Dr. Robin S. Smith


EC Joint Research Centre
Institute for Environment and Sustainability
Spatial Data Infrastructures Unit
Ispra (VA), Italy

Robin has a BSc in Ecological Science and natural resource management from the University of Edinburgh (1997) and a Masters in town planning research (1998) and a PhD (2002) from the University of Sheffield.

His doctoral research examined ‘digital participation‘, varying forms of online participatory democracy that were emerging at a local level during the early years of e-government policy. With an interest in understanding how tools such as GIS could be used for public participation, the research began by looking from the outset at what ‘public participation’ could mean when using the Web, for council officers and citizens alike. Drawing on ideas from political and planning theory, he found that actors held a range of understandings both about participation and the role of technology, impacting on what it meant to participate online.

His first post-doctorate position at the University of Sheffield was as assistant-coordinator of the Geographic Information Network in Europe (GINIE: 2001-2004), a EU-funded project to understand the developments in Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs) across Europe, where he led work analysing e-government and SDI efforts in the Mediterranean Basin countries. As well as working on several planning and policy-related projects, during this time Robin was also a tutor in environmental planning, GIS and information management. It was this post that also allowed him to attend the first Vespucci Initiative “Summer School” in 2003, thanks to a grant from Ordnance Survey (GB), and the first time he tried to distinguish bogaço from marc during the first ever ‘Grappa Club’.

The following year, he became the GIS Analyst for ICOSS, an interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Sheffield and, in 2006, a ‘track-leader’ for ICT research at the South East European Research Centre (SEERC) in Thessaloniki, Greece, building on his work in GINIE. These posts had a number of research and network-related roles: locally in the university (where he built an interdisciplinary community of GIS-users across the environmental and social sciences as well as supporting e-(social) science and interdisciplinary research); within Yorkshire (helping to foster the development of a sub-regional SDI in South Yorkshire with the main public sector organisations); nationally through work with EDINA’s academic SDI, based in the University of Edinburgh; and internationally through European projects, including eSDINet+ (through SEERC). This period, of course, included Vespucci, where Robin handled all the registration work and was a facilitator (as well as provider of Scottish whisky) for every Summer Institute up until 2008, when he joined the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission as a Grantholder.

Robin’s research interests bring together public participation, collaborative/interdisciplinary research, environmental data-sharing, GI Science and, in particular, SDIs. He has published several book chapters and papers relating to public participation and GIS/ICTs as well as work on evaluating the developments in European SDIs. By working in interdisciplinary projects in public health and social/environmental sciences and e-science he has built up his understanding of ‘data’ in a number of fields and has been a guest lecturer on qualitative and qualitative research methods courses, PPGIS and SDI at Sheffield and Birkbeck (London).

Robin is currently working on the SEIS-BASIS initiative. This project aims to address the varying data access and data quality issues found in environmental monitoring within the context of the European Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS). In addition, he is helping to evaluate both developments in INSPIRE and the use of Volunteered Geographic Information in environmental and hazard monitoring.

Robin was delighted to be elected as a Vespucci Fellow in 2009.