ADAPT fellowship: smart approaches to influencing sustainable behaviour change

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Institute for Transport Studies


This EPSRC/LWEC Challenge Fellowship addresses the question "How can our cities, their hinterlands, linking infrastructure, rural surround and the regions they are in, be transformed to be resilient, sustainable, more economically viable and generally better places to live?". By 2050 it is probable that 80% of the world's population will live in urban centres, and as transport is a very significant contributor to global carbon emissions, as well as road congestion and urban air quality problems, it is important that everyone is encouraged to rethink their personal mobility behaviour.

It is particularly important to encourage people to reduce urban car travel. However, increasingly our daily travel is also disrupted by weather as environmental changes are impacting on climatic patterns. Managing transport infrastructure affected by flooding, wind and extreme temperatures means that operators and authorities need to reduce demand on the network at such times for safety reasons. Messaging requirements are different between normal and emergency situations but the experience of disruption can also enable us to change our habitual behaviours.

I investigate how to influence people to take voluntary action for mitigating and adapting to environmental change. My research combines computing science (persuasive technologies, human computer interaction and argumentation theory) with transport studies (geography, statistics, social science) to promote voluntary travel behaviour change to support adapting to and mitigating environmental change.

I will explore and develop persuasive but ethical argumentation-based tools for supporting individual behaviour change for sustainable transport through the flow of information directed to the travelling public, in both normal and emergency situations, using available technologies such as Smartphones, web applications, customer information screens and variable message signs.

Using persuasive technologies to influence behaviour change is an emerging area for transport research, though it is well established in other fields such as healthcare. There is growing interest in applying a practical argumentation approach to behaviour change, as it is self-evident that theories of behaviour change and persuasion (which underpin many existing behaviour change interventions, in transport, environment, energy and health, both on and off line) involve making use of arguments.

As a result of this work there will be new ways to communicate persuasive arguments and solutions for making large and small changes to the way we travel. We will then be able to make decisions about our daily transport needs with confidence, knowing that we have the best information about the consequences for ourselves and for wider society.

For example, improved information and more effective arguments may help more car drivers to have the confidence to use Park & Ride and Rail Parkway Stations to access urban centres. This will be of practical value in reducing road congestion and urban air pollution.

Planned Impact

The research will generate novel algorithms for use in travel planning and transport behaviour ICT. Letters of Support have been supplied by ATOC, Cleanweb UK, Department for Transport, Ecolane Ltd, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Transport Systems Catapult and TravelAi Ltd. The seven Project Partners have indicated high levels of commitment to engage with the research by offering in-kind support. This support ranges from hosting knowledge exchange activities, co-development of research, providing advice (including through the Advisory Board), access to stakeholders, access to data and user groups and potential to trial or prototype applications and best practice guidance.
As shown by the Letters of Support from DfT and SEPA, policy and practice communities will benefit from the insights into effective behaviour change interventions that will be developed. Creating practical outputs for policy and practice communities is an explicit objective of the programme. Stakeholder liaison with this community (transport and travel behaviour change in particular) is embedded in the methodology, and it is anticipated that there will be a significant advance in knowledge of how to construct effective behaviour change interventions. For example, scoping discussions with travel behaviour change professionals (the North East Scotland Transport partnership (NESTRANS) GETABOUT manager and a former First Group sustainability director) indicated that many local authority travel behaviour change teams have to generate their own web-site content or use marketing agencies, and content creation is currently more of a craft than a science, with limited understanding of which elements are genuinely effective, as most measures are delivered in packages of soft and hard policy interventions. CleanwebUK offers the opportunity to become engaged with their network of web developers through their Meet-ups and Hackdays and TSC can provide access to a large network in transport ICT. Having ATOC, Ecolane Ltd and TravelAi Ltd as Project Partners offers a more direct route to knowledge transfer.
The Institute for Transport Studies also has a West Yorkshire Transport Innovation Fund partnership with the Combined Authority where both organisations have pledged £100k over three years to develop joint research and to ensure deployment of state of art insights. My proposal will be able to take advantage of this agreement to leverage impact from my Fellowship.
The research approach embeds public engagement with the issue of transport behaviour change as well as issues relating to the acceptability of persuasive technologies in the methodological process from the outset. The research team will also facilitate two-way engagement with the general public through structured participation in public science events (large events such as the Leeds Festival of Science held as part of British Science Week and small, such as public engagement outreach events such as Pechakucha or Café Scientifique or even Code the City hackathons) reaching out to all demographics. This will contribute to raising public understanding of the science involved in transport ICT, persuasive technology and argumentation.
Stakeholder liaison, knowledge exchange and public engagement activities are all described in the Case for Support. The staged nature of the research programme means there will be publicly reportable outputs from year one. Resources have been requested to support a sustainable level of participation in Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement by the PI and RAs over the life of the project, utilising public science events, University of Leeds initiatives and through self-generated opportunities using public science and policy networks.


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Pangbourne K (2019) Questioning mobility as a service: Unanticipated implications for society and governance in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice

Description Scottish Parliament Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee Event
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Description Transport Scotland NTS2 Strategic Framework Working Group
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Description Collaborative work with Dr Simon Wells (Edinburgh Napier) on argumentation for behaviour change 
Organisation Edinburgh Napier University
Department Health and Social Care
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Pangbourne and Wells are working together on aspects relevant to Work Package 1 of the ADAPT fellowship work programme where we share common interests.
Collaborator Contribution Pangbourne and Wells are working together on aspects relevant to Work Package 1 of the ADAPT fellowship work programme where we share common interests. Wells (Edinburgh Napier) initiated discussion on a submission to the European Conference on Argumentation. This crystallised into an abstract which was accepted as a poster. The conference is in June 2017.
Impact An abstract has been accepted as a poster for the 2nd European Conference on Argumentation. It is multi-disciplinary: computing science and transport studies.
Start Year 2016
Description Collaborative work with Professor Judith Masthoff on WP2 of ADAPT fellowship workprogramme 
Organisation University of Aberdeen
Department Institute of Medical Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Pangbourne and Masthoff are working together on stated preference experiments in relation to WP2 of the ADAPT Fellowship work programme. Pangbourne works on the scenarios, use case, message construction and participant segmentation aspects.
Collaborator Contribution Pangbourne and Masthoff are working together on stated preference experiments in relation to WP2 of the ADAPT Fellowship work programme. Masthoff works on the coding and algorithmic aspects.
Impact The first experiment of this collaboration is still under development.
Start Year 2016
Description Guest Lecture (UCL) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited to give a guest lecture to students on the Masters in Behaviour Change at UCL. There were 11 attendees, and the lecture and activity was incorporated within their curriculum. The lecture focused on the ADAPT project approach to travel behaviour change and elements of research design to help them with their dissertation design.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Invited seminar (Manchester) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited to give a seminar at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, as part of their seminar series for the 2016/17 academic year (23rd March 2017). The audience was a mix of third sector cycling advocacy groups, transport practitioners, academics, students (UG and PG) and interested members of the public who are on the distribution list for the Tyndall Centre. There were between 50 and 60 attendees. There was a vibrant discussion after the presentation, with one or two conversations continuing privately afterwards. The talk was entitled Travel behaviour change and climate change: communicating better and focused on describing the premise for the ADAPT project and possible outcomes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Public Lecture (York) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Invited lecture to the Yorkshire and District Geographical Association/Royal Geographical Society regional branch, on the possible impacts of autonomous vehicles. 54 people attended the lecture at Bootham School in York, with non-members paying a small entry fee to the organisers. Many of the audience were VIth form A-level geography students, there was vigorous discussion afterwards, and one onward contact from an A level student investigating autonomous vehicles for his Extended Project Qualification.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Seminar (University of Exeter) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A seminar to present the early stages of the ADAPT fellowship work on travel behaviour change communication was given to the Geography Department of the University of Exeter, by invitation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017