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error propagation

  A term applied to the effects of errors or uncertainties in geographic data, when those data are processed in a geographic information system (GIS) to obtain useful results. Through analysis of error propagation, it is possible to determine the effects of errors and uncertainties on the results of analysis, in the form of confidence limits or probabilities that the results are correct. Because of the complexity of many forms of geographical analysis, and the widespread propensity to believe that the results of computer-based analysis are inherently right, the analysis of error propagation often leads to surprising and disturbing conclusions. Recent research efforts have concentrated on finding robust methods of error propagation analysis (Open-shaw, 1989; Heuvelink, 1993); making results readily understandable by GIS users (Hunter and Goodchild, 1996); finding ways to visualize confidence limits (Ehlschlaeger et al., 1997); and incorporating error propagation into analyses of decision risk. (MG)

References Ehlschlaeger, C.R., Shortridge, A.M. and Goodchild, M.F. 1997: Visualizing spatial data uncertainty using animation. Computers and Geosciences 23 (4): 387-95. Heuvelink, G.B.M. 1993: Error propagation in quantitative spatial modelling. Utrecht: Faculteit Wetenschappen Universität Utrecht. Hunter, G.J. and Goodchild, M.F. 1996: Communicating uncertainty in spatial databases. Transactions in GIS 1 (1): 13-24. Openshaw, S. 1989: Learning to live with errors in spatial databases. In M.F. Goodchild and S. Gopal, eds, Accuracy of spatial databases. London: Taylor and Francis, 263-76.



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