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Local Data Spaces: ONS Research Excellence Project Award 2021 winners!

The CDRC’s Local Data Spaces project has been chosen as the winner of the prestigious ONS Research Excellence Project Award 2021 from the 400+ projects who used Office for National Statistics (ONS) data this year! This award recognises innovative research that has delivered public good or informed policy decisions.

The Local Data Spaces project combined ONS datasets with the CDRC’s own consumer data, creating ten innovative reports for each English Local Authority. These reports delivered highly tailored insights about how their communities were affected by the pandemic, which could then help to shape policy strategies.

For example, in Liverpool, the reports identified that sections of the community with low confidence in using internet technologies were less likely to make use of lateral flow tests. This led to local efforts to promote testing beyond social media, feeding these insights into the national roll-out of lateral flow testing that helped re-open workplaces and schools following the January lockdown.

In Norfolk, the analysis shows that furloughed workers were three times more likely to have caught COVID-19 than individuals who were employed or self-employed, suggesting that more could have been done to prevent COVID-19 outside of workplaces. A similar pattern was observed in most places nationally.

The project also found that, across England, COVID-19 did not significantly vary between men and women within different work sectors or occupations. One exception was the higher rate for COVID-19 in women employed in personal services jobs (e.g. hairdressers, barbers, cleaners, beauticians) at the start of the second wave. Findings from this work were presented to SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) to help inform national policy around gender inequalities.

“The pandemic has shown the importance of getting the right data into the right hands,” said Dr Mark Green, lead researcher. “Local Data Spaces has opened up new sources of data to local authorities and helped them proactively respond to COVID-19.

“We are honoured to receive this prestigious ONS award. I am really proud of how our team worked at pace to support urgent policy needs during a global crisis.”

Professor Alex Singleton, CDRC Co-Director, added: “The strategic ESRC funding enabling the Local Data Spaces project perfectly illustrates the value and impact that can be unlocked by the social sciences when integrating consumer and government data within trusted research environments.”

Each of the 10 reports for all Local Authorities across England are freely available from the CDRC website and tackle a variety of themes related to the local impacts of COVID-19, from demographic and occupational inequalities, through excess mortality, to economic vulnerabilities.

Huge congratulations to the whole research team!!

New partnership pilots trials to help change eating habits

New partnership pilots trials to help change eating habits

What we choose to put into our shopping baskets and how we make those choices will come under the microscope in a series of pilot trials designed to encourage healthy and sustainable diets.

Data analysts from the University of Leeds have joined forces with social impact organisation, the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), to test different ways to encourage healthy and sustainable eating.

They are working in partnership with 20 leading retailers and manufacturers, including Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and Aldi, to trial different strategies, including signposting better choices, the positioning of products in shops and online and the use of influencers and recipe suggestions.

Some have already begun to use some of those techniques in real-life settings as part of the research designed and implemented by the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) and the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC).

Researchers from LIDA and CDRC will analyse the results by capturing and measuring sales data from each intervention, enabling the project group to see exactly what is going on in people’s shopping baskets and assess what truly drives long-term behaviour change.

Dr Michelle Morris, who leads the Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics team at LIDA and is a CDRC Co-Investigator, said: “I am passionate about helping our population move towards a diet that is both healthier and more sustainable. I believe that unlocking the power of anonymous consumer data, collected by retailers and manufacturers, is a really important step towards this goal.

“Working with the IGD and its members to evaluate their healthy and sustainable diets programme is very exciting – testing strategies to change purchasing behaviour and evaluating the wider impact of these changes.”

The pilot trials have been funded by IGD and form a key part of the charity’s Social Impact ambition to make healthy and sustainable diets easy for everyone.

Hannah Pearse, Head of Nutrition at IGD, said: “We want to lead industry collaboration and build greater knowledge of what really works. Our Appetite for Change research tells us that 57% of people are open to changing their diets to be healthy and more sustainable, and they welcome help to do it. But we also know that people don’t like to be told what to do and information alone is unlikely to change behaviour.

“We believe consumers will make this transition if we make it easier for them; that’s why we are delighted to be partnering with our industry project group and our research partners at the University of Leeds, to pilot this series of interventions over the coming months. The team at LIDA are experts in capturing, storing and analysing big data and have a variety of academic specialties that will be critical for this work.”

The work being carried out by CDRC researchers at the University of Leeds is unique because it will use the secure infrastructure at LIDA to allow retailers and manufacturers to share anonymised transaction data over a sustained period of time.

It is hoped that the results of the first pilot trial will be published towards the end of this year.

CDRC to adopt key role in powerful new COVID-19 data alliance


CDRC to adopt key role in powerful new COVID-19 data alliance

The Consumer Data Research Centre will work through its parent organisation Leeds Institute for Data Analytics to provide a new COVID-19 data alliance with scientific expertise and access to global academic research networks.

Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) has worked alongside consortium-leader Rolls-Royce to develop the concept and will take a founding position in a new alliance of data analytics experts challenged with finding new, faster ways of supporting the response to COVID-19 and subsequent global recovery.

Early alliance members are Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, IBMGoogle CloudThe Data CityTruataRolls-Royce and ODI Leeds. The alliance will be facilitated and co-ordinated by innovation specialists, Whitespace.

Together the initial wave of members brings all the key elements of open innovation; data publication, licensing, privacy, security; data analytics capability; and collaborative infrastructure, to kick off its early work and grow its membership.

Emergent will combine traditional economic, business, travel and retail data sets with behaviour and sentiment data, to provide new insights into – and practical applications to support – the global recovery from COVID-19. This work will be done with a sharp focus on privacy and security, using industry best practices for data sharing and robust governance.

As part of LIDA’s involvement in Emergent, researchers will have the opportunity to access these data sets using collaborative platforms which have been established by CDRC.  The academic community will be encouraged to articulate and engage in projects to help understand the changes we are seeing in human activity and social behaviour as a result of COVID-19.

Emergent models will help get people and businesses back to work as soon as possible by identifying lead indicators of economic recovery cycles. Businesses small and large around the world, as well as governments, can use these insights to build the confidence they need to take early decisions, such as investments or policies, that could shorten or limit the recessionary impacts from the pandemic.

The alliance is voluntary and insights will be published for free.

Professor Mark Birkin, who leads both the Consumer Data Research Centre and Leeds Institute for Data Analytics commented:

“Increasing numbers of academics and other commentators are now recognising the potential for commercial organisations to share important data to help in the battle against COVID-19.

An established investment in data sharing capability and analytics capacity makes LIDA ideally placed to lead such conversations.

We are delighted to bring our skills and expertise as a founder member in the Emergent consortium, which offers such enormous potential to deliver benefits to society – and which are so badly needed at this difficult time.”

Connecting business and the academic community

The Consumer Data Research Centre was created in 2014 from a substantial award in the ESRC Big Data Network.  Leeds Institute for Data Analytics at the University of Leeds was then established from the union of the CDRC (Leeds) with the MRC Centre for Medical Bioinformatics.

Since then, both LIDA and the CDRC have been actively promoting the mutual benefit of collaborative projects between corporate partners and the academic community, with researchers working in cross industry teams to undertake scientific research that produces real world insights.

The COVID crisis has further highlighted the importance of these types of collaboration, with governments and their advisers seeking real world insights into mobility, behaviour and human contact networks.

LIDA will be utilising its extensive network – which includes the ESRC Business and Local Government Data Centres, the Alan Turing Institute, Doctoral Training Centres in Data Analytics and Society (ESRC) and Artificial Intelligence (UKRI) – to connect partners with academic experts from multiple institutions and disciplines.

Providing a secure infrastructure

LIDA and IBM will be providing the infrastructure to enable alliance partners to share and compute their data.

Where there is a need to use secure data, partners will be granted access to LIDA’s ISO accredited infrastructure, which will enable them to perform analysis in a safe and controlled environment. Partners using the LIDA infrastructure will be supported by project management and technical support teams from the Consumer Data Research Centre.

For projects using public data, partners will use IBM’s environment and any non-sensitive data will be shared via emergentalliance.org.

Join Emergent

Caroline Gorski, Global Director, R2 Data Labs, the Rolls-Royce data innovation catalyst which started the alliance, said: “We want the global economy to get better as soon as possible so people can get back to work. Our data innovation community can help do this and is at its best when it comes together for the common good.

“People, businesses and governments around the world have changed the way they spend, move, communicate and travel because of COVID-19 and we can use that insight, along with other data, to provide the basis for identifying what new insights and trends may emerge that signify the world’s adjustment to a ‘new normal’ after the pandemic.”

The first challenges have already been issued by the alliance, including one to identify lead indicators of economic recovery which businesses can use to build the confidence they need for investment or activities that will shorten or limit any recessionary impact from the virus.

Emergent hopes to rapidly expand its network of data owners and has set up a website for potential members to register their interest at emergentalliance.org.

CDRC (Leeds) also encourages prospective academic participants to contact us directly at k.r.norman@leeds.ac.uk to receive further updates.

Home Working and Horizon Scanning


Home Working and Horizon Scanning

Work has been transformed by the coronavirus crisis with remote working now the norm for millions of workers. But distance from the office is also providing some opportunities to take a wider perspective of the data landscape and to scan business horizons using data sources that we might have overlooked or never investigated in detail.

The CDRC Data Store remains open for business, and our Open and Safeguarded data products are available as normal. Our Secure labs are closed for the duration of the crisis, but we are still accepting Secure data applications for access when things return to normal.

For students, our Masters Dissertation Scheme is still running with a record number of projects for students to complete in the coming months using business and CDRC data. The scheme gives Masters students registered at any UK university a unique opportunity to engage with horizon scanning or other business problems using novel datasets and interesting business perspectives on applied problem-solving. In the past, many participating students have carried out work at the businesses office, but this year students are being offered opportunities to work with businesses through homeworking for the duration of the crisis. The Scheme still brings together the best of academic and business perspectives upon applied problem-solving. Academic supervisors similarly gain the opportunity to collaborate on potentially high impact research with the business community.

So… if you are a Master’s student interested in collaborating with business, but can no longer do this through fieldwork or primary data collection, why not click here to see if any of the CDRC projects interest you? A number of the organisations that we work with are very keen to use part of their homeworking to coach students in the workings of business, especially if you have relevant skills and ways of working to offer!

We also have the CDRC Data Store which has a wide range of data sets available, some of which may be very useful in your dissertation or current research.