George TH Ellison PhD DSc


George Ellison is Deputy Director (Education & Training) at Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) – an interdisciplinary centre for research and innovation, education and training in data science and artificial intelligence. George’s role within LIDA is to develop opportunities for formal and informal (credit- and non-credit-bearing) courses and workshops focussing on the dissemination of advances in theoretical, methodological and applied data science techniques. These include:



George trained in Zoology (1982-86) and Ecophysiology (1986-1992) at the University of Aberdeen and the University of Pretoria’s Soogdier Navorsings instituut before completing: a Masters in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1994; and a DSc in Epidemiology and Public Health in 2011. He has held academic research and teaching positions in both the natural and social sciences, in Pretoria, Windhoek, Alexandra, London, Cambridge and Leeds; and has held the academic post of Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Leeds Medical School since 2011. Specialising in research design, methodology, and social studies of knowledge, George’s research spans the epistemology of data science, the role of heuristics and cognitive bias in methodological and inferential error, and the social construction of deterministic categories (particularly as these relate to race, ethnicity and other dimensions of identity). His current work focuses on the emergence and (mis)application of established and novel data science techniques, and developing innovative postgraduate and continuing professional development training programmes for data science practitioners, commissioners and consumers.


Current research projects

2020-2021: WUN Data Science Network – together with partners from 8 WUN and WUN+ Universities (Auckland, CUHK, UCD, Johannesburg, Leeds, Maastricht, Rochester and Sydney), George has led the development of an innovative proposal to strengthen the role of data science within existing WUN-supported research networks and to facilitate collaborations between WUN-based data scientists and applied researchers tackling each of WUN’s Global Challenges and Priority Areas. The proposed project will generate empirical evidence on the key barriers and enablers to the uptake and application of data science techniques, together with a Directory of Data Science Experts/Expertise and associated training resources; a Code of Professional Practice for Data Science; and an international Impact Symposium hosted by LIDA at the Goodenough College in London on 16-19 December 2020 in partnership with the Society for the Study of Human Biology.

2019-2024: MRes in Data Science & Analytics for Health – together with Professors David Hogg (School of Computing), Mark Gilthorpe (LIDA) and Geoff Hall (School of Medicine), George recently secured in excess of £500,000 from Health Data Research UK and NHS Digital to develop an innovative Master of Research (MRes) programme in which students will spend 6-9 months gaining first-hand practical experience embedded within workplace-based research and development projects at NHS Digital and their health sector partners. Enrolment onto the new programme will begin in 2020, and the call for fully-funded studentships will be issued early in the New Year 2020.

2018-2020: Knowledge Exchange Project – working with Professor Daniel Ray and colleagues in the Data, Insights and Analytics Directorate at NHS Digital (Europe’s largest health and social care data processing agency), George is exploring the potential contribution that advances in software engineering and data analytics might play in enhancing the management, manipulation and interrogation of large and sensitive health/social care datasets to accelerate insight for patient benefit. The project has developed new proposals for postgraduate research training (comprising both a Centre for Doctoral Training application and the successful HDR UK-funded MRes scheme), and is currently exploring links between LIDA’s Data Science Internship scheme and opportunities for follow-on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (supported by InnovateUK).

2018-2019: Research Development Fund – together with an interdisciplinary team from across the University (Maria dos Santos Lonsdale – Design; Chris – Digital Media; Luke Burns – Human Geography; Thea de Wet – Anthropology), George undertook a professional and public engagement project focussing on data science academics with first-hand experience of developing postgraduate training and continuous professional development (CPD), to explore “Professional code(s) of practice and the social responsibilities of data scientists in the era of Big Data and Precision Medicine”


Public engagement


Key publications

(For a full list of publications please refer to ORCID: 0000-0001-8914-6812; or Leeds Repository: Symplectic)


Academic qualifications

2011 DSc (Epidemiology and Public Health) London
1994 MSc (Public Health) London Distinction
1992 PhD (Dierkunde) Pretoria FRD Special Merit Bursary
1986 BSc (Zoology) Aberdeen cum laude and Class Prize


Employment history

2011-present: University of Leeds, Leeds, UK – Deputy Director (Education & Training), Leeds Institute for Data Analytics; Academic Lead (Accelerating Education), Centre for Immersive Technologies; and Associate Professor (Epidemiology), Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

2008-2011: Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Director of the Research and Graduate School, London Metropolitan University, London, UK

2004-08: Professor of Health Sciences, Research Coordinator and Research Degrees Coordinator, Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, St George’s Hospital Medical School,  London, UK

2002-04: Professor of Public Health, Head of the Department of Health and Social Care, Director of the Institute for Primary Care and Public Health, London South Bank University,          London, UK

2000-02: Assistant Director, Postgraduate Tutor, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University College London, London, UK

1998-00: Lecturer and Postgraduate Tutor, Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

1996-98: Research Manager and Medical Tutor, Institute of Urban Primary Health Care, Alexandra Health Centre and University Clinic, Johannesburg, South Africa

1996: Senior Research Officer, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

1992-96: Lecturer, School of Chemical and Life Sciences, University of Greenwich, London, UK

1992: Lecturer, Department of Zoology, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia

1990-92: Lecturer, Department of Zoology and Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Research funding (since 1996)

Dates Funding Body Value Grant Role
2019-24 Health Data Research UK/NHS Digital  £675,000 PGR Co-I
2018-19 Research Development Fund (Wellcome/Leeds) £500 Project PI
2017-18 Carnegie Foundation Concept Award  ZAR250,000 Project Co-I
2017-18 Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department ZAR350,000 Project Co-I
2017-18 Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department  ZAR350,000 Project Co-I
2016-17 Alberta Center for Child, Family, & Community Research CA$40,000 Project Co-I
2016-17 City of Johannesburg  ZAR540,000 Project Co-I
2015-16 University of Bergen NOK100,000 Network Co-I
2014-16 BHP Billiton AUS$22,000 Project Co-I
2014-16  South African National Research Foundation ZAR701,800 Project Co-I
2010-13 National Institute for Health Research  £190,000 Project Co-I
2008-10 Joseph Rowntree Foundation £78,000 Project Co-I
2006-08 British Council England-Africa Partnership £98,000 Project Co-I
2005-06 British Council England-Africa Partnership  £94,000 Project PI
2003-07 Wellcome Trust Programme on Biomedical Ethics £245,000 Project Co-I
2003-06 Kent, Surrey and Sussex Postgraduate GP Deanery £66,000 Project PI
2002-05 Department for Education and Skills £365,000 Project Co-PI
2000-02 Department for International Development £139,000 Project PI
1999-06 Lloyds TSB Foundation for the Channel Islands  £65,000 Project PI
1999-02 Wellcome Trust Programme on Biomedical Ethics £37,000 Project PI
1999-00 Nuffield Foundation £3,000 Internship PI
1996-99  South African Medical Research Council ZAR150,000 Project Co-I
1997-98 United Kingdom Overseas Development Agency £39,000 Project Co-I
1997-98 United States Agency for International Development US$58,000 Project PI


Current Education & Training Responsibilities

2019-present: Course Manager: MRes Data Science & Analytics for Health

2017-present: Co-Lead: MSc Health Data Analytics programme

2011-present: Lead: Research Project Module, MSc Health Data Analytics

2012-2018: Co-Lead: MBChB Research, Research, Evaluation and Special Studies Strand

2011-2018: Co-Lead: Year 3 MBChB Research, Evaluation and Special Studies (RESS) module


Current Research Interests

Causal inference in data analytics; Data synthesis; Evidence-based decision-makingMultidisciplinary mixed-methods (process and outcome) evaluations; Public Health; Critical Data Studies; Science and Technology Studies/Social Studies of Knowledge; Public and Professional Engagement.