My research for EnviroHealthSense has primarily focused on collecting and categorizing asthma research between 2003 and 2014. I have focused on mapping and organizing articles in an “Asthma and Obesity” Zotero collection to create a visual representation of the locations of the data collected. With over two hundred articles from multiple journals, the goal is to first organize the articles with specific tags for easy categorization, then, to extract information such as author, institution, and location to use as identifiers for the articles on the map. I’ve learned a lot about digital tools for social science research, from creating CSV files to mapping and classifying data with ZeeMaps.
Although ZeeMaps is a user-friendly mapping tool that allows users to manually tailor maps to their specific preference and style, a few issues came up during the mapping process. The first issue deals with mapping articles with multiple research locations. Zeemaps only allows for one location for each article, which meant adding multiple locations to an article could only be done by duplicating the article titles. Fortunately, because the article titles are ordered alphabetically, articles with multiple locations are always grouped together. The second issue came from the actual peer-reviewed articles. I found most article authors to be fairly specific on where their research was being conducted in their methods section, yet others were very ambiguous. This contributes to the time intensive nature of the mapping project: articles needed to be thoroughly read, but sometimes additional research was needed in order to determine the exact study location. These two drawbacks – the manual labor involved with mapping studies in multiple locations and absence of study locations in the articles — contributed to the time intensive process of mapping. Two suggestions I would make to mitigate these drawbacks are: 1) to require all original research articles to specify in their methods section where the study was conducted, along with participant demographics, and 2) a function that allows ZeeMaps users the option to add multiple articles to one mapping location.
Coding and mapping asthma and obesity research data creates a better understanding of where asthma studies are being conducted. This allows us to see the spatial dimensions of asthma knowledge production, as well as an in-depth look at research networks. From an STS perspective this will allow for insight into why studies are being conducted in certain locations, but not others, as well as how research conducted in specific locations offers understanding of health risks, cultural influences, and knowledge of asthma and obesity.