Here at the Consumer Data Research Centre we’re committed to using consumer data for the public good and we are looking for a Research Software Engineer who can help us deliver impact from our data assets and projects.
We are looking for someone who is data-literate, driven and creative – you will have the opportunity to work with our team (academic, technical and professional services) to build and maintain interactive web based data visualisations and other web applications (such as our Priority Places for Food Index or our Nutrient Profile Model); contributing to our mission to develop innovative and impactful data products and outputs.
You should have a good understanding of project delivery, from inception through to dissemination; have experience in dealing with a range of internal and external stakeholders; and be comfortable providing technical advice, including to non-experts.
It’s a really exciting time here at the Consumer Data Research Centre and we’re looking for an Administrative Assistant to join us to support our team to deliver research projects using consumer data for public good.
We’re looking for someone with strong administrative and organisational skills, who has experience of working in a busy and fast-paced office environment to provide operational support to our team of Directors, professional services staff, data scientists and academic co-investigators. This will include tasks such as diary management, minuting meetings, raising purchase orders, as well as room and catering bookings.
You will also have the opportunity to work closely with key members of the team to help deliver events and training courses and gain experience of working on the Centre’s website and social media channels.
In return we offer:
26 days holiday plus 16 Bank Holidays/days that the University is closed by custom (including Christmas).
Generous pension scheme options plus life assurance.
Health and Well-being: Discounted staff membership options at The Edge, our Campus gym.
Personal Development: Access to courses run by our Organisational Development & Professional Learning team, and self-development courses including languages, Creative Writing, Well-being Therapies and much more.
Access to on-site childcare, shopping discounts, and travel schemes are also available.
We have been working with Wejo to make connected vehicle data available for academic research purposes.
We have today launched a new dataset, supplied by Wejo, which contains GPS trajectories for around 50,000 vehicles during the month of July, representing over 1.8 million vehicle journeys and over 400 million individual records. An observation is available every 3 seconds on average during each journey.
The data contains a journey identifier, timestamp, longitude and latitude coordinates, as well as additional data fields for vehicle speed and bearing. The data is of high quality, with GPS records for every three seconds on average. This enables the successful implementation of map-matching algorithms as well as the identification of vehicle stops as well as periods of acceleration and deceleration.
This is one of the first times such a detailed and in-depth dataset detailing connected vehicle trajectories has been made available for academic research purposes.
Supermarkets must transport large quantities of stock from depots to many different stores on a daily basis. It is important to deliver this stock efficiently, in order to minimise both transport costs and carbon emissions. This project aimed to investigate methods to optimise the routing of supermarket delivery vehicles. The project used the most basic delivery strategy, by which only one store is serviced during each trip from the depot, as a benchmark for comparison with the optimised delivery vehicle routing solutions.
Data and methods
The delivery vehicle routing optimisation was implemented using integer programming. The optimisation formulation was applied to a group of 81 stores which are all service by a single depot. For large groups of stores, the number of potential routes which a delivery vehicle can take is prohibitively large to be solved within a reasonable timeframe. Therefore, large groups of stores must be divided into smaller groups, based on location, and the optimisation solved separately for each group. Analysis of group sizes found that the groups of stores should contain 10 stores or fewer. As such, the 81 stores which were investigated were divided into nine groups of nine stores. This allowed the optimisation for all groups of stores to be solved within a relatively short time frame.
The delivery vehicle routing problem was optimised for the nine groups of stores with 100 randomised sets of demand. It was found that the optimisation reduced the total required travel distance, when compared with the most basic delivery strategy.
Figure 1 shows the total travel distance required against the total demand for each group of stores, with the data coloured by the total number of trips required for each optimisation solution. For some groups, e.g. Groups 2 and 3, the data appears to be highly clustered, with each cluster representing how many trips were required by each solution. For other groups, e.g. Groups 5 and 6, the data doesn’t appear to be clustered. For groups showing data which is clustered, there is little or no overlap in the total required travel distance between solutions requiring different numbers of trips. Conversely, for groups which do not show clustered data, there is significant overlap in the total travel distance between solutions requiring different numbers of trips.
It was found that groups of stores for which the stores were close to one another, relative to the depot, produced highly clustered data, as each additional trip from the depot and back required by the solution increased the total travel distance by a significant proportion. Whereas, groups for which the stores were not as close to one another, relative to the depot, did not produce clustered data as each additional trip from the depot and back increased the total travel distance by a smaller proportion.
Figure 1. Travel distance vs demand for each group
Value of the research
This project has demonstrated a method to optimise delivery vehicle routing which can reduce the distance travelled by delivery vehicles significantly, when compared with the most basic delivery strategy and provides a valuable proof of concept study. The methods investigated in this project may be developed further by WM Morrisons Supermarkets in order to optimise delivery vehicle routing, which could help to reduce both transport costs and carbon emissions.
Quote from project partner
This 6-month research project provided an interesting and insightful investigation into optimisation approaches for delivery vehicle routing. I found the collaboration with Jacob and the wider project team valuable and would welcome the opportunity to work with LIDA on other projects in the future.
Optimisation of delivery vehicle routing can reduce transport costs and carbon emissions.
Dividing large groups of stores into multiple, smaller groups allows the optimisation to be solved more efficiently.
Statistical and mathematical methods
Jacob van Alwon – Data Scientist, Leeds Institute for Data Analytics.
Jon Ward – Lecturer in Mathematics, University of Leeds.
In a groundbreaking new study researchers from the Consumer Research Data Centre at the University of Leeds and Which? have identified the places around the UK where households are most at risk in the cost of living crisis and likely to be in need of extra support to access affordable, healthy and sustainable food.
The index uses data across a range of relevant dimensions to rank local areas by the likelihood of the people living there needing support.
The researchers considered factors such as deprivation, poor access to affordable food, having no large supermarkets nearby, a lack of online shopping deliveries or circumstances such as no car access making it difficult to shop around. All of these factors can make it difficult for people to find healthy and affordable food.
Michelle Morris, Associate Professor Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics, University of Leeds said: “With so many people in the UK already suffering from food insecurity and the cost of living crisis making that much worse, we need to do all that we can to support those most in need to access affordable, healthy and sustainable foods.
Our interactive map makes it easy to identify neighbourhoods most in need of support and highlights the main reasons that they need this support, recognising that one size does not fit all and that tailored help is required.”
“We will be engaging widely with the food industry and policy makers to help them use the tool to help our communities, both nationally and locally. Some of our local communities in Bradford have been identified within the top 20 Priority Places across the UK, which is very worrying.”
Which? – Affordable Food For All
Which? are using the index as part of its newly launched Affordable Food For All campaign, and have created a 10-point plan to help supermarkets provide the support people around the country desperately need in order to feed themselves through the ongoing crisis.
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy explained: “We know that millions of people are skipping meals through the worst cost of living crisis in decades but our new research tells us where around the UK support is most urgently needed.
The big supermarkets have the ability to take action and make a real difference to communities all around the UK. That’s why we’re calling on them to ensure everyone has easy access to budget food ranges that enable healthy choices, can easily compare the price of products to get the best value and that promotions are targeted at supporting people most in need.”
Priority places across the UK
Analysis of the Index shows that overall, seven in 10 UK Parliamentary constituencies have at least one area in need of urgent help accessing affordable food – but there are 16 constituencies across England and Wales for which at least three-quarters of the constituency are at risk.
Within England there is a large variation in where priority places are located across regions. The region with the greatest frequency of priority places is the North East, although because this is a small region then there are more priority places in Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and the North West in absolute terms. There are relatively few priority places in London, the South East and the South West, although in the latter there is a concentration in Cornwall.
In Wales, the highest concentration of areas at high risk during the food crisis is in the Valleys where proximity to a large supermarket or access to online deliveries may be very poor. Wales has a higher proportion of rural places where accessing affordable food is an issue than England and Scotland.
In Scotland, the places in highest need of support are in the Central Belt, according to the Which? and CDRC index, but there is also a notable concentration in and around Dundee where there is relatively poor access to online food deliveries and people are more likely to be suffering from fuel poverty and on a low income.
Northern Ireland has the most even geographical spread of areas in need of support accessing affordable food. However, there is a noticeably greater concentration in parts of south-west Belfast and in and around Derry/Londonderry.
The Priority Places for Food Index is a composite index formed of data compiled across seven different dimensions relating to food insecurity for the four nations in the UK. It is constructed using open data to capture complex and multidimensional aspects of food insecurity.
Building on the CDRC e-Food Desert Index (EFDI), but with additional domains relating to fuel poverty and family food support, the goal of the Priority Places for Food Index is to identify neighbourhoods that are most vulnerable to increases in the cost of living and which have a lack of accessibility to affordable, healthy, and sustainable sources of food.
The CDRC Open Data Science Bursary is available to anyone with a protected characteristic and/or limited income, and who is interested in attending more than one of the CDRC’s short courses in data science.
Please note we have currently paused assessing applications for the Open Data Science Bursary; please check back here for further updates with regard to potential Bursary options in 2023/24.
The short courses have hosted over 1,200 attendees since being launched in 2016; and were recently accredited by CPD UK. Each course is offered at least once annually; and takes place over half a day, one day or two days. Courses are currently offered in:
Beginners Python for Data Analytics (2-day course)
Intermediate Python (2-day course)
Tableau workshop on data visualisation (1 day course)
Spatial Analysis for Public Health Researchers (1 day course)
Introduction to QGIS (1 day course)
Introduction to R (half day course)
Intermediate R (1 day course)
Geocomputation and Data Analysis with R (2-day course)
How to apply
Individuals interested in being considered for the Bursary are invited to complete an application form.
As part of the international research-intensive University of Leeds, we at the CDRC welcome data science training delegates from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to data-science capacity-building.
We are dedicated to diversifying both our local and the broader data science community. We welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to: women; people who belong to a minority ethnic community; people who identify as LGBT+; and people with disabilities. Applicants’ cases will in any event always be considered individually, and on merit.
Rolling deadline; first course attendance must be by 31 July 2023. Bursary funds are limited; applications as early as possible in the 2022/23 academic year are therefore encouraged.
Number of funding places
Multiple opportunities available
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Course enrolment fees (for a minimum of 2 and up to a maximum of 4 courses)
Travel to and/or from the University of Leeds campus (if attending course(s) in person)
Our free tool calculates the NPM score and helps you identify whether a product is in scope for restrictions, supporting compliance and enforcement.
Victoria Jenneson, lead researcher on the project, explained: “It’s great to see Government taking action to restrict promotions of HFSS products, but the legislation is quite tricky to interpret. Stakeholder consultations revealed a need for support to implement the new rules, particularly for SMEs, convenience stores and enforcement officers. The NPM calculator offers a free to use mobile-friendly tool which makes HFSS assessment simple and transparent.”
The CDRC are part of a new collaboration which aims to reduce the city’s carbon footprint through food has been announced by Leeds City Council, the University of Leeds and FoodWise Leeds.
Around 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions can be linked to the food we eat or waste, with every part of the journey from farm to fork contributing to its overall environmental impact.
The partnership of organisations is working collaboratively on a number of new projects designed to tackle climate change by making it easier for residents and organisations to make informed food choices, support more sustainable food production, and reduce food waste.
Studies show that our collective health and the health of the planet would improve if we ate a balanced diet consistent with the NHS-recommended Eatwell guidelines. For some people, this may mean eating more fruit and vegetables and less meat.
CDRC Carbon Calculator
Researchers at the Consumer Data Research Centre (CRDC) based at the University of Leeds have recently developed a new calculator to make it easier for food venues and caterers to estimate the carbon footprint, land use, and water use of meals based on their ingredients.
The council’s school meals provider, Catering Leeds, is already trialling the new tool to review its menus and suppliers to explore how to become more sustainable and support the local authority’s climate targets. Last year, Leeds City Council set out its ambition to halve the carbon footprint of the average meal it serves by 2030.
Engaging the local community
Meanwhile, FoodWise Leeds—a citywide partnership with representatives from third sector, academia, businesses and the council—has used the calculator’s findings to show the impact of simple, nutritious, and affordable recipes published on its new online Recipe Hub. It is believed to be the first recipe hub to include carbon calculation and supports the Partnership’s ambition to encourage greater sharing of cooking skills and knowledge.
As well as developing the carbon calculator, the University of Leeds researchers have also used their research to engage young people in local primary schools through special food data science lessons, workshops, and even creating an interactive and educational ‘Planet Plates’ game.
Each of the organisations in the new partnership, plus many others, have also contributed to the creation of the first city-wide food strategy currently in development. The new Leeds Food Strategy will be published in draft form and will open to consultation later this month.
Councillor Helen Hayden, Executive Member for Infrastructure and Climate at Leeds City Council said:
“The food we eat is responsible for a significant proportion of our carbon footprint, so we believe it is important to lead by example to reduce the impact of the food we serve, whilst empowering others to do the same.
“This new collaboration with the University of Leeds and Food Wise is a brilliant example of how working together can help us realise our ambitions for a healthier and greener city.
“Going forward, we’ll continue to educate and equip organisations and residents with the tools and knowledge they need to make informed food choices, to make it easier for the city to come together to help Leeds tackle climate change through food.”
Alexandra Dalton, a former data scientist at Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) and the Consumer Data Research Centre:
“When we buy food, we don’t often think about where it has come from, or the environmental impact of the food supply chain.
“Small changes to our diets, such as eating more fruit, vegetables, and plant-based products make a difference. However, we should also try and consider where certain foods come from, how processed they are, or whether it is in season.
“While working with Leeds primary schools and Leeds City Council, we have created resources that help educate pupils about the impact of their food choices and encourage them to support more sustainable food behaviours.”
“I’m really excited to be building on our existing partnership with the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council with this new collaboration.
“The Leeds Recipe Hub is an innovative resource that will enable community groups and individuals to search, try, and share nutritious, tasty, and affordable recipes—whilst helping people to better understand the environmental impact of their food choices.
CDRC is a key funder of the LIDA Data Scientist Development Programme (DSDP) which gives early career data scientists the opportunity to use real-world data to solve real-world data challenges. By contributing to projects through funding, data and expertise, CDRC meets its objective of creating highly skilled data scientists with an understanding and ethos for open research, open methods and the current landscape of data science. In a recent case study about the Programme’s award-winning work on building a research culture which promotes Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, CDRC’s Kylie Norman discusses how more representative recruitment in data science leads to more representative data science insights.
Through its three pillars of practice – research innovation, building data science capacity, and sharing data for collaborative research through its Data Service – CDRC is able to support the DSDP, not only through funding projects for social good, but also by providing the in-house and stakeholder expertise to build the essential skills of an early career data scientist. This is owing to CDRC’s shared commitment to building resilience, robust methodologies and their understanding of ways of working in its early career data scientists. During their induction period, each cohort of LIDA data scientists receives valuable contact time with CDRC staff through lectures, seminars and workshops on hard and soft skills ranging from: reproducible coding practises and data management; GIS and spatial analysis for beginners; how to conduct data science for the greatest engagement and impact; how to work with partners; understanding their own ways of working (WoW) and the WoW of those in their teams; and what pitfalls are inherent in the practice of data science; as well as, and perhaps most importantly, how to fail well.
We all want to do good work, but deep down, I believe we also want our work to have meaning and to drive positive change.”
Eric Wanjau Muriithi, LIDA Data Scientist 2021-22
CDRC has seen the benefit of this holistic approach to developing a diversity of data science talent in more representative data insights. For example, Simon Leech, data scientist 2020-21, worked with local authorities and other stakeholders on CDRC Local Data Spaces to determine the optimal locations for COVID-19 testing sites in Liverpool, based on analyses of geodemographic factors affecting susceptibility to the virus.
It has also been able to better visualise and tell the data story of the gaps in provision of government support services to those hit hardest by the cost of living crisis, e.g. in Alex Dalton and Tom Albone’s Free School Meals Uptake blog series. Ifeanyi Chukwu’s work with CDRC’s Nik Lomax on the Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer Referrals, concluded that considering geodemographic contexts “helps to identify the segments of patients who were most vulnerable and thus may require more attention in receiving faster cancer referrals and improved prognosis.” The more representative our data scientists, the more representative the data science.
Three of the Programme’s data scientists working on CDRC research projects, Alex Dalton, Diogo Ann Onuselogu and Rosalind Martin, were nominated for the University’s Engaged for Impact Awards 2022, with two winning in their award categories, and one coming in runner-up position.
In a research culture which asks the question, “but why?”, “who do these census data overlook?”, or “what biases are inherent in these data?”, data insights are bound to be more representative because the data scientists asking those questions often have first-hand experience of falling into the so-called ‘Data Gap’. Read on to find out more about how LIDA is improving diversity and representation in its DSDP, and how CDRC is supporting this work.
From Autumn 2022, the rules for selling products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) in England will change and location restrictions will come into force to prevent these items from being shown in front of store, on gondola ends and at checkouts.
As retailers undertake preparations to implement these new regulations, researchers from the Consumer Data Research Centre and colleagues assessed the impact that location restrictions can have on the sale of less healthy foods.
In 2015 the ‘healthy checkouts initiative’ was launched in Tesco Express convenience stores across the UK. The initiative removed less healthy products – those high in fat, salt or sugar – from the in-queue checkout space in 1151 stores.
However despite having been rolled out on a mass-scale, the initiative had not been subjected to external evaluation until now and while lots has changed since 2015, it is important to share these learnings with the wider community.
In a study, published today in the journal Nutrition Bulletin our researchers analysed sales data for 1101 participating Tesco Express stores over an eight-week period in 2014, prior to the introduction of the initiative, and the same eight-week period in 2015 following the roll-out.
Analysis revealed that whilst shoppers mean overall spend increased from 2014-2015 the proportion of less healthy food decreased, from 8.21% in 2014 to 8.03% in 2015. Unsurprisingly confectionery accounted for the largest proportion of less healthy product spend and showed the biggest reduction, from 4.12% in 2014 to 3.91% in 2015.
The team used data from other major UK stores to compare Tesco’s sales to the UK market and found there was no general decline in sales of less healthy products (with the possible exception of crisps) in the UK market during the period, whereas sales from Tesco only showed a slight decrease in sales.
Co-author of the report, Dr Michelle Morris, from the Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics Team at the University of Leeds, said: “Tesco was one of the first supermarkets to implement a healthy checkout strategy and our analysis indicates that the removal of less healthy products from checkouts can lead to small but important changes with respect to healthier purchasing behaviour. However, the study also highlighted some of the challenges that retailers face when implementing such initiatives.”
Oonagh Turnbull, Head of Health and Sustainable Diets At Tesco, said: “We are committed to helping our customers enjoy a better-balanced diet and to making Tesco the easiest place to shop for affordable, healthy, sustainable food. We have a long history of taking action, from being the first supermarket to take sweets off our checkouts in large stores in 1994 to ensuring all our Own Brand soft drinks were below the Soft Drinks Sugar Levy in 2016 – ahead of its introduction.
Helping our customers to eat a healthier and more sustainable diet is a key focus for our business. In March 2021, we set out our ambitious health commitments including an increase in sales of healthy products, as a proportion of total sales, to 65% by 2025. More recently, following the Government announcement that restrictions on multibuy deals on foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) are to be delayed for a year, we also confirmed that we will continue with plans to remove volume-led promotions on HFSS products from October 2022.