I think what makes geospatial visualisations powerful is that they are able to overlay different information which lets you see a connection. e.g. in the PetaJakarta project they overlay a map of different neighbourhoods, river networks, geotags from Twitter, colour-coded areas of high activity, etc. This means that they are bringing different data together to form the big picture and identify situations where these factors cross – it’s a quick and effective way to see needs and respond to them.
If 80% of all research data has a geographic or spatial component, it’s important to be able to search datasets by geography! I love the spatial search interface and being able to draw a box over a physical area on the map. And once you run the search, you can see that it translates to a range of co-ordinates. Cool stuff! I think this could definitely lead to new research questions – it is an obvious way to identify ‘gaps’ in a subject area where a physical location hasn’t been studied yet.