UBDC research - latest updates

The latest updates on innovative research projects, from the academic researchers working on them, are highlighted in this section.

The projects cover methodology - such as big data management and urban indicators for policymaking - as well as a range of urban topics such as housing, transportation, migration and more.

For more of our latest updates, please visit the News section. If you have any queries about our research, please contact us.


Visualising People’s Access to Transport in UK Cities

UBDC is developing a geographic database called the Spatial Urban Data System that contains spatially and temporally indexed real and synthetic small scale data capable of telling the complex, multi-dimensional stories of how cities work through scalable, intuitive and interactive interfaces. In our first prototype release, we present a simple spatial interface that enables users to query UBDC's public transportation availability data, enabling high resolution (census output areas) transport availability analytics across the United Kingdom.

Research project: Urban Indicators


Lifewide Literacies and Big, Novel Data

A team of psychologists in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow have used Urban Big Data Centre data from the integrated Multimedia City Data Project (iMCD) to analyse and visualise literacy inequalities in Glasgow. In this blog, Dr Catherine Lido explains how the team engages the public with the importance of various literacies through data representations that they can literally reach out and touch.

Research project: Neighbourhoods, housing and educational opportunity


How many landlords are there in Scotland?

How many landlords are there in Scotland? You'd be forgiven for assuming this is a simple enquiry with a simple response. However, despite its growth, the private rented sector remains difficult to study. In this blog, UBDC Associate Director Nick Bailey explores the diverse datasets that could be used to attempt to answer this question and explains the public value of getting a credible answer.

Research project: Private rented housing and social justice


Urban design patterns to support independent living for older people

Jan Kazak, a researcher from the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences in Poland, visited the Urban Big Data Centre on a four-week fellowship via the SASNet programme. During his time here he worked with our iMCD Household Survey and Travel Diary data on a short project to study aspects of urban design - land use, accessibility of services and facilities and neighbourhood attributes - and the relationship of these aspects to the lifestyles of elderly people.


Students’ digital practices in post-digital environments

One of the most interesting areas of research at UBDC - particularly within our iMCD programme and subsequent leading-edge research based on iMCD data - is the use of wearable devices by research participants to gather detailed data. We soon found that others working on a variety of research topics wanted to not only use the knowledge we had gained from doing this but also to borrow our wearable devices to collect data. Lavinia Hirsu, a researcher at University of Glasgow’s School of Education, was one of the first and she tells her story in this blog.


How much does it cost to rent a private property in your area?

When the Urban Big Data Centre met with the Office for National Statistics to work together on experimenting with the use of big data in compiling official statistics, we were all excited by the possibilities. ONS has been exploring a number of areas using big data, including using machine learning to identify caravans in Zoopla data. In this blog, Nigel Henretty of the ONS Public Policy Division explores the reasoning and methods behind his investigation of Zoopla data, obtained from the UBDC’s data collections, for possible future use in compiling official national statistics.


Invisible Fissures in the Glasgow Housing Market: Finding a neighbourhood that feels like home

The Urban Big Data Centre’s University of Sheffield team, in collaboration with University of Glasgow colleagues and others, are investigating a range of issues around diverse populations within cities, and what their neighbourhoods and movements mean for urban life and urban economies. This blog shows how data might be used to help understand different neighbourhoods in a single city, and how that might assist people determine which neighbourhood might suit them best.

Research project: Population movements and economic effect, Urban Transformations


The Full Potential of Social Care Data: A UBDC Researcher’s work with Renfrewshire Council

Individual-level data on the social care people receive has been collected by local authorities in Scotland for the last seven years. Apart from an annual aggregate social care survey collected and published by the Scottish Government, this data is seldom used. This blog provides an update on a UBDC PhD project fully under way, with the support of the Scottish Government and Renfrewshire Council, to dig deeper into social care and health data and improve planning and services.

Research project: Renfrewshire Council social care data analysis


Economic Outcomes of Long Term Childhood Poverty

Agent Based Models “simulate the simultaneous operations and interactions of multiple agents [i.e. people, organisations, etc.] in an attempt to re-create and predict the appearance of complex phenomena”. Using national data about poverty in the U.K. and the U.S., UBDC researchers based at the University of Illinois are working on an Agent Based Model of Social Exclusion, with the open source NetLogo platform as their modelling environment. 

Research project: Understanding institutional, geographic and physical causes of social exclusion


Using social media, app and sensor data to inform transport planning

The way we collect and analyse data is changing. People with smart phones can act as ‘sensors’ in urban areas. Inhabitants are able to report real-time information about events or emergencies, as well as their own activities. This has great potential to increase the speed of communication and response-time in urban management, which can then further encourage public engagement in urban management and planning, as people see their input and data having a positive effect. This blog provides an update on our transport research projects using Twitter data and cycling app data.

Research project: Social Transport with Urban Big Data, Cycling app data for urban planning


Mapping People’s Access to Transport and Jobs – The Spatial Urban Data System (SUDS)

This blog explains how - by using our own Spatial Urban Data System (SUDS) - we're measuring and mapping people’s access to public transport services, jobs, and public services to identify areas suffering from ‘transport poverty’ and estimate the number of people living in those deprived areas. Where government and local authorities aim to reducing social and spatial inequalities, they will benefit from this work by incorporating it into their planning analysis, and use it to support distributing investment on urban infrastructure and design more effectively.

Research project: Urban Indicators


The (multi-million pound) potential of landlord register data

In some parts of the UK, individuals are required to register with their local authority if they wish to rent out properties. In England, landlord registration operates in only a handful of authorities. But in Scotland, we have mandatory registration for the whole country. In this blog Nick Bailey explains why we, as urban researchers, would also like access to these data and explores the public value in making them available.

Research project: Private rented housing and social justice


Using Zoopla adverts to examine the private rented sector

The Urban Big Data Centre has purchased data from property website Zoopla, including historical online adverts back to 2010 for the whole of Britain. These data have the potential to fill gaps in our knowledge about the housing market - not just housing sales but also the private rental market. We are currently examining the quality of the data and its potential for use in making accurate estimates of the private rented sector. Although at an early stage, the results are very encouraging and we are sharing some of the results in this blog.

Research project: Private rented housing and social justice


UBDC intern provides UCAS application insights

The financial implications of taking the step into higher education have changed in recent years, including maintenance grants - given to students from the most deprived backgrounds - replaced by a loan and increasing tuition fees. This has caused concern amongst education experts who have noted that students from disadvantaged backgrounds may be deterred from applying for higher education courses due to the amount of debt they could accumulate. Q-Step intern Euan Murphie worked with the UCAS data in our collection to examine differences in the number of applications and applicants to higher education institutions in Scotland and the UK between 2008 and 2015.


Saving Face - Exploring Methods for Image Anonymisation

Our iMCD project participants wore Autographer lifelogging devices that captured images as they went about their daily lives. Although they were willing to have their activities and interactions recorded, people they encountered would not have been aware they were being photographed. External researchers - after gaining approval - will be able to use our iMCD data sets via UBDC’s third party safe haven provider, so it is important that we anonymise any elements of the data that could raise privacy issues before they are released. In this second blog in our data privacy dialogue series, we take an in-depth look at face detection for our iMCD (integrated Multimedia City Data) project to safeguard privacy.

Research project: Integrated Multimedia City Data (iMCD)


UBDC works with Renfrewshire Council to find insights on private rented housing

The past 10 years have shown major shifts in UK housing: fewer people own their property, while private renting is on the rise. However, there is limited information available on the private rented sector in particular, making it difficult for cities and government to plan for the future. For this reason, the UBDC has linked with Renfrewshire Council to begin early investigations into the potential for using landlord registration data to understand and shape policy around the private rented sector. This blog, and accompanying Data Note, provides key takeaways from our initial analysis.

Research project: Private rented housing and social justice


UBDC researchers earn Best Paper at SIGIR Conference

Best Paper for the prestigious 39th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval was won by Yashar Moshfeghi, Peter Triantafillou and Frank Pollick for their paper ‘Understanding Information Need: an fMRI Study’. The study involved a unique collaboration in the College of Science and Engineering between the School of Computing Science and the School of Psychology to combine experimental techniques of brain imaging and information retrieval.