Forthcoming Seminars: SDGs, APIs, cities

With the new term now well underway we have some exciting research seminars coming up soon to tell you about.

“Will implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make use of available social and environmental science data?”

Dr Stephen Lintner & Dr Mark Mulligan, King’s College London

Wednesday 3rd February 16:30-18:00 hrs in the Pyramid Room (4th floor of King’s building, Strand campus)

Dr Lintner will review challenges faced during implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and explore the political, policy and operational context of the SDGs.  He will examine the scope and aspirations of the SDGs and the potential issues that may be encountered in their realization. Dr Mulligan will examine demand for SDG metrics and the “big data” challenge in building accessible, reliable and meaningful SDG reporting metrics. He will examine the uncertainties around the datasets available for understanding sustainable development, from both a social and environmental perspective, at the local, national and global scales and some ways forward that might help countries better evaluate any progress being made.


“Why and how open data and an open API standard can improve research, with examples using the National River Flow Archive and the R language.”

Dr Claudia Vitolo, Brunel University London

Friday 12th February 17:15-18:15 in the Pyramid Room (4th floor of King’s building, Strand campus)

Dr Vitolo will discuss the use of data Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to improve access to open hydrological data. The seminar will be interactive with demos using the R language. Feel free to bring your own laptop to work along with the demos. You’ll need R (version >= 3.2.3) and RStudio Desktop (version >= 0.99.491) installed. To make things easier it will also be useful if you have the following R packages installed and up to date: XML2R, RCurl, zoo, rjson, rgdal, sp, stringr, rmarkdown


“Urban hierarchies and scaling laws”

Dr Elsa Arcaute, University College, London

Wednesday 23rd February 16:30-18:00 hrs in the Pyramid Room (4th floor of King’s building, Strand campus)

Dr Arcaute will discuss the issues with the way that we use data to define what a city actually is. Come and find out why this is nowhere near as easy or as straightforward as you think… You’ll find yourself using it to critique every city assessment you see from now on.

Living with climate change – with or without the Paris Agreement

Mike Hulme
Professor of Climate and Culture
King’s College London

Given what has gone before, the Paris Agreement on climate change is certainly an impressive achievement of international negotiation. But what countries will be signing-up to, should they ratify it, is hardly going to reduce the challenges of dealing with a changing climate. And it has very little to contribute to addressing the chronic deficiencies in access for billions of people to basic welfare services, secure livelihoods and political freedoms.

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The Future of Geocomputation

On Friday 18 December, we hosted a workshop on ‘the future of geocomputation’ involving over 30 researchers from across the UK and Ireland. We’re still working to synthesise and write up the discussions that made up the second half of the workshop, but below are the presentations that kicked off the day. Some of the tweets from the day are embedded below but from more see our storify for the day or search #fogeocomp.


To set the context for the day’s discussion we argued that the future of geography is cheap – cheap hardware and software, cheap data and code, and ‘cheap’ (by which we mean simple) interaction with sophisticated geographical models.

 Chris Brunsdon’s Keynote

In his opening keynote, Chris set out an ambitious agenda for geocomputation that called for a deeper understanding of geographical processes, data visualisation (with provocative images from his caricRture  library) and, most challenging of all, Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC).

Chris highlighted some of the problems with GIS and argued that geographers need to rediscover coding for reproducibility, for flexibility and for openness in their research.

 Alison Heppenstall’s Keynote

Alison’s talk rounded out Chris’ preliminaries, highlighting the role that Agent-Based Models (ABMs) could play in deepening our understanding of spatial processes by bringing aspects of the real world and human behaviour into our computational models. We see these as complementary to, rather than competing with, the more statistical aspects explored by Chris.

Alison also highlighted that despite the large number of platforms that have been developed now for agent-based modelling, and its growing use across academia, its adoption and use in policy-making has been limited. Alison puts this down to the great uncertainties that often remain and argued a need for increased focus on model calibration and verification.

Alex Singleton’s Keynote

Finally, Alex wrapped up with his thoughts on how we can train the next generation of students in the tools and concepts that they will need to get to grips with the issues explored by Alison and Chris.

Alex pointed out how ‘point-and-click’, button-pushing GIS classes in undergraduate degree programmes fails to teach anything about the process of data analysis and research and called for us to move beyond ‘sleepy’ geography curricula.


After the keynotes we broke into smaller groups to discuss Training the Next Generation, Data, Tools & Processes and Setting an Agenda for the next 10 Years. We’re still working on summarising and synthesising the discussions from these groups so look out for that soon.

Before finishing and continuing discussions over wine, Andy Evans from University of Leeds outlined plans for the Geocomputation 2017 conference. We’re looking forward to that already but there’s more to come in 2016 first!