- Course: CDT for Data Analytics and Society
- PhD title: Building estimates of the ambient population: A case study of Leeds City Centre
- Nationality: English
Annabel Whipp is studying for an integrated PhD as part of the Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy research group, and is supervised by Dr Nick Malleson. Her research, titled ‘Building estimates of the ambient population: A case study of Leeds City Centre,’ is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Annabel carries out her research in partnership with Leeds City Council.
Studying the ‘ambient population’ of Leeds City
‘Ambient population’ describes an average total of people in or passing through a certain area over a specific timeframe. Insight into population estimates in urban areas, Annabel explained, can give useful insight to different organisations for a variety of applications in the real-world. Working directly with Leeds City Council has enabled Annabel to achieve her research goals, while also providing the Council with valuable insight.
Annabel said: “Leeds City Council’s interest in the ambient population stems from an understanding of the benefits of being able to quantify the number of people in an urban space. Estimates of the ambient population have a wide range of applications, including in the retail sector and emergency planning, and are a cornerstone of policymaking.
Leeds City Council’s interest in the ambient population stems from an understanding of the benefits of being able to quantify the number of people in an urban space.
“During my Masters programme I was given the opportunity to undertake an internship with the city centre management team at Leeds City Council. “This allowed me to develop an insight into how the data could be used on a day-to-day basis for a range of purposes, for example understanding how there has been a shift in the geographical location of the night-time economy in Leeds.”
Estimates of the ambient population have a wide range of applications... and are a cornerstone of policymaking.
Using data to benefit society
In addition to her research, Annabel is Secretary for Leeds Data Science Society and is involved with Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA). Her involvement demonstrates both her passion for her subject and interest in how the vast amounts of data collected in the research can be used to benefit society.
“In the media, we often hear the negative impacts of collecting individual level data, but there are so many ways in which this data can be used for social good,” Annabel said.
“Not only do I want to show that through my work, but it is also something I am passionate about communicating through my partnership with Leeds City Council and my work with Leeds Data Science Society.”
She continued: “Despite all the existing datasets, we have a reasonably limited knowledge about the dynamics of population throughout a 24-hour period. Developing a framework of how to build estimates of the ambient population will bring us a lot closer to better understanding the movements of individuals through urban space.”
Developing a framework... will bring us a lot closer to better understanding the movements of individuals through urban space.
The supportive community of researchers at Leeds, Annabel explained, encourages postgraduate researchers to share ideas and work together.
“My supervisory team have been a great support throughout my MSc and PhD. Regular meetings with my supervisors allow us to share ideas and resources,” Annabel said.
“Being part of the Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy (CSAP) and LIDA has given me the opportunity to share my work with researchers from a range of academic backgrounds and to benefit from their knowledge and experience.”
Being part of the CSAP and LIDA has given me the opportunity to... benefit from their knowledge and experience.
Annabel continued: “My research allows me to have an incredibly varied working week. It can vary between working on extensive literature reviews that encompass research from a range of disciplines, to considering the ethical impacts of data usage and writing my own code to analyse data.
“Undertaking my PhD has allowed me to take on additional roles, such as a teaching assistant for undergraduate BA Geography modules, the secretary of Leeds Data Science Society and the postgraduate representative for CSAP.
“Not only have I had the opportunity to further develop technical, academic skills, but also transferable skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership.”
Applying for a PhD
Annabel applied to study an integrated PhD as a continuation of her undergraduate studies. She was encouraged to apply by her thesis supervisor.
Annabel said: “My third-year dissertation supervisor, Professor Alexis Comber, recommended that I apply for an opportunity at a new Economic and Social Research Council funded Centre for Doctoral Training.
“During my undergraduate degree in BA Geography I had a strong interest in data and the potential benefits that it could add to our understanding of society.
“The ability to use data for impactful research and be part of a team at the forefront of urban analytics research made the University of Leeds an obvious choice when choosing where to pursue further education.”
During my undergraduate degree... I had a strong interest in data and the potential benefits that it could add to our understanding of society.
Annabel explained she would like to continue her research into urban analytics beyond completing her PhD. She said:
“After completing my PhD, I plan to continue with my research. I would like the opportunity to tie my work on ambient populations into crime studies, particularly into producing crime rates.
Annabel added: “Urban analytics research has a huge role to play as urban areas continue to expand and it would be a privilege to be a part of that.”