Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

March 26, 2006

A guide to using Arc2 Earth to get data into Google Earth

Filed under: GIS,Google Earth — admin @ 11:18 am

I’d been thinking of documenting the process of using Arc2Earth to quickly export existing GIS data to Google Earth format, as used in the avian flu maps. But Brian Flood, who built Arc2Earth, has now posted a walk-through guide that does the job. See Getting Data into Google Earth using Arc2Earth

March 24, 2006

Mapping avian flu in almost real-time using Google Earth

Filed under: avian influenza,GIS,Google Earth,Neglected diseases,Open data — admin @ 11:53 pm

UPDATE — SEPT 2006; the links below are to the old maps; to see the new time-enabled versions, click HERE — UPDATE

New Google Earth maps of avian flu spread

This is the new beta of an operational service designed to provide Google Earth maps of avian flu spread on a weekly basis for the first time. As well as mapping human cases and poultry outbreaks, the maps also provide additional data on each event, and additional datasets, such as poultry densities worldwide, to let you explore avian flu.

The fact that the maps can now be regularly updated has been made possible largely through technical improvements in the initial beta map computing infrastructure , and new volunteer support in data management.

March 22, 2006

The future of computing; science in 2020

Barely a month after Google Earth made the front cover of Nature, computing is back on the cover again. Tomorrow’s issue contains a big special on the future of scientific computing. All the articles are free, thanks to sponsorship from Microsoft; the special was produced in conjunction with the 2020 report published today by an international group of experts convened by Microsoft. The special is, however, of course completely editorially-independent of Microsoft

The special, by journalists and top computing experts, looks at some of the key emerging technologies and concepts that look set to have a major impact on scientific computing by 2020. I’ve a three pager on “sensor webs” – “2020 computing: Everything, everywhere” — in it; there is also a short pop-up box — “Batteries not included” — on the problems of powering these small remote devices.

March 9, 2006

Cat flu — ‘aaargh plop’ , and next-generation GIS

Filed under: avian influenza,GIS,Google Earth — admin @ 12:31 am

I’ve a short article in Nature tonight summarising the situation on H5N1 and cats. I first raised this issue in an article a month back, before the first cases of cat infections in Germany and Austria.

Thought you might enjoy this excerpt.

March 1, 2006

Reinventing the world’s disease surveillance system

Filed under: avian influenza,Uncategorized — admin @ 11:50 pm

Quick post; I’ve a 2-page article in Nature tonight on the need to reinvent the world’s disease surveillance systems, in particular with respect to avian flu. The problem is so large, that it could have been 15 pages, or a book.

I have my thoughts on what are the roles and responsibilities of international agencies such as WHO, FAO, and OIE, and their own agendas, and their diplomatic and other constraints, and also what are the glaring elements lacking in the current international system, but I’ll save that for a later date in Nature… And yes we can also talk about cats and H5N1; see my article from two weeks ago on this risk.

Here are a few excerpts from tonight’s article:

Arc2Earth now available

Filed under: GIS,Google Earth — admin @ 9:20 pm

In an earlier post, I discussed one of the big obstacles to wider use of Google Earth in science: much professional spatial data are in shapefile format and need to be converted to KML, the format GE uses, to be viewed in Google Earth. Several converters have emerged including KMLer, KML Home Companion, and Export to KML, and the Pro version of Google Earth allows import of shapefiles.

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