In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section CyberGIS

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Cyberinfrastructure
  • Programming Advanced Architectures and Systems
  • Parallel and High-Performance Computing for GIS
  • Big Spatial Data
  • Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Problem Solving
  • Related Applications and Examples

Geography CyberGIS
Eric Shook
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0177


CyberGIS is an emerging interdisciplinary field that combines cyberinfrastructure, geographic information science and systems (GIS), and spatial analysis and modeling to enable scientific discovery. Much like physical infrastructure such as highways and energy grids supported a 20th-century industrial economy, cyberinfrastructure is designed to support a 21st-century knowledge economy. Pioneering geographers and geographic information scientists (GIScientists) started to leverage the computational infrastructure made available through cyberinfrastructure to advance geographic research. CyberGIS emerged from these pioneering efforts. CyberGIS draws on and contributes to multiple science areas from geography and geographic information science to computer science and data-intensive science. Rather than just a more powerful computational platform, cyberGIS represents, in many respects, a new way of thinking about geospatial problems. By removing the computational bounds of a desktop computer, and subsequently desktop-based GIS software, scientists are free to explore new paradigms, use cutting-edge technologies to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, and run complex simulations and analyses on big spatial data. Like any emerging field, cyberGIS is rooted in earlier scientific endeavors, but it has branched out by leveraging technological advancements to enable new scientific discoveries.

General Overviews

CyberGIS first emerged as a framework to integrate cyberinfrastructure, geographic information systems (GIS), and spatial analysis in the foundational paper (Wang 2010). The framework was built on earlier work by Shaowen Wang and others that established methods and environments for solving computationally intensive spatial problems using grid computing. Funded by a five-year National Science Foundation grant, the software ecosystem supporting the CyberGIS framework began to make significant advances (Wang 2013; Wang, et al. 2013). During this period, a growing number of scholars and educators became interested not only in the technology but also in what the technology could enable for a number of science domains. CyberGIS International Conference Series (cited under Reference Resources) provides a forum for engaged individuals to connect and share their experiences and ideas for the future. CyberGIS quickly became an emerging interdisciplinary field. The discourse surrounding GIS (1) as a tool, (2) as tool development, or (3) as a science, detailed in Wright, et al. 1997, entered cyberGIS discussions. Scholars debated whether cyberGIS was a tool or a science, the so-called “science with” or “science of” debate. As the field matures and continues to advance, this discourse is slowly subsiding, especially with the arrival of more applications and examples. As with any scientific field, there remains unanswered questions, fundamental principles, and foundational theories. For cyberGIS, those questions and theories lie at the intersection of geographic information and computing, and they are waiting to be discovered.

  • Anselin, Luc, and Sergio J. Rey. “Spatial Econometrics in an Age of CyberGIScience.” International Journal of Geographical Information Science 26.12 (2012): 2211–2226.

    DOI: 10.1080/13658816.2012.664276

    Reviews the evolution of spatial econometric methods and software, and discusses challenges and opportunities for creating a cyberGIS-empowered spatial econometrics workbench.

  • Nyerges, Timothy L., Mary J. Roderick, and Michalis Avraam. “CyberGIS Design Considerations for Structured Participation in Collaborative Problem Solving.” International Journal of Geographical Information Science 27.11 (2013): 2146–2159.

    DOI: 10.1080/13658816.2013.770516

    This article is a leading example in user-centric design for cyberGIS. Using a three-step process—idea generation, idea synthesis, and consensus reaching—this article outlines how to integrate the process of structured participation into the technological framework of cyberGIS to enable collaborative problem solving.

  • Wang, Shaowen. “A CyberGIS Framework for the Synthesis of Cyberinfrastructure, GIS, and Spatial Analysis.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100.3 (2010): 535–557.

    DOI: 10.1080/00045601003791243

    Foundational paper for cyberGIS that outlined a framework for integrating cyberinfrastructure, geographic information systems (GIS), and spatial analysis.

  • Wang, Shaowen. “CyberGIS: Blueprint for Integrated and Scalable Geospatial Software Ecosystems.” In Special Issue: CyberGIS; Blueprint for Integrated and Scalable Geospatial Software Ecosystems. Edited by Shaowen Wang. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 27.11 (2013): 2119–2121.

    DOI: 10.1080/13658816.2013.841318

    Editorial as part of a special issue in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science (cited under Journals) that describes the state-of-the-art advances revolving around cyberGIS. The articles published as part of this special issue were some of the leading examples of and advances in cyberGIS.

  • Wang, Shaowen, Luc Anselin, Budhendra Bhaduri, et al. “CyberGIS Software: A Synthetic Review and Integration Roadmap.” International Journal of Geographical Information Science 27.11 (2013): 2122–2145.

    DOI: 10.1080/13658816.2013.776049

    Establishes a vision and architecture for the science and applications of cyberGIS. A software framework and plan for software integration is introduced, which created a plan for cyberGIS development in later years.

  • Wright, Dawn J., Michael F. Goodchild, and James D. Proctor. “Demystifying the Persistent Ambiguity of GIS as ‘Tool’ versus ‘Science.’” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 87.2 (1997): 346–362.

    DOI: 10.1111/0004-5608.872057

    The discourse around GIS as a tool, GIS as toolmaking, and the science of GIS is unpacked in this thoughtful article. While some of these arguments have been resolved for GIS, the same discourse has been resurrected in the meaning of cyberGIS: whether it be cyberGIS as a tool, cyberGIS as toolmaking (technology development), or the science of cyberGIS.

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