Search Facets and Ranking in Geospatial Dataset Search

Authors Thomas Hervey , Sara Lafia, Werner Kuhn

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Author Details

Thomas Hervey
  • Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
  • Center for Spatial Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Sara Lafia
  • Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
  • Center for Spatial Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Werner Kuhn
  • Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
  • Center for Spatial Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

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Thomas Hervey, Sara Lafia, and Werner Kuhn. Search Facets and Ranking in Geospatial Dataset Search. In 11th International Conference on Geographic Information Science (GIScience 2021) - Part I. Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 177, pp. 5:1-5:15, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


This study surveys the state of search on open geospatial data portals. We seek to understand 1) what users are able to control when searching for geospatial data, 2) how these portals process and interpret a user’s query, and 3) if and how user query reformulations alter search results. We find that most users initiate a search using a text input and several pre-created facets (such as a filter for tags or format). Some portals supply a map-view of data or topic explorers. To process and interpret queries, most portals use a vertical full-text search engine like Apache Solr to query data from a content-management system like CKAN. When processing queries, most portals initially filter results and then rank the remaining results using a common keyword frequency relevance metric (e.g., TF-IDF). Some portals use query expansion. We identify and discuss several recurring usability constraints across portals. For example, users are typically only given text lists to interact with search results. Furthermore, ranking is rarely extended beyond syntactic comparison of keyword similarity. We discuss several avenues for improving search for geospatial data including alternative interfaces and query processing pipelines.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Information systems → Environment-specific retrieval
  • Human-centered computing → Interactive systems and tools
  • Information systems → Retrieval effectiveness
  • search
  • portal
  • discovery
  • GIR
  • facet
  • relevance
  • ranking


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