The Learner's Guide to Geospatial Analysis

Chapter 2 Overview


Analysts learn by doing, and the best analysts learn from their mistakes. However, mistakes in intelligence work are dreaded, and one never wants to hear the words "intelligence failure." Intelligence failures are often disastrous, and lives may be lost. It is important, therefore, to constantly work at improving the mind and never accept old habits of thinking. Methods of thought have evolved with respect to intelligence analysis, but they appear to have largely excluded geospatial analytics.

Dr. Rob Johnston in his work Analytic Culture in the US Intelligence Community: An Ethnographic Study (2005) finds no baseline standard analytic method for the Intelligence Community. He also finds the validation of data is questionable, and there is much more emphasis on avoiding error than in-depth analysis. Overall, his research suggests the need for serious study of analytic methods in the communities of practice.

It has also been my experience that there is no baseline standard analytic method for geospatial analysis. The most common practice is to develop a workflow. If the results are reviewed, it is usually conducted as a limited peer review on the basis of previous workflows. This likely produces a bias toward confirming earlier views.

While we discuss critical thinking, the validation of input geospatial data is questionable. Dr. Rob Johnston also points out that none of the analytic agencies knows much about the analytic techniques of others, and there tends to be an over emphasis on writing and communication skills rather than on analytic methods.