UK public to help map non-specific locations

Members of the public are being invited to help create a more accurate picture of where places are on the UK map.

Everyday place names like ’The Midlands’, ’city centre’ and ’the East End’ are in common use, but have no precisely agreed boundary. These vernacular place names cause a problem when people use them to find information on the web, because they cannot be pinned down to any particular location.

Now, researchers at Cardiff University led by Prof Christopher Jones from the School of Computer Science and Informatics, working with colleagues at the Ordnance Survey, have launched a web survey to tackle this problem.

The survey, at, will compile knowledge of the informal place names in Great Britain, so that future information systems will be able to understand where they refer to.

The survey asks people across Great Britain to contribute vernacular place names, along with their location, given by a postcode or an area on a map.

’If a lot of people contribute a location for the same vernacular place names, we can generate statistical models that capture the variation in our perceptions of places and allow us to create representations of their location,’ said Dr Florian Twaroch, a research associate in the School of Computer Science and Informatics.

Benefits could include emergency services being directed quickly to the right destination and online customers of travel agencies easily explaining where they want to go.