From data to wisdom? Spatial data visualisation as a policy tool

On 4th February, the Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) hosted a seminar with the Glasgow Sustainable Development Network, focused around the use of data visualisation for decision-making. The event started with introductions from myself and Prof Marian Scott, UBDC Co-Investigator, in which I described ways we work with other organisations to maximise the potential of available data sources, providing support in the application of data to improve urban policy.

Michael Comerford, UBDC Scientific Computing Officer, then delivered a brief presentation on the various ways our IT team is able to visualise the complex urban data in a way that can inform policy development and debates. Examples ranged from expanding traditional visualisations with integration of rich media, such as images and social media streams, as well as alternative visualisation tools such as Minecraft.

Following this, keynote speaker Dr. Alasdair Rae, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield, presented From data to wisdom? Spatial data visualisation as policy tool. His talk focused on urban data visualisation and its potential usefulness as a tool to guide, inform and promote public policy. He discussed the links between data, knowledge, information and wisdom as a way to frame the debate, providing his thoughts on the question: “Is data knowledge?” Throughout his presentation, Dr. Rae provided examples of data visualisations applied to policy development and city planning, such interactive data sharing and mapping to analyse land use in the city of Detroit, as well as visualising deprivation in Scottish cities, which he further explores on his blog Gonnaemapit.

If you were not able to attend the event, the full set of presentation slides are available here (external link), and a recording of the event is available here (external link).

We were very pleased to share this talk with members of the public and look forward to producing related events in the future. If you have suggestions on topics to be covered, please email



Prof Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah

Director, Urban Big Data Centre


Author: Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah

Vonu is the Director of the Urban Big Data Centre. She is also Professor of Urban Studies and Affiliated Professor of the School of Engineering in the University of Glasgow, and holds the CH2M Chair of Transport.

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