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CDRC students are prize-winners at GISRUK Conference

CDRC students are prize-winners at GISRUK Conference

Congratulations to Abigail Hill and Shunya Kimura, who both won prizes at the GISRUK Conference, 6-8 April 2022.

Abigail Hill, a PhD student with CDRC and UCL Geography, won the Best Early-Career Presentation Award, sponsored by Google, for her presentation on “An investigation of the impact and resilience of British High streets following the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions”.  

Abigail’s research uses hierarchical clustering with spatial constraints to create a typology of resilience across Britain’s high streets. The analysis incorporates a measure of the proportion of stores deemed as ‘essential’ by the British government during the numerous lockdown periods. The research found that the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions exacerbated pre-existing trends in vacancy especially for those high streets struggling before the pandemic.

Retail vacancies

Abigail said: “I am so grateful to everyone who voted for me to win the award, I hope they enjoyed my presentation and could see the policy benefits of my research”.

Shunya Kimura, a PhD student with CDRC and UCL Geography, won the CASA Prize for Best Spatial Analysis Paper, for his presentation on “Exploring the spatial disparities in gambling risk and vulnerability”. The prize is sponsored by CASA in memory of Sinesio Alves Junior.

Shunya’s research explores gambling risk and vulnerability. Gambling harm disrupts the health and wellbeing of individuals, as well as families, communities and societies around them. Despite the growing recognition that gambling harms are socially and geographically uneven in their occurrence and impacts, there is limited empirical knowledge about the factors underlying the disparities. Here, we quantitatively profiled nationwide gambling surveys using a series of small area geodemographic data. Results were synthesized to devise a composite indicator of gambling risk and vulnerability that can be mapped to provide new insights into public health strategies to tackling gambling harms in a more effective manner.

Risk around Manchester

Shunya said: “I was shocked when they called my name as the prize winner but am very much honoured and proud to have our work recognised. I am grateful to the CDRC team for all their continuous support, and winning the prize has definitely given me a motivational boost in developing my research further.”

It was a great opportunity to present our research and forge collaborations for future work, as well as being the first in-person GISRUK conference for 2 years.

UCL Geography Early Career Researchers at GISRUK 2022, L to R: Jakub Wyszomierski, Louise Sieg, James Todd, Shunya Kimura (CASA Prize winner), Abigail Hill (ECR Prize winner), Jason Tang.

Networking and Partnership Building: An intern’s perspective

Two jigsaw pieces being held close together over green grass

Networking and Partnership Building: An intern’s perspective


I want my work to have an impact and I believe that harnessing the increasingly available abundance of data is one way of ensuring this. LIDA presents the opportunity to combine my sociological and quantitative/computational skills, and I feel grateful that my internship project with the CDRC at LIDA synchronizes my expectations perfectly.

I work on the OpenInfra project, exploring the potential of (crowd-sourced) open-access data (OpenStreetMap) in planning active travel infrastructure. Open data could lead to a more accessible and inclusive decision-making process by including citizens in the process of building the active travel infrastructure and network they want to use every day. However, the data is “messy”, constantly updated but still lacking completeness. It is open but not easy to access or use, and although it might have mapping protocols in place, this does not mean that there are no errors (my all-time favourite is the width value of –1).

To help reduce the scope of the problem, I decided to focus on accessible pedestrian infrastructure. One of the first things I did was search for relevant policy documents. The Inclusive Mobility guide was released over 10 years ago (it has now been recently updated), so I suspected that it might not contain the most up-to-date recommendations. I thought that familiarity with current qualitative research on accessible pedestrian infrastructure might identify what essential information on street elements might not be, as of now, representable in OpenStreetMap.

As I was searching for qualitative research on my subject, I discovered an on-going project at the University of Leeds that has various synergies with my project, so I contacted them. This was the first time I had ever reached out to someone to explore how two projects might collaborate together, so it meant stepping out of my comfort zone. Whilst not easy, it is proving to be very rewarding. Here, I will share some lessons learnt that, I believe, gave ground to successful networking and partnership building.

Seeking Partnership

Before I discuss building partnerships with external stakeholders, I want to highlight that the most important partnership to build is with your project team. Mutual trust and support between you and your supervisors are integral to advancing any project.

Writing that first email

In my case, I sought partnership to get a better grasp of my project and data needed for accessible pedestrian infrastructure planning. A clear idea of “why” gives purpose for reaching out. For me, it was helpful to think about the initial email as a cover letter. The following questions guided my email:

  • Introduce yourself: who are you? Why are you qualified to contact them?
  • The why: why are you contacting them (e.g. expertise in a domain, methods)? How did you find out about them?
  • Benefits: what are the potential benefits of them partnering with you?
  • Call to action: what do I want to achieve as a result of this email (e.g. organize a meeting)?

In my case, the trickiest part was to identify why they would be interested in meeting me. I approached this by reading their project website and an academic paper their team had published, trying to understand the project and agenda/factors that drove them as a team. I found that raising awareness of the struggles faced by people with disabilities is integral to their project. We also want to highlight the importance of mapping data relevant for accessible pedestrian infrastructure, so in my email I noted this overlap. I was careful not to overpromise or come across as too certain of their interest at this stage.

Initiating a partnership for the first time can be challenging. It took more than two weeks for me to sit down and write that email, not because of a busy schedule, but because I was worried about not receiving a reply. The key factor in overcoming this was acknowledging it and recognizing that it goes hand-in-hand with my imposter syndrome. Being honest with myself helped to put everything into perspective: nothing but time would be lost if I sent an email, but I would gain self-confidence and, potentially, a meeting.  I was also aware of my project team being positive about me contacting them, therefore trusting me enough to enable me to give a personal touch to the project. These little realizations, or rather self-reminders, were very reassuring and empowering, leading to my first successful initiation of partnership building.

Scheduling and running the meeting

When I got a positive reply from them, I was over the moon – proud of myself for having taken that first step! Yet, I also knew that the next step was the meeting scheduling. Retrospectively, I can say that scheduling requires active listening.  For example, there was a person in their team who currently lives in another time zone, hence I was asked to schedule meetings after 4PM GMT.  Little pieces of information like this might pave the way for a successful meeting before it even starts!

Leading a meeting was an unknown field for me. I had a myriad of questions ranging from chairing the first meeting to making sure that the meeting allowed for discussion of both projects in parity, as well as the potential bridges between them. Here, I took advantage of the fantastic LIDA community and asked my personal buddy to share her experience. I got an invaluable piece of advice – do not be afraid to communicate your aspirations and hopes for the meeting up-front. Indeed, from the first email enquiry, this collaboration was about communication and testing the ground, so the meeting did not have to be “perfect” to be productive. This realization took the pressure off my shoulders.

The meeting went really well: it reassured me that our project is timely and needed and, more importantly, it exposed me to new interdisciplinary ideas and applications of OpenStreetMap data. For example, we discussed the potential of addressing the qualitative-quantitative divide (often thought of as binaries), organizing walk-alongs and mapathons, and a question on using OpenStreetMap data for 3D modelling. Not all of these ideas may be realised, but the process of engagement and listening have broadened my perspective on OpenStreetMap and its applicability to qualitative research. Finally, it made me feel that I am working towards doing what I set out to do: combining my sociological and computational skills for social good.

Final thoughts

The entire experience of reaching out has not been just about networking and partnership building per se, but also stepping out of my comfort zone to suggest (and realise) ideas to my project team. It can be challenging to do if you (as I was) are assigned a project that is far from your field of expertise. Here, again, I want to reiterate the importance of building collaborative working with your project team – it takes time, trust, and willingness to communicate honestly, especially about fears and worries. Indeed, imposter syndrome can hinder my motivation more often than I would like, but moving one step at a time and, most importantly, collecting and appreciating those steps have been invaluable, especially in the face of stakeholder meetings.

The experience of networking and partnership building has strengthened the central position of communication in a (data science) project. Not only does it help to promote or disseminate its outputs, but also to shape one’s own perspective towards the project itself. For me, listening emerged as a key tool of effective communication, that perhaps needs to be given more credit in data science if the project is to have a real-life impact.

Author: LIDA Data Scientist Intern, Greta Timaite. Greta has a BA in Sociology and an MSc in Big Data and Digital Futures from Warwick University.

Masters Dissertation Scheme 2021 Awards

Data shown in gold converging into a point of light on the horizon like a sunset

Masters Dissertation Scheme 2021 Awards

Since 2012, the nationwide CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme (MDS) has brought together masters students intent upon pursuing dissertations using retail and other industry data, their academic supervisors and industry contacts who are able to provide data or support ‘horizon-scanning’ research focused upon real world problems. The MDS now also has an active alumni network of past students to maintain and further develop industry collaborations with CDRC.

Every year, the best dissertations are showcased at an event and three prizes awarded to the best dissertations.

This year’s awards ceremony was held online, hosted by the Market Research Society’s Census and GeoDems Group, with prizes awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Senior Policy Manager, Bruce Jackson.

The winner was Disa Ramadhina (MSc Business Analytics, UCL) who worked with partner Entain Group on the relationship between the use of retail shop and online gambling behaviour. Disa now works with Entain Group as a Compliance Data Analyst in their Safer Gambling team.  

Runner up Sharon Liu (MSc Operational Research with Data Science, University of Edinburgh) worked with longstanding MDS partner Walgreen Boots Alliance on enhancements to online recommender systems to personalise customer experience.

Movement Strategies has also become a regular sponsor of MDS projects and worked with our other runner up, Lu Xia (MSc Social and Geographic Data Science, UCL) on inferring transport mode using GPS data.

Disa Ramadhina

Sharon Liu
Sharon Liu

Lu Xia
Lu Xia

Our warmest congratulations to these very worthy winners, who share £1,000 in prize money. This year the MDS attracted 80 applications for the 20 projects on offer, details of which can be found in the MDS Project Archive

The Masters Dissertation Scheme 2022 is now open for proposals from industry and other partners – enquiries can be directed to Melanie Chesnokov at m.chesnokov@ucl.ac.uk

Inspiring the next generation of geographers

Screenshot from talk showing a PowerPoint slide and Nik Lomax in small speaker screen

Inspiring the next generation of geographers

On Wednesday 30th June, CDRC Co-Director, Dr Nik Lomax, delivered an online talk entitled “Demographic Change and Population Projections” to secondary-school students.

Geography Education Online approached me because population is on the school syllabus and I’ve done lots of work on population estimates and projections1, 2. It was an enjoyable experience and an interesting challenge to translate my expertise and research for a new audience.”

Nik began by talking about why it’s important we have accurate population estimates and projections for planning and policy. “Governments need good evidence in order to make good policy,” he told the students.

Sharing maps and data visualisations from the United Nations, Office for National Statistics and the CDRC, Nik demonstrated a series of trends and outcomes across different areas and population sub-groups.

Screenshot from talk showing a PowerPoint slide and Nik Lomax in small speaker screen

He discussed global population growth and its implications (comparing areas with very different demographic profiles: sub-Saharan Africa and Spain), highlighting how potential support ratios (the number of working age people to those who are retired) would decline over time as populations became older. He then turned his attention to the types of projection models which are routinely used and the demographic inputs to those models, and how varying these inputs could produce very different variant projection scenarios.

Nik talked about the importance of breaking down these demographic inputs by geography and other population attributes, because there’s so much variation between different areas and groups. He used a series of migration schedules and age-specific fertility & mortality rate graphs to demonstrate this variation. He then discussed an example from his own research which demonstrated how ethnic group populations might change under different migration scenarios based around potential policy post-Brexit, showing how diversity would increase in the UK under every scenario.

“I wanted to link to the school syllabus but also provide an example grounded in my research that people wouldn’t have seen before, in this case the migration scenarios for ethnic groups work from this paper.”

“I hope the audience took away the message that these models are very useful but don’t represent the ‘truth’ because the future is uncertain. Projection models are reliant on good data inputs and are sensitive to the assumptions that are made about future trends.” Nik finished by encouraging the audience to have the confidence to look at the data and interrogate the outputs of models, and directed them towards maps.cdrc.ac.uk as a useful resource!

Nik’s talk is available on YouTube

(1)    https://theconversation.com/what-the-uk-population-will-look-like-by-2061-under-hard-soft-or-no-brexit-scenarios-117475

(2)    https://theconversation.com/whats-happened-to-uk-migration-since-the-eu-referendum-in-four-graphs-127891

Celebrating collaboration: the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme

Celebrating collaboration: the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme

Celebrating collaboration: the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme. Thursday 29th April 2021, 10:30-15:00.

The CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme, now in its tenth year, has been successfully run by the Consumer Data Research Centre for the last seven years. The event celebrated the success of the scheme, and explored the changing nature of academic-industry collaboration. Masters students who had gone through the scheme presented project case studies, and a selection of alumni spoke of the positive impact the scheme had had on their data science careers. A panel session rounded off the event with a discussion of the possibilities and ambitions for the next seven years of the Masters Dissertation Scheme. The event was attended by industry partners, MDS alumni, and the CDRC team including Paul Longley, Alex Singleton, and Jonathan Reynolds.

Speaker biographies


1030-1130: The Business of Engagement. Session recording (Longley 0:06, Dugmore 7:05, Reynolds 28:27, Squires 41:21)

  • Introduction & welcome: Professor Paul Longley, Director, CDRC
  • The evolution of academic-industry collaboration: Keith Dugmore, Demographic Decisions. Slides
  • CDRC: Where are they now? MDS 7 years on: Dr Jonathan Reynolds, Deputy Director (Oxford), CDRC. Slides
  • The business of engagement: the firm’s perspective: Martin Squires, Director of Advanced Analytics, Pets at Home. Slides

1145-1245: Alumni presentations. Session recording (Murage 2:16, Davies 25:10, Tonge & Montt 45:53)

  • Nombuyiselo Murage, Tamoco. Dissertation at Tamoco. MSc Geographic Data Science, University of Liverpool. Slides
  • Alec Davies, Pets at Home. Dissertation at Sainsbury’s. MSc Geographic Data Science, University of Liverpool, PhD Geographic Data Science. Slides
  • Christian Tonge, Movement Strategies. MSc Geographic Data Science, University of Liverpool, and Cristobal Montt, Movement Strategies. MSc Data Science, City, University of London. Dissertations at Movement Strategies. Slides

1400-1505: Alumni presentations (continued) and panel discussion. Session recording (Ushakova 1:48, Samson 21:29, Panel 37:26)

  • Alumni presentation: Dr Anastasia Ushakova, Senior Research Associate, University of Lancaster. Dissertation at British Gas.
    MSc Public Policy, UCL; PhD Computational Social Science. Slides
  • Alumni presentation: Nick Samson, Associate Director, CBRE. Dissertation at British Gas. MSc Geographic Information Science, UCL. Slides
  • Panel Discussion. The next 7 years. Achievements and ambitions: Alex Singleton, Deputy Director (Liverpool), CDRC;
    Samantha Hughes, Analytics Innovation Manager, Avon; Martin Squires, Director of Advanced Analytics, Pets at Home.
  • Thanks & conclusion: Professor Paul Longley, Director, CDRC

Nick Samson, 2014 MDS alumnus. Dissertation at British Gas. Project title: Can smart meters save consumers and British Gas money and carbon by pinpointing which consumers are most likely and best placed to install insulation in their homes?