Urban Big Data Centre

The Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) is a research centre jointly funded by the ESRC and the University of Glasgow (UKRI ES/L011921/1), currently in its second phase (UKRI ) of activity. As an ESRC investment, it promotes the accessibility, use and upskilling around data to tackle social inequalities. UBDC launched in 2014 with workpackages focussing on Transport, Sustainability, Housing and Education, with Urban Governance and Urban Sensing & Analytics being added at the beginning of the second phase, and as a necessary response to circumstances, Urban Impacts of COVID-19 in early 2020.  Work in each domain promotes the use of big  and novel data, for innovative research, with the aim of improving social, economic and environmental well-being in our cities. The first phase of UBDC yielded 176 publications, 79 partnerships, 416 engagement activities, 55 policy related outputs, 19 databases/ models and 22 software/ technical products.

The Education & Skills Workpackage has always centred on educational disadvantage, or marginalisation, embedded within place, its separate strands exploring Secondary Schools, Further Education, Higher Education and wider Learning City frameworks for educational inclusion in regional contexts.

The workpackage team consists of myself, Prof Catherine Lido, alongside Prof Mike Osborne, Prof Keith Kintrea, Dr Muir Houston and our Research Fellow Dr Phil Mason, and we are complemented by three funded studentships for Colin Mack, Brittney Murphy and Barry Black.

We have two affiliated projects which featured in recent UBDC news blogs: VisNET, which evaluates virtual networking to support early-career women in engineering and technology in academic, and Gendered Journeys in STEM, which explores gendered inequalities in India, Rwanda and the UK using diverse data strands.

A large accomplishment of Phase 1 was the creation of the integrated Multimedia City Data Project, UBDC’s first ‘open data product’, which is accessible via ubdc.ac.uk and was featured in our recent Data Dives webinar series (to be launched as an educational resource in early 2021). This work included a survey of over 1500 households, supplemented by a one-day travel diary, a subset of GPS data collected over one week, and Lifelogging Camera images, collected over a 48-hour period. These components were contextualised with a year’s worth of social media capture, as may be accessed from the UBDC searchable Twitter Dashboard.

Following a large-scale review of existing measures we created the Understanding Glasgow Survey, which assessed attitudes, literacies and behaviours in the following areas: Education & skills, Sustainability, Transport, Cultural & civic participation, and ICT & technology. The survey was collected via stratified random postcode sampling (by Ipsos Mori), and yielded 2,095 useable survey responses from adults aged from 16 to 102 years (average age, 49.42 years), 45.7% of whom were female. Part of this work included operationalising UNESCO Learning City indicators as far as possible using survey and administrative measures, and has led to the academic outputs listed below (e.g., Lido et al., 2016; Lido et al., 2018), as well as extensive community engagement and impact (notably the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences held at IKEA, and MossFest in Mugdock Country Park). Finally, team members have made expert contributions at international conferences in Bali (Indonesia), St Petersburg (Russia) and Izmir (Turkey), and, most notably, have sat on UNESCO’s expert panel on Learning City Metrics (held in Singapore in 2019), and contributed to the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Big Data conference in collaboration with Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology in 2018. Lifelong Learning.

However, the Educational Disadvantage and Place Workpackage within UBDC extends far beyond iMCD-related data, as the team continues to work on data acquisition and producing impactful outputs using datasets that are securely held in the eDRIS National Safe Haven, namely secondary school (provided by ScotXed), Further Education (Scottish Funding Council) and Higher Education (Higher Education Statistics Agency) datasets, some of which are linked to other data sources, such as area deprivation (SIMD) and public access to greenspace.

In terms of educational inequalities in schools, we have produced some initial findings using Greater Glasgow schools data, including the British Council Impact project. In addition, Barry Black’s PhD-related work has featured heavily in the recent policy debate about SQA exam results. Barry’s research on the algorithm used to moderate exam results this year featured heavily in the press and in policy. His research featured as part of the Scottish Parliament’s evidence into the issue. He has continued to offer expertise and commentary regarding the 2021 exam diet. This has included articles targeted at a range of audiences in publication such as The Daily RecordThe Scotland on Sundayand TES Scotland.

Our team’s final strand of research extends beyond formal educational administrative datasets, and their potential linkages, to the UNESCO framework of transforming Learning Cities.  Some of our aforementioned iMCD publications illustrate learning city inclusion by triangulating novel data strands, for instance to explore learning engagement of older learners in Glasgow in Lido et al. (2016), in particular in the context of greenspace (Lido et al., 2020). However, more recently our Learning Cities work has led to the publication of several policy briefing papers in the area of Digital Inclusion (Lido, Hirsu & Wessels, In Press), and Sustainable Learning Cities (Osborne & Hernandez, 2020), which provided the background for the 2019 Fourth International Conference on Learning Cities (Medellin, Colombia).

More recently the strand has been producing open source blogs and webinars on the COVID-19 crisis and potential post-COVID-19 recovery in learning cities. For example, we considered the potentially widening digital inequalities in our piece “New ways of engaging during lockdown: turning to the digital at different costs” (Lido & Hirsu, 2020), and, through our partnership with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and the PASCAL International Observatory, our ongoing work in the area of health and wellbeing in cities gave rise to our article “Promoting mental health and well-being in EccoWell2 Communities” (Kearns & Lido, 2020).  UBDC’s fruitful collaboration with UNESCO and PASCAL is best illustrated by the recorded Webinar series on Learning City challenges for COVID-19 recovery, each of which attracted approximately 500 global participants, and gave rise to an accompanying summary paper. for instance, “The challenge of measurement, planning and evaluation in learning cities”, moderated by Prof Catherine Lido and with closing remarks by Prof Mike Osborne.

Our workpackage continues to build upon our strong work advocating #LearningInclusion in all forms of learning throughout the lifecourse, including #LifewideLearning, as well as linking with our workpages in UBDC in the area of housing and transport. We continue to create partnerships such as that in Data Literacy with our #LifeinData project partners. Our work calls for a ‘blurring of the lines’ between the qualitative and quantitative realms, the adoption of big and novel approaches, reaching across disciplinary boundaries, and tapping underused data, to triangulate diverse data strands and explore new stories of place-embedded educational inequalities, contextualised with linked and often naturally occurring data. In this way, we continue to complement our existing administrative data with other data from social media, social networks and lived experiences, particularly in the areas of digital inclusion, intersectional, particularly gendered, inequalities and place-based inequalities in education.

PI: Professor Nick Bailey (Urban Studies)

Education Co-Is: Professor Catherine Lido (Associate Director), Professor Mike Osborne, Dr Muir Houston, Dr Phil Mason

PhD students: Barry Black and Colin Mack

For more information on our workpackage within UBDC, please email [email protected] or [email protected]


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