Frequently Asked Questions

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Getting Started

What is MapX?
MapX is an open-source, online platform managed by the United Nations to quickly and easily create maps from the best available scientific data. MapX acts as a trusted data broker to help people find spatial solutions to environmental and natural resource challenges. MapX aims to increase the engagement of citizens and stakeholders in the management of natural resources and the environment by powering customized applications and websites that increase access to data and offer a simple toolkit for analysis, visualization and sharing.
Why do I need to log-in or create an account?
Creating an account with us gives you greater access to the data and analysis features, including the ability to download data, and access to a greater number of views that are accessible to members only. 
How do I create an account?
Simply enter your email into the login icon, located second from the top left. A one-time password token will be sent to you by email to login. As MapX takes data security very seriously, we do not rely on user passwords that are vulnerable to hacking. Instead, unique password tokens will be generated and sent to your email each time you login. Password tokens generated by MapX for each login offer more system security.
Is MapX open source?
Yes, MapX attempts to publish all data with an open license, meaning that you are welcome to explore and share anything you find on the website. However, if data providers have placed certain restrictions on their data sets, some of the functionality of MapX will be reduced for these specific layers. In this case, those views can be viewed but not downloaded.
What browser works best with the MapX?
There is no preferred browser on Windows computers - the only requirement is that HTML5 is supported by the browser. Any version of modern browsers including Microsoft Edge, Chrome and Firefox will work well. However, on Macs, we recommend using Chrome. 
How do I search and filter views?
Searching and filtering views are essential to help find what you are looking for. You can search through views available to your user category within each public project. When you open MapX, you will normally arrive in the "World" project. You can click this title and search through other projects with public views. Once you arrive in a project, you can choose to search by keyword, or order the views by title or date. Clicking the "Filter Views by Tag" tag, located at the bottom of the view list, will enable you to filter by type of view, such as vector, raster, story map, or dashboard; collection, which includes project themes such as pollution, risk, or ocean analysis; or classes, such as environment, stress, or development. Finally, you can filter by type of dataset, such as vector, raster, story map, or dashboard; themes, which includes project themes such as pollution, risk, or ocean analysis; or collections, such as environment, Aichi Biodiversity Targets, stress, or development.
Is MapX interoperable with other geospatial platforms?
Yes. The platform has the capacity to automatically extract and display data from other available geospatial data sets that comply with the Web Map Service (WMS) standard. This will enable users to import various data sets, ranging from socioeconomic and conflict incidence data, to environmentally sensitive areas and occurrence of natural hazards. They will then be able to use these imported layers conduct further analysis and monitoring. MapX can also receive data through an API and is building the capacity to share data through a MapX API.
What are the user privileges?

What are the user privileges?

User privileges determine who can see what data, and also what actions are available with certain datasets. There are 4 user categories. You will only be able to view or interact data that corresponds to your user category.
Public: Unregistered users, who will have the most limited interaction with the platform. Public users are able to view “public” data only.
Users: Registered users can read views and source layers that are set for “public” and “users”. In addition, registered users can upload source layers and create views that will only be available privately or for “publishers”.
Publishers: Users with “publisher” privileges can publish source layers and views for all types of users and can edit those that are available for “public”, “user” and “publisher”.
Administrators: Have “publisher” privileges and can also change the status of other accounts. If you are the owner of a sandbox, you have administrator privilege over your sandbox. Sandbox administrators cannot publish publicly beyond their sandbox. 

Tools and Functions

What is the overlap analysis?
The overlap analysis calculates the amount of overlap between different views. The analysis itself involves selecting a view, and overlapping another view to both visualize and calculate the area where the views overlap. Overlaps can only be conducted with vector views, one of which must be composed of polygons (as opposed to points or lines).
What is the difference between a view and a layer?
When data is uploaded, it becomes a source layer, which will ultimately be replaced and published as a view. Views are created from source layers for display on the map. The reason for this is that source layers can be featured with multiple variables that cannot be displayed on map all together. A view is instead specifically associated to one specific variable from the attribute table of the source layer. Views can be selected and displayed on the map, with abstracts and metadata information originating from the source layer. However, views can be customized beyond the source to suit the project, including restricting views to certain users or countries, styling a legend, or adding a mask.
What is the difference between vector and raster data?
Vector and raster data are two fundamentally different ways of representing spatial data. Raster data is made up of pixels, and each pixel is associated with a value. It is continuous and used with data such as chemical concentrations or land cover. Vector data is composed of points, lines, and polygons, and is generally used to depict discrete boundaries such as country borders or locations of features.
How many datasets can I combine in one view?
Most datasets contain multiple columns of data (variables) that cannot be simultaneously viewed on a map. As a result - a “view” in MapX simply shows the visualization of one variable. You can have  multiple views of the same data set - with each view representing a different variable in the dataset. There is no limit to the number of views that can be turned on and displayed on MapX simultaneously.

Story Maps

What is a story map?
A story map is a novel way to communicate spatial data by at combining a narrative, interactive maps, photos, and videos. Story maps are a simple yet powerful way to inform, engage, and inspire your audience with any story you want to tell that can be referenced on a map. Story maps harness the power of maps by bringing data to life. 
The MapX story map engine allows users and visitors of the platform to independently build story maps without any GIS or programming skills. Story maps can cover a wide variety of subjects and are easy to build by any user.
Can I make a story map?
Only users that have projects can create story maps. 
How can I make a story map?
We recommend story boarding your story map before developing it on the platform. With each step you should know what the content will include: a title, text, picture, video, and/or spatial data. You should then make sure the data is available within MapX. When you have completed the storyboard, view this link here for a guidance document on building your own story map.
How and where can I share my story map?
You can click the sharing icon to receive a link to embed the story map into your blog, website, or online content. We are also building the ability to share on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. You can also download the story map as a video which will autoplay for offline access. A 10-slide story map will take 2-3 minutes to autoplay.
Can I upload my own data to add to my story map?
Yes - see the guide to uploading data below. However, do remember that data that is uploaded to a private sandbox will not be able to be seen outside of that sandbox. If you wish to share your story map beyond your sandbox, for example by embedding within a website, you will need to upload the data to a public sandbox - at which point the data set will be available for download. A way to avoid this is by exporting the final map as a video. This will keep the data private, yet still shareable for the purpose of your story map. 

Projects

What is a project?
The data project is a customizable, cloud-based private data workspace in which you can create, upload, and share data. It is kept in a secure area of the website managed by MapX data custodians to ensure that only users with the correct privileges can access it. Each sandbox is managed by an administer who determines the access rights for all other users. The administrator also decides who can join the sandbox and which data layers can be published to the sandbox as well as publicly on MapX.
What are the functions of a data project?
Beyond offering a secure cloud-based data workspace for you and your colleagues, having a project on the MapX platform also offers a suite of additional features. In terms of analysis, you will be able to upload your own data to your sandbox and integrate it to current datasets hosted on the platform. You will be able to customize your project and save it for access from any computer, with any bandwidth. Communication tools offered through the project are story maps and customized embeddable links to your maps, which can be shared on websites and social media. You will also have the option to download story maps as videos for offline access.
Why can't I see my project?
Make sure you are logged in to the platform with the same email you used to access your project for the first time. You can check by clicking the profile icon in the button that is second from the left corner in the map window. If you still can’t find your project, contact support@mapx.org
How do I upload data?
Once your data is in a compatible format, then select the correct spatial extent (world or particular country) and simply drag and drop your zipped file onto the map. This works for files up to 100 mb. For files larger than 100 mb, navigate to the toolbox, select “add a source” and manually upload the data. You will then have to create a view out of the dataset by clicking “upload data” after it is displayed within the view legend. Select the variable you would like to display in the view. After this upload is complete, you will need to complete the metadata. We suggest filling this out to the best of your ability - metadata is almost as important as the data itself! To access a description of each term within the metadata form, click here for a guidance document on uploading data. Note you will not be able to publish your own data for users other than "Myself", "Publisher", or "Everyone" which includes your sandbox. After you have completed this, click save. Delete the source dataset, which has an orange button, from MapX. Your view is complete.  
What if I am involved in multiple projects? How can I access each of them?
When you click on the current project to see the List of Projects, the projects that you are a member, publisher or administrator of will show up at the top of the list. You can select the title to enter the project. 
Can I add additional users to my project?
Yes. You can invite others via email to join your project either as readers, publishers or administrators. You will need to consider the level of access that each user should be granted as this will determine their privileges to edit, create, and share whatever is in the project.
How do I share a view from my project?
To share a view from your project to someone who is not a member of the project, first, ensure that the view is set for public read access (under the configure views tab). Then, click the "Share" icon beneath the view and copy the link. This will link directly to your view. 

Using and Uploading Data

Can I upload my own datasets?
Only users that have access to a project workspace can upload their vector data and manipulate it for comparison against existing datasets on the platform. 
What data formats can I upload?
ESRI Shapefile, GeoJSON, GPX, KML. The recommended format is GeoJSON. 
What format should my latitude and longitude coordinates be listed in?
  • Decimal degrees. 
How do I upload data?
Once your data is in a compatible format, then select the correct spatial extent (world or particular country) and simply drag and drop your zipped file onto the map. This works for files up to 100 mb. For files larger than 100 mb, navigate to the toolbox, select “add a source” and manually upload the data. You will then have to create a view out of the dataset by clicking “upload data” after it is displayed within the view legend. Select the variable you would like to display in the view.

After this upload is complete, you will need to complete the metadata. We suggest filling this out to the best of your ability - metadata is almost as important as the data itself! To access a description of each term within the metadata form, click here

Note you will not be able to publish your own data for users other than "Myself", "Publisher", or "Everyone" which includes your sandbox. After you have completed this, click save. Delete the source dataset, which has an orange button, from MapX. Your view is complete.  
Is there a size limit for data?
Yes. The drag and drop uploading method has a 100 Mb size limit. The manual upload is 300 Mb per file. Anything larger than this will have to be ingested by our support team - contact us here.
What if my data is sensitive?
You can keep data in your personal sandbox, which is secure and managed by the UN Environment web management team. When uploading data, you will need to assign viewing rights to your data. These range from myself (only you), to everyone in the sandbox, to public. These correspond to certain user privilege categories. As an administrator of a sandbox you have complete control over who interacts with data within your sandbox, which you can upload and control, however you will not necessarily have the “publisher” user privilege to publish data publicly beyond your sandbox.
See more in the user privilege answer
How do I edit or remove data?
You can only edit or remove data that you have that you have uploaded yourself. You can find the edit button in the small toolbar beneath the view title. The edit button is in the shape of a pencil, and the delete button is in the shape of a trashcan. 
Can I add or create graphs with the datasets? What kind of spatial statistics are available?
You can create graphs in a dashboard using Highcharts library. The coding dashboard using Highcharts is not straightforward and requires coding skills in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Therefore, only users with editing rights (publishers and administrators, see user privilege question) have access to that functionality.
Can I publish my data on MapX?
We are always looking for more biodiversity and sustainable development-related data for publication. Data must undergo a vetting process in order to receive a satisfactory integrity seal percentage. If you are interested in publishing your data, please upload your data to your sandbox complete with metadata, and then to contact our support team here.
What formats can I export my data into?
DXF, ESRI Shapefile, GeoJSON, GeoPackage, KML, and SQLite.
How do I upload raster data?
Vector and raster data can be streamed into MapX without being published directly into its geodatabase through WMS requests. Data is however directly rasterized during the process and cannot be queried once available in the web application. WMS requests are also the only way to include raster data in MapX, mostly in reason of their potentially very large dimension that might impose low fluidity to the platform. Read the guidance document to learn how to stream WMS data through MapX.

Exporting maps

How can I export a view that is visualized on my map?
You have two options. You can either take a screenshot, which will produce a single PNG of the entire view (the menu will be invisible) and nothing else. Alternatively, you can export it as a map, which will download a zip file containing a legend, a scale, a title, a PNG picture of the map. The download will also include a PDF of the elements combined together for easy presentation.
What format can I export my map into?
PNG and PDF. 
Can I customize my map output?
  • When you export a map, the zip file will contain three PNG’s: the legend, the map, and the scale. You can customize the shape and size of your map to fit your presentation by resizing these elements. Make sure you select resize the map and the scale proportionately, or the scale will be inaccurate. 
How should I cite my map?
We recommend this format:
MapX. Title [Format]. Data Date. Scale. Name of Person Who Generated Map. Name of Software. URL. (Date Accessed).

Example: MapX. Biodiversity Hotspots [PDF]. 2016. 1:25,000. Generated by James Bond. MapX online GIS. link to map. (19 June 2018).

Metadata and Citations

Where can I find the metadata for each dataset?
MapX requires all datasets to include the name, source, license, and date. You can find this information by clicking the i symbol beneath each view. 
What metadata should I include when uploading data?
If you are planning on adding multiple datasets or sharing your data with others, we recommend filling it out to the best of your ability. Metadata makes the dataset easier to find by searching keywords, and it adds integrity to the dataset. Find out more about metadata here
How do I cite MapX?
  • MapX, YEAR, www.mapx.org 

Data Policy and Integrity

What is the data integrity seal?
We are still developing this feature. Data that meets the minimum integrity thresholds receives the data integrity seal. The integrity of each data layer is assessed using a standardized set of questions for each of the following four categories: (1) Reliability; (2) Technical Accessibility; (3) Openness; and (4) Sustainability. The level of compliance with each element of the data integrity standards is established in the course of the assessment. The results are contained within a database which is managed by MapX together with local stakeholder groups and data custodians. Following completion of the data integrity assessment, the results of the assessment are shared with the data custodians who are given the opportunity to take remedial actions to improve results prior to publication of the data sets and corresponding data integrity scores.
What is the data policy?
In development. 
Where does the data come from?
  • MapX acts as an impartial, trustworthy data broker for over 15 premier research institutions, including Alliance for Zero Extinctions, Birdlife International, FAO, GEO BON, IUCN, JRC (DOPA), Montana State University, NASA, NOAA, Northern Arizona University, RAMSAR, SEDAC/CIESIN/Columbia University, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Oxford, University of Queensland, and USGS. The source of each dataset can be found within the metadata. 
Can I share my findings?
Yes - please do. MapX is open source. If you publish anything from MapX, we encourage you to make your full dataset and research publicly available to encourage openness in the academic community. 
What data licenses do you offer?
If you wish to license your data, please note we will not act as a liaison between you and your licenser. We encourage the use of licenses developed by the Creative Commons Foundation and the Open Data Foundation, which has been developed for sharing databases. 
What if my data is sensitive?
You can keep data in your personal project, which is secure and managed by the UN Environment web management team. When uploading data, you will need to assign viewing rights to your data. These range from myself (only you), to everyone in the sandbox, to public. These correspond to certain user privilege categories. As an administrator of a sandbox you have complete control over who interacts with data within your sandbox, which you can upload and control, however you will not necessarily have the “publisher” user privilege to publish data publicly beyond your sandbox.
See more in the user privilege answer
How do I edit or remove data?
You can only edit or remove data that you have that you have uploaded yourself. You can find the edit button in the small toolbar beneath the view title. The edit button is in the shape of a pencil, and the delete button is in the shape of a trashcan. 
What should I do if I believe a dataset is inaccurate?
We are always looking to improve our data. If you are experiencing issues with a dataset or believe it is outdated or inaccurate, please contact our support team [link]. 
Does the UN Biodiversity Lab conform to OGC standards?
Currently not, however we are working diligently towards this goal. All data published in MapX is published in GeoServer in formats compatible with OGC standards: WMS, WFS, WCS. The MapX team is also working to align the platform with the CSW standard, which will then complete the above list with a fourth format compatible with OGC standards.

Troubleshooting

Is there a github repository or forum?
There is a github repository for the MapX backend which you can find here. Please keep questions and comments succinct and direct.
What should I do if I notice a bug?
Please send us feedback through this form so we can fix the issue. Also consider formally reporting the bug in github. 
How can I suggest a new feature or function ?
Feature suggestions can be made on github. 
The application is running very slowly. What can I do?
Try reducing the number of applications that are running on your computer or closing the number of tabs open in your browser.
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