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£1.8m for new smart data research

21 May 2024 

Smart Data Research UK is awarding seven research teams with funding under its accelerator scheme.  

The £1.8 million scheme was created to support innovative projects that explore how to create, access, and use smart data more effectively. 

Smart data is generated through everyday interactions with digital devices, including mobile apps, digital marketplaces, social media, wearables, satnavs, sensors and smart technology. If used for scientific research, smart data can change our world. It can help us to understand important social challenges – from disease prevention to climate change.   

The funded projects include linking data from video game play to better understand how gaming affects mental health and using social media data to predict changes to house prices.  

Each project addresses a research challenge and will contribute to the broader long-term transformation in this field led by Smart Data Research UK.

“We are committed to investing in the UK’s capability to realise the potential of data and enable scientific breakthroughs. These innovative projects are about discovering what’s possible, solving problems and paving the way for others to follow.”    

Stian Westlake, Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

“Whenever we use digital services, we generate valuable data that can be reused for research. However, researchers at the forefront of data science face significant challenges. These projects will help us make it easier for smart data to be used safely to help solve social and economic challenges.  

“From using internet data to map economic activities in the UK to exploring the impact of video games on mental health, these initiatives will deliver valuable insights that can inform policy and enhance our understanding of significant societal issues.”  

Joe Cuddeford, Director of Smart Data Research UK

The funded projects  

An atlas of economic activities in the UK: tapping into web archives for social science research 

This project will use the internet, one of the largest sources of smart data, to map economic activities in the UK at an unprecedented level of detail. The project aims to show the value of the internet as an untapped source of smart data and create tools for the broader science community to use. New tools will allow for the continuous monitoring and mapping of economic activities. These can support policymakers to understand how economic activity evolves over time and in different geographic places.  

Led by Professor Emmanouil Tranos, University of Bristol  

Capturing the digital footprints of video game play 

Almost half the world’s population, including 80% of UK children, regularly play video games. Yet we still have limited knowledge about how gaming is related to players’ mental health. By linking gameplay data with mental health data, this project will provide a new platform that can help policymakers and industry better understand how gaming affects the mental health of players. 

Led by Professor Andrew Przybylski, University of Oxford   

Integrated analysis of social media and hedonic house prices for neighbourhood change 

Hedonic house pricing is about understanding how local factors, such as schools, transport and the neighbourhood, affect house prices. This project aims to establish innovative methods for analysing neighbourhood changes using social media data and hedonic house price models. It will focus on identifying gentrification and its impact on local housing markets. 

Led by Professor Alexis Comber, University of Leeds  

An acceptability and governance foundation for linking participant retailer loyalty card records to UK longitudinal population studies 

This project aims to identify the best way to link smart data from loyalty card schemes to data from longitudinal population studies. Linking shopping records with these long-term studies can improve the data and provide new insights into how people behave and trends in the population. 

Led by Dr Anya Skatova, University of Bristol 

Linking digital footprint and survey data for open research 

This project will improve how browser and social media information can be anonymised and linked to survey data responses. Researchers can then use this data to help answer a range of important research questions, such as what determines our exposure to news and entertainment sources and how this affects our political choices, feelings toward other people and trust in governing institutions.  

Led by Professor Rachel Gibson, University of Manchester  

Mobilising gender data 

This project aims to capture and understand gender differences in everyday mobility data using geographic smart data collected from people’s interactions with mobile apps. 

Led by Dr Alessia Calafiore, University of Edinburgh  

Developing a framework to measure and correct biases in human mobility data extracted from digital footprints 

One problem with mobility data is that it can be biased, overrepresenting certain groups and under-representing others. This can make it difficult to determine how applicable research findings are to the overall population. This project aims to develop a way to quantify and adjust existing biases in smart data on human mobility so that research can be trusted and more broadly adopted.  

Led by Professor Francisco Rowe, University of Liverpool  

For more information, please contact the Smart Data Research UK communications team at smartdataresearch@ukri.org

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