Cities have long been producers and consumers of ‘big data’ whether it be about its population, economy, transport networks, flows of people along with the impacts of climate change on the built and natural environment. Citizens create much of this data, carrying out everyday transactions, mostly without their knowledge or informed consent. Big data can be derived from a variety of data stores: social media, consumer sites, search engines, smart phone apps, smart utility meters, credit card transactions, CCTV, etc. and whilst big data offers many as-yet-unexploited opportunities for smart cities, the risks to individual privacy and freedom also be taken seriously. 

Cities can benefit hugely from all of this data if they have the methods, tools and techniques to properly interrogate, analyse and interpret this data in meaningful ways. Manchester's Data Science Institute are at the forefront of developing such methods through our urban data science theme to support cities in fully utilising the new opportunities that exist within data science to support cities and urban areas in understanding this emerging area.

Manchester Urban Institute

The mission of the Manchester Urban Institute is to serve as a leading academic urban institute that generates world-class research, achieves high levels of engagement and impact with non-academic stakeholders and trains the next generation of urban activists, decision-makers, researchers and scholars. By bringing together work from across the arts and humanities, the social sciences, business and health they are committed to an increased understanding of the global urban condition - past, present and future - and to studying and changing the world through engaging with a range of global, national and local stakeholders.  The Urban Institute positions the University of Manchester as the leading global location for urban research, with a combined focus on both the global north and global south.

Lead Researchers:

Professor Cecilia Wong

Cecilia is the Executive Director of the SPA Laboratory. Her research has spanned housing, urban regeneration and regional development, with professional experience in both the UK and China. She uses quantitative methods to analyse very large data sets, in projects such as Eco-Urbanisation she uses GIS to coordinate and analyse the data which is generated. The project attempt to identify innovative practices and effective strategies to manage and plan for sustainable urbanisation in China through the interactive process between urban development, resource consumption, and environmental impacts.

Professor Richard Kingston

Richard is the Deputy Director of the SPA Laboratory. Richard's research focuses on the role of technology and spatial data analysis in supporting all forms of the planning and development process. His research brings together three areas of work: Smart Cities, Public Participation GIS, and Planning Support Systems. For the ESRC funded project, commute-flow, Richard developed 9 classification groups and 40 sub-groups using GIS to analyse the data. Commute-flow forms part of the ESRC's Secondary Data Analysis Initiative programme which has developed an online toolkit for better planning of transport infrastructure.

Professor Sarah Lindley

Sarah is a Professor of Geography within the School of Environment, Education and Development. She is a quantitative geographer specialising in the use of geospatial analysis to understand the outcomes of human-environment interactions. Her main research interests are associated with urban air pollution, climate adaptation and urban ecosystem services. Much of her research activity is motivated by the need to develop sustainable responses to current and future environmental challenges. She therefore often work in multi-disciplinary teams and in collaboration with stakeholders. To complement this activity on hazards, I have recently been working to develop an improved understanding of the climate-related social vulnerability patterns underlying the potential for differential impacts. I have since worked on a UK wide index of socio-spatial vulnerability funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which was subsequently developed into the Climate Just information tool.

Dr Nuno Pinto

Nuno is a lecturer in urban planning and design. His main research interests focus on the use of quantitative approaches to urban planning, namely on: decision support in planning, urban simulation, land-use and transport interaction and big data in urban studies. He was the recipient of the Breheny Prize for the best paper in 2010 in Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, a leading academic journal in the field of urban modeling and urban planning. Nuno has a PhD in planning by the School of Architecture of Barcelona, BarcelonaTech, in Spain, and holds two Master degrees in planning (University of Porto, Portugal, and BarcelonaTech, Spain). He is also a charted Civil Engineer (University of Coimbra, Portugal).

Dr James Rothwell

James is a Reader in Physical Geography at the University of Manchester with expertise in water quality, soil pollution, hydrology and environmental modelling. His research interests include the stores, behaviour, fate and transport of pollutants in the environment. Much of my work addresses the hydrological and biogeochemical processes that affect trace metal and nutrient cycling. I work in a range of systems including peat bogs, forests and urban environments. My research involves catchment scale process work, laboratory and field experiments, analysis of spatial and temporal monitoring data, and GIS/statistical modelling.



Dr Lei Wang

Lei is a Hallsworth China Political-Economy Fellow within the laboratory, his research interests include spatial development in China and its sustainable challenges in the process of rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. The research analysis uses eastern China as the empirical test bed to allow meaningful analysis of the dynamic process of change. He collects land use change data and social-economic data to detect the spatial restructuring process and its mechanisms in the Yangtze River Delta. To analyse the data, GIS-based statistical methods and spatial modelling are used. 

Further Researchers across the University: 

Professor Clive Agnew

Clive is an applied climatologist and hydro-meteorologist working on problems of environmental degradation and environmental status assessment. He has worked extensively in both the drylands and the wetlands of Africa, Europe and the Middle East, developing strategies for the improved management of water shortages at local and regionallevels. His current work involves studies of wetland hydrology in the UK with an emphasis up boundary layer fluxes and assessing the spatial variability of climate change predictions. There are three main strands to his current work: hydro-meteorological investigation of boundary layer fluxes, climatological analysis of the impacts of climate change and hydrological responses to restoration of degraded peatlands.

Professor Norman Paton

Norman is a Professor in the School of Computer Science, his research focuses on distributed information management for challenging environments and applications. This includes pay-as-you-go data integration, data wrangling, sensor network query processing and autonomic computing. The development of effective techniques for improving computer support for data intensive applications is one of the major areas of activity in computer science research.

Current areas of interest in computer science include: 1) Autonomic systems: enabling distributed systems to adapt their behaviour automatically to reflect changes in their execution environment. 2) Data integration: reducing the cost of developing and maintaining applications that combine data from multiple databases or analysis environments. He is currently involved in projects including an EPSRC Programme Grant on Adding Value to Data (VADA) and Manchester's Smart City Demonstrator (CityVerve).