-line-by line approach, noting ~5 occurrences of spelling errors, and saying that the text in “unclear” in a couple of places.

Reviewer 3 has no comments regarding the language at all.

So, in light of this: One of three reviewers found several spelling errors and had trouble understanding some parts. This reviewer was also the most critical in other aspects, suggesting that the paper should be rewritten completely, as she/he does not agree with our main idea. Fair enough. But to extrapolate from that to say that the text is difficult to understand and that I need professional help? Chill the fuck down, mr. editor!

What I fail to understand is why feedback like this should warrant the statement: “Please seek professional English editing services”. To me this phrase sounds like: “you do not know how to write in English, do something about it!!”.

Well, maybe I’m just a bit angry and disappointed that the paper was rejected, but this just affirms my views on academic publishing. A complete lack of empathy and understanding and the idea that “since somebody once gave me harsh critique I need to be harsh as well”. Well, fuck that shit. By all means, point out my errors, encourage me to re-write and re-phrase myself, but don’t be such a fucking dick about it.

And, yeah, I don’t discard the idea that this “suggestion” is based on the fact that the publishing house probably makes some money on referring me to a “professional English editing service”.

Mendeley is dead, long live Zotero!

When I started out on my PhD two years ago I found Mendeley and thought it a perfect reference manager: Free to use, integrated with both MS Word and my browser and a generally easy-to-use GUI. What’s not to like?

Fast-forward two years. One of my papers was rejected and in the process of re-submitting it I needed to re-format the bibliography (more on that frustration in another post). Then Mendeley started acting up: “There was a problem setting up Word plugin communication: The address is protected”. Wtf? I re-installed the Word Plugin, I re-installed Mendeley itself, I tried some hints from this blog, I even watched a couple of YouTube videos. All to no avail. The Mendeley Word plugin did not work!

So I did what I usually do when life is mean to me: I took to Twitter. And complained. The Mendeley team was quick to answer, but their troubleshooting as nothing more than what I already had tried, plus encouraging me to “turn it off and then on again”. Nothing worked. A bit frustrated I replied:

Ok: how do I migrate my data away from Mendeley, and what is the best alternative to Mendeley?

The next day I had no reply and send a more official support request, and was met with this gem:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for submitting your question. This is to confirm that we have received your request and we aim to respond to you within 24 hours.

However, please note our current response time is 5 days.

Ok. Fuck this. I then remember hearing about Zotero, an Open Source reference manager. It seemed to offer both a Word-plugin and browser extension, as well as a method for importing my Mendeley data. Upon installation I chose “import from Mendeley” and found that it was not possible, due to encryption. I then found this site and found yet another reason to migrate away from Mendeley. Luckily my latest backup lacked only 20 items or so, so after 10 minutes of wrangling I had imported all of my data.

And I was impressed: Zotero understood that my Word doc was previously managed by Mendeley, and I did not have to change out all my references and rebuild the bibliography. So, in 30 minutes or so I had a working reference manager again, and I’ve moved from a closed platform incapable of providing adequate support to an open alternative that seems to work great!

So: if you are having trouble at all with Mendeley I would strongly suggest to migrate to Zotero!

The Open Geospatial Data Ecosystem

This summer my first peer-reviewed article, “The Open Geospatial Data Ecosystem”, was published in “Kart og plan”. Unfortunately, the journal is not that digital, and they decided to withhold the issue from the web for a year, “in order to protect the printed version”. What?!

However, I was provided a link to a pdf of my article, and told I could distribute it. I interpret this as an approval of me publishing the article on my blog, so that is exactly what I’ll do.

The full article can be downloaded here:, and the abstract is provided here:

Open Governmental Data, Linked Open Data, Open Government, Volunteered Geographic Information, Participatory GIS, and Free and Open Source Software are all parts of The Open Geospatial Data Ecosystem. How do these data types shape what we define as Open Geospatial Data; Open Data of a geospatial nature? While all these areas are well described in the literature, there is a lack of a formal definition and exploration of the concept of Open Geospatial Data as a whole. A review of current research, case-studies, and real-world examples, such as OpenStreetMap, reveal some common features; governments are a large source of open data due to their historical role and as a result of political pressure on making data public, and the large role volunteers play both in collecting and managing open data and in developing open source tools. This article provides a common base for discussion. Open Geospatial data will be even more important as it matures and more governments and corporations release and use open data.

Prosjektbeskrivelse i boks

Ting tar tid. I høst fikk jeg beskjed om at jeg måtte levere inn en formell prosjektbeskrivelse av PhD-prosjektet mitt til doktorgradsutvalvet ved IVT. Det endte opp med at jeg fikk levert denne 18. april, og 2. mai var den blitt behandlet. Hyggelig melding der:

Doktorgradsutvalget godkjenner den endelige prosjektbeskrivelsen for ph.d.-avhandlingen til Atle Frenvik Sveen

Men hva er en prosjektbeskrivelse? Det sier seg vel igrunn selv? Mer spesifikt er det en beskrivelse av bakgrunn, mål, omfang (og begrensninger), metode, etiske vurderinger, forventede resultater, og en plan for arbeidet. For meg virker det litt søkt å skulle svare så mye i detalj før jeg er skikkelig i gang, men jeg skjønner jo at man må reflektere litt. Jeg vet ikke helt om dette dokumentet regnes som offentlig materiale, men jeg tenker nå uansett å sakse det “viktigste” innholdet her, sånn for å gi en oversikt over hva jeg driver med.

I bakgrunns-delen går jeg inn på hva som har blitt gjort tidligere, og snakker om hva som gjør at dette arbeidet er relevant:

Geospatial Data has been created and managed since the first maps where made (Garfield, 2013). The impact of the digital revolution on this field have far-ranging consequences. A map is but one of several representations of the underlying digital data. The digitalization of the map-making process thus involves several shifts. One is the de-coupling of the printed map from the actual data, another is the fact that geospatial data can be used for more than printing maps.

Open Data is another consequence of digitalization. There is an increasing political pressure to make digital data produced and maintained by governments available to the public (Cox & Alemanno, 2003; Ginsberg, 2011; Yang & Kankanhalli, 2013). Political accountability, business opportunities, and a more general trend towards openness are all cited as reasons behind this movement (Huijboom & Broek, 2011; Janssen, Charalabidis, & Zuiderwijk, 2012; Sieber & Johnson, 2015). In practice this means that geospatial data from a range of sources are becoming available for everyone to use for whatever purpose they see fit.

A third trend is crowdsourcing, or Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) (Goodchild, 2007). This concept bears some resemblance to Free and Open Source Software. The underlying concept is that amateurs collaborate on tasks such as writing online encyclopedias, writing computer software, or, as in the case of geospatial data, create a database of map data covering the world: OpenStreetMap (OSM) (Haklay & Weber, 2008).

What is lacking is a combined overview and a set of best practices. What characterizes a system built to handle an automated gathering of geospatial data published in a myriad of formats, with different metadata standards (or no metadata at all), with different update frequencies, and different licenses? A thorough investigation of these problems will enable a better understanding of what data is of interest, how it should be shared, and how the promised value of Open Geospatial Data can be extracted.

Målene oppsummerer jeg ganske enkelt slik:

The overall objectives of this project are (1) to establish guidelines on how to store and manage geospatial data from disparate sources, with different structure and quality, and (2) to explore how this data can be utilized for value generation and decision support. The overarching theme of both objectives are how the Open Source mindset can be utilized.

Når det gjelder forventede resultater summerer dette det meste ganske greit opp:

There are two main results we hope to obtain from this project. The fist is a better understanding of how geospatial data can be gathered from disparate sources and stored in an efficient manner that can be utilized. The other main result is to find new areas, products, and methods that be carried out by using this data. Establishing systems for assessing quality and fitness for use of the data is also an important aspect.

Hvis du er interessert i å lese hele prosjektbeskrivelsen finner du den her: phd_prosjektbeskrivelse_atlefren.

Geospatial anarchy

It’s not that long ago since I started my PhD, but it feels like more time than a mere 2.5 months since.

But, what have I been doing? Well, one thing is that I’m taking classes, so some time has been spent attending lectures and examns (had my first examn in 8 years today, strange feeling). I’ve also started my literature review, so I’ve done a lot of reading.

But, to not derail too much: the title of this blog post is “Geospatial Anarchy”, which was the title of a talk I gave at the danish mapping conference “Kortdage” a week ago (see abstract here). The talk was in Norwegian (but understandable by danes, I hope). There is not much of a point in sharing my slides, as they are kinda devoid of meaning without me talking.

But, even better, the conference also asked if I could write an article covering the topic of the talk. Given the rather short deadline I opted out of the peer-review-process, but submitted a non-reviewed article.

I’ll post the abstract here, and if you want to read the whole article it’s available here.

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is the largest and best-known example of geospatial data creation using Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI). A large group of non-specialists joins their efforts online to create an open, worldwide map of the world. The project differs from traditional management of geospatial data on several accounts: both the underlying technology (Open Source components) and the mindset (schema-less structures using tags and changesets). We review how traditional organizations are currently using the OSM technology to meet their needs and how the mindset of OSM could be employed to traditional management of spatial datasets as well.