York City Environment Observatory: Diagnostic Phase

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Environment

Abstract

By the middle of this century, two thirds of the world's population will be urban - equivalent to around 6.3 billion people. Mismanagement of these urban areas will adversely affect the health and well-being (i.e. how people experience their lives and flourish) of the population, and lead to social and environmental injustice. It has long been recognised that good quality cultural, social, built and natural environments within cities provide benefits in terms of health, well-being and equity of urban residents. Conversely, poor quality environments negatively affect the health and well-being of citizens and have negative economic consequences. With increasing urbanisation and changes in climate, the built, cultural, social and natural environments within cities will come under further pressure.

While the relationships between selected environment quality parameters, such as noise and air pollution and health, have been well characterised, relatively little is known about the relationship between other quality measures, or endpoints, of economic and societal well-being and health. A major reason for this limited understanding is that while much data on city environments exist, this is fragmented across numerous data owners, is not joined up or at suitable granularity. As these existing datasets have been collected for other reasons, they are not always in a form where they are useful for a wide variety of purposes or for future needs. Data on some important parameters simply does not yet exist. Additionally, specialists in the different disciplines needed to tackle these complex issues often work in isolation. By bringing data together, breaking down barriers across research disciplines and exploiting and developing new monitoring, modelling and analytical technologies (e.g. wireless sensing networks, wearable devices, drones, crowdsourcing, 3D models of cities and virtual reality), it should be possible to provide a holistic analysis of the quality of the environment with a city that can be used by many different stakeholders (e.g. researchers, policy makers, planners, businesses and the public) to address their needs. This holistic analysis will then provide us with a better understanding of how to manage city environments and will provide long-term benefits to citizens and the economy.

The York City Environment Observatory (YCEO) initiative will address this major knowledge gap by providing a framework, tools and conceptual models at the urban scale that can be rolled-out to assist with governance of environments in York and other cities in the UK and around the world. In this diagnostic phase project, experts from a diverse range of sectors and disciplines, will work together in a holistic way to design and lay the groundwork for establishing the YCEO. The consortium will work with a range of stakeholders and look to the past, present and future in trying to diagnose and predict environmental issues for York and their associated human health and well-being and economic impacts. We will build on York's strong track record in open data and combine data and models in order to do this. This diagnostic project will allow us to develop a prototype design for the YCEO, to be implemented within the next five years and a roadmap for achieving this. The YCEO will be designed to provide the evidence-base for making decisions on how best to manage and enhance the social, cultural, built and natural environment across city systems now and into the future, and in this way, improve the health, well-being and equity of citizens and the economy of the city. The YCEO will also aid local, national and international stakeholders (including planners, businesses, residents and community groups) to come up with low cost and innovative solutions to a range of problems identified as part of this diagnostic phase of the Urban Living Partnership.

Planned Impact

The primary aim of the York City Environment Observatory (YCEO) is to improve the environment of York and other cities in order to provide benefits to health, well-being and the economy. The results of the study will be beneficial to a range of stakeholders both within York and elsewhere around the world, including the research community, city decision makers, national government departments, citizens, large and small businesses and future generations of the different sectors. Benefits to individual sectors include:

Citizens and Communities - As the primary aim of the Observatory is to generate the knowledge and understanding to improve the environment of York and other cities, citizens will benefit in the long-term from improved health, wellbeing and quality of life. Citizens and community groups will also benefit from active participation and contribution (e.g. through citizen science activities) to the project.

Researchers - The YCEO will provide researchers from the environmental, health and social science and the humanities sectors with the models and datasets they need in their research to more fully understand the links between the quality of the environment, health and well-being and the economy.

Decision makers - For the first time, the City of York Council and other decision makers (e.g. the Environment Agency; NHS trusts) in the city will have the holistic intelligence they need to make evidence-based decisions on the design and operation of the city environment to benefit citizens. The availability of the YCEO will mean that they are better placed to demonstrate the impacts of different interventions (e.g. designation of the city as an ultra-low emission zone; changes in transport policy) on the environment of York and the resulting implications for health, well-being and the city economy. Much of the knowledge and understanding will be transferable to other cities in the UK and elsewhere in the world meaning that the benefits will be reaped beyond York.

Businesses and cultural and heritage organisations - The deployment of YCEO and the use of the knowledge coming out of the Observatory will result in long-term improvements to the environment of York resulting in benefits (e.g. a safer environment; a more attractive environment; healthier and happier workers) to a wide range of businesses and cultural and heritage organisations that operate in York resulting in enhancements to the economy of the city. The learnings from the YCEO will also be relevant more broadly so these benefits will be realised in other urban areas across the Globe. York and non-York businesses involved in the development of innovative approaches to monitoring of the environment and of the collation, organisation and analysis of big data will have a test bed to allow them to develop, evaluate and demonstrate their technologies (e.g. apps, sensor technologies or novel approaches to data analytics) in a timely manner.

Future researchers, business innovators and decision makers - Postgraduate and undergraduate students, schools and colleges will benefit from access to a unique training environment allowing them to develop the skill sets and knowledge required to solve complex city problems in the future. The development of the open data platform will create further opportunities for "innovators" to use and re-engineer newly available data to create new products and services.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project has identified and prioritised the perceptions of different stakeholders in the city of what are the positive and negative characteristics of York's natural, built and cultural environment. A York City Environment Observatory section of City of York Council's open data platform has been developed and populated with around 1000 environmental datasets that are available to all. Through a series of expert workshops, we have established the data availability and data needs to answer key questions around the quality of the environment of the city. A prototype software tool has been developed that employs existing data and knowledge with real time measurements and model predictions to provide different stakeholders on the use of the river for recreation.
Exploitation Route We are working with the City Council to continue to populate and run the YCEO open data site. A number of proposals have been submitted, or are under development, to put into place some of the monitoring frameworks developed in the project and to develop a decision support tool 'YorDecision' for the city.
Sectors Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Transport

 
Description The project has developed a YCEO Open Data platform that sits on the City of York Council website. This provides access to around 1000 environmental data sets for the city. The results of the project have been communicated to the non-academic community in the city through workshops, a week long event in Parliament Street in the city and through a Research in Focus event. Future events are planned to present the project and the approaches used to school children across the city.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description EPSRC Impact Accelerator Account, Innovation Voucher
Amount £4,200 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2017 
End 06/2018
 
Description Stockholm Environment Institute Urban Initiative
Amount £133,000 (GBP)
Organisation Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2019
 
Title York Open Data (YCEO) 
Description York Open Data is a place for businesses and organisations to publicly share their open data to be used by anybody wishing to make a difference in their local area by having the ability to connect to 100s of up-to-date, searchable data sets. The YCEO section of York Open Data contains almost 1000 openly-accessible datasets relating to health, well-being and the environment in the York area. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The number of users on yorkopendata.org (of which the YCEO section forms a part) has been over 10 thousand since 2015/2016 (this data is not available for the YCEO section in isolation), with over 20 thousand datasets previewed, and over 6 thousand datasets downloaded in 2016/17. Future work could include more detailed analysis of the impacts that result from this activity. 
URL https://www.yorkopendata.org/yceo/
 
Description Arup 
Organisation Arup Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Arup were brought on board to have an expert view on planning and decision making at a design level.
Collaborator Contribution Arup would provide guidance and insight into the design process and into the work that YCEO aimed to achieve.
Impact Arup played an active role in assisting with workshop planning and execution as well as providing much needed insight into the design and requirements of the decision making tool that underpins the YCEO work.
Start Year 2016
 
Description British Geological Survey 
Organisation British Geological Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution NEED TO ADD HERE
Collaborator Contribution NEED TO ADD HERE
Impact The BGS have contributed data to the YCEO project which can inform the decision making tool that it sought to create under work package 4
Start Year 2016
 
Description Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 
Organisation Centre for Sustainable Healthcare
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare were invited to provide insight on health and wellbeing issues surrounding environmental issues.
Collaborator Contribution The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare input to the WP1 work and engagement processes as well as undertaking work understanding NHS perspectives on health and wellbeing.
Impact The Centre has played an important role in assisting with the WP1 research work as well as being available for interpreting the health data that has come from YCEO.
Start Year 2016
 
Description City of York Council 
Organisation City of York Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The YCEO project is jointly led by both the City of York Council (PI: Ian Cunningham) and University of York (PI: Alistair Boxall). In addition to this, CYC lead on Work Package 2, providing open data that can be used in the YCEO project.
Collaborator Contribution The YCEO project is jointly led by both the City of York Council (PI: Ian Cunningham) and University of York (PI: Alistair Boxall). In addition to this, CYC lead on Work Package 2, providing open data that can be used in the YCEO project.
Impact The linkages between the CYC and the University have led to completion of the YCEO project. However, during this pilot phase project, it is clear that this partnership will develop, as has been shown by joint proposals submitted for review.
Start Year 2016
 
Description SimOmics 
Organisation Simomics Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution SimOmics were brought into the YCEO project to assist on developing software/interface for the outcomes of the YCEO project.
Collaborator Contribution SimOmics developed, with input from all work packages on the YCEO project, a decision making tool.
Impact As a result of YCEO, SimOmics have developed a decision making tool based on the work that YCEO has undertaken. This work will underpin the technology development that will be present in future funding bids.
Start Year 2016
 
Description The Rivers Trust 
Organisation Rivers Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Rivers Trust were brought onto this project to provide insight on the data that may be available in and around the rivers of York (Foss, Ouse)
Collaborator Contribution The Rivers Trust would supposedly provide data to the YCEO that could be uploaded to the York Open Data platform and used in the architecture of the decision making support tool.
Impact The engagement between the project team and the Rivers Trust was not optimal and as a result, there was limited buy in from the Rivers Trust across the project
Start Year 2016
 
Title Prototype YCEO DSS 
Description A prototype of the YCEO decision support tool has been developed. This prototype uses existing data/knowledge, real time monitoring data and model predictions to make support river users to make decisions on whether or not to use the river on a particular day. This is a prototype at this stage but in the future, we plan to further develop this tool into the 'YorDecision' tool which will be aimed at many more user groups and environmental issues. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact None yet 
 
Description Designing the Observatory 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Designing the Observatory workshop was a YCEO led workshop hosted by the University of York (September 2017). This provided an opportunity for the work package researchers to collaborate with the project consortium to understand how the YCEO application should look and work. The workshop proved to be very important for the development of the decision making support tool that YCEO Work Package 4 aimed to create under the Urban Living Partnership pilot phase. Sessions during the day included understand data needs and data availability
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Festival of the Future City 2017 - Bristol 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The YCEO was represented by Alistair Boxall, Annabel Jenkins and Graham Gill at the Urban Living Partnership event at the Festival of the Future City in Bristol (October 2017). The event was attended by a diverse audience ranging from academics, local stakeholders and the general public. The event included a lively panel debate regarding urbanisation issues and environmental impacts on this. It also provided an opportunity to engage with other cities in the Urban Living Partnership to share ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2017
URL http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/seasons/festival-future-city/
 
Description Planning for Health and Wellbeing Workshop (with Arup) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Members of the YCEO team attended a one day workshop (July 2017, York, UK) hosted by Arup (YCEO consortium partner) titled Planning for Health and Wellebing. Through presentations and group discussions, we explored the links between the built environment and health & wellbeing, especially how technologies and data can be used to improve our knowledge and inform actions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Pre-conference activity for Geographical Association Sixth Form Conference (held at Bootham School, York) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact An activity pack was produced, including background to the YCEO project, key findings and examples of some of the challenges of evidence-based decision making. This was targeted at A-level students who would be attending the Geographical Association Sixth Form Conference, held at Bootham School, York (on 22nd March 2018), at which the YCEO PI (Alistair Boxall) will be speaking. This pre-conference pack was distributed to schools who would be sending pupils, with the intention of creating discussion points, which could be developed further during the day.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at SETAC Asia Pacific Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A twenty minute presentation entitled 'Designing a high density monitoring system for environmental quality in York' was given at the SETAC Asia Pacific meeting in Singapore in September 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description University of York: Research in Focus 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact As the YCEO approached the end of it's first 12 months, we held a 'Research in Focus' event whereby interested academics, consortium members, industry partners and other interested stakeholders were invited to hear about the work achieved. Alistair Boxall led this, talking in depth about the work YCEO had conducted to that date and the future ambitions of the project. The event also served as an opportunity to hold a consortium meeting with the wider YCEO partners who attended the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Urban Living Partnership End of Project Showcase (Leeds) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Hosted by the Leeds University ULP team, the YCEO team presented work from the end of the ULP project. This served as an opportunity to meet with funders and understand future possibilities as well as understanding what the other ULP cities had achieved during their pilot projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description YCEO Showcase Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We held a YCEO showcase event for funders and interested industry partners in March 2018. This served as an opportunity to scope future funding for YCEO as well as showcasing the work that has been completed over the 18 month pilot phase. We also launched a glossy output for the project, highlighting the achievements and future desires for the project team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description YCEO WP1 Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the Work Package 1 activities under the YCEO project, team members spent 3 days presenting work from the YCEO to the general public at a drop-in event on Parliament Street. It is estimate up to 100 people engaged with the researchers over this time period. This event served as a way of learning more about the needs of the York public, as well as providing an outreach opportunity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description York Environmental Sustainability Institute - Project Showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact YCEO was showcased as one of the focus projects during this event. The event included the setting up of a research 'stall', with visitors, including the York Environment Sustainability Institute External Advisory Board, learning more about the project and outcomes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017