City / Wednesday, 20 December, 2017

Improving understanding of ‘Smart’ and ‘Happy’ cities


Professor Alison Heppenstall, from the School of Geography, has been awarded a joint fellowship to improve the development and application of data science in the study of two major social challenges for our time: ‘smart cities’ and urban happiness.

This joint fellowship from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and The Alan Turing Institute aims to build collaboration between the social sciences and data science.

Professor Heppenstall, will lead a project exploring the underlying social processes in ‘smart city’ data. The aim is to analyse and find patterns in this data, which could tell us how to solve real problems that plague cities today, such as congestion and air pollution.

She said: “This new partnership gives a unique opportunity to combine the methodological expertise of the Alan Turing Institute with expertise in applied data analytical and urban simulation at Leeds.

“Through this collaboration we will create new understanding and better simulations of how individuals move around and use cities.  It will lead to advancements in how we link ‘big data’ and traditional sources, AI-inspired methodologies and allow pressing societal questions to be addressed.”

“I’m incredibly excited at the opportunities this will give me in terms of being able to work in a purely interdisciplinary environment, but also working with such a large group of diverse methodological experts.”

This is first ESRC-Turing fellowship to be granted. The fellowships are also designed to support new studentships to bring on the next generation of researchers in this area. The fellows will act as the primary supervisor for two studentships.

Tony McEnery, Interim Chief Executive of ESRC, said: “It’s a pleasure for ESRC and The Alan Turing Institute to award these fellowships to Professor Heppenstall and Professor Pogrebna. Both pieces of research are ambitious, exciting and will help us to bridge the gap between big data and social science.

“We have long held the desire to strengthen the quantitative and data science skills among social scientists in the UK. The advent of big data and the need to analyse such data means we need to build new research capacity in this area. Our partnership with Turing is an important and innovative step forward in this respect.”

Sir Alan Wilson, Chief Executive of The Alan Turing Institute, said: “Data science and artificial intelligence are set to transform the economy, science and the world we live in. The social sciences have a critical role in this research space, both drawing on the explosion of raw data to derive new knowledge and ensuring we build the next generation of algorithms and data-driven services to meet societal needs.

“We have a growing cohort of researchers in social data science at the Turing, and we look forward to welcoming Professor Heppenstall to undertake their exciting projects at the Institute.”

The University has recently announced that it is set to become partner of The Alan Turing Institute with the work being led by the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) with contributions from researchers and data scientists across the University.