Senior Fellowship in the Role of Digital Technology in Understanding, Mitigating and Adapting to Environmental Change

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Computing & Communications

Abstract

Digital technologies have a crucial role to play in helping scientists and other key stakeholders to more deeply understand the natural environment and its complex web of interconnected ecosystems. This deeper understanding also supports the development of more grounded mitigation and adaptation strategies in response to environmental change. This fellowship will enable myself to establish a rich, cross-disciplinary research programme at Lancaster with the goal of carrying out world leading research in the role of digital technologies in deriving such strategies. The research programme is built on three key pillars:

Digital innovation as an enabler. Technology is having a profound impact on the digital economy and many areas of society, but its role in managing environmental change is significantly under-developed. This programme will focus on three major (and complementary) areas of digital innovation, namely the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and data science: IoT has the potential to provide rich, real-time data about many facets of the natural environment at a scale previously unimaginable; cloud computing offers elastic storage and computational capacity to bring together diverse data-sets from different geographical locations and at different scales and open this up to a range of stakeholders; data science provides an abundance of analysis techniques to then make sense of the data and hence to inform mitigation strategies and associated policies.

Science as a conduit. Science has a crucial role in interpreting big data but, crucially, to achieve this, science must change. The programme will investigate how technology can support a paradigm shift in science towards an approach that: i) is more intrinsically open and collaborative through a philosophy of open data, as enabled by the cloud (e.g. including support for citizen science); ii) represents a more integrative, holistic science whereby different scientific disciplines work together, alongside social, data and computer scientists, to facilitate deeper and more meaningful data-driven understanding of ecosystems and their intrinsic complexities (again supported by cloud computing); iii) embraces complex systems thinking taking input from research on ecosystem services, complexity science and systems of systems approaches; iv) recognises the importance of uncertainty and seek technological solutions that help manage uncertainty in all its dimensions and support decision making in an uncertain and complex world.

Impact as intrinsic. One major success of the Digital Economy programme was to develop a research community and set of approaches that emphasised stakeholder engagement and impact on society. This programme builds on this experience and adopts an experimental, agile and iterative methodology involving a close collaboration with a wide range of partners/stakeholders. This inherently participative approach is carefully designed to enable insights and breakthroughs in mitigation and adaptation strategies related to water/food/energy security, national infrastructure and biodiversity loss.

Planned Impact

This is an ambitious programme both in terms of the targeted scientific and technological discovery and also in terms of its intended impact. The impact strategy involves five strands: i) to influencing future research and funding agendas in digital technology and environmental change; ii) to support a paradigm shift in science towards an approach that more intrinsically open and collaborative, integrative, that is data-driven, and that deals intrinsically with complexity and uncertainty; iii) to support the development of well-informed policy policies and strategies for mitigation and adaptation in the face of environmental change; iv) to seek pathways to innovation based on the research results and insights; v) to use a range of novel means, including digital media, to communicate with the general public.

These all require the deep involvement of a range of stakeholders, and having a vibrant community underpins the whole impact strategy. The programme of work therefore emphasises community building and engagement.

One major success of the Digital Economy programme was to develop a research community and set of approaches that emphasised stakeholder engagement and impact on society. This proposed programme builds on this experience and adopts a methodology, called Speedplay developed in the CaTalyST project. Speedplay combines elements of agile, iterative development with principles drawn from action research and participatory design. The former allow experimental projects to be built rapidly with limited resources; the latter allow for a proper understanding of the societal context and needs of stakeholders. Developing this further, in the approach stakeholders are not simply 'involved' in the software development process but they jointly set the research agenda and pro-actively engage in the design and development process.

A range of other mechanisms are also planned to enhance community building and engagement, and the impact of the work, including: i) the organisation of facilitated community events, for information exchange and sharing but also to explore equipping the community to enhance its impact and influence policy; ii) the organisation of a high profile summit focusing on digital technology and LWEC; iii) the production of a set of policy and production notes for the associated LWEC series; iv) the running of an open competition offering five small grants of £10,000 as seed-corn funding for potentially impactful innovations in this space (hence drawing in other parties); v) the production of a series of short films (available through a youtube channel) to communicate results (mirroring an impact strategy used successfully in CaTalyST); vi) the pro-active offering of seminars nationally/internationally on the topic of the research. The PI will also exploit existing links, particularly with research councils and the Belmont Forum to further disseminate the results.

Research collaborations and partnerships are crucial to our mode of working and to our impact strategy, and organisations involved include the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Small World Consulting, JBA Trust, Microsoft Research, the Alan Turing Institute, the JRC Science Hub, the Environment Agency and the Digital Catapult. The LWEC network is also very important to the project and is strongly encouraged to participate in sprints and events (the PI has links with at least eleven of the members).


The programme of research will be overseen by a Steering Committee and its membership and terms of reference will be established in close cooperation with the LWEC and DE programmes. This steering committee will ensure the relevance of the research to the funding bodies and greater LWEC community.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The research is having a strong impact on practice in this area, through the Environment Agency and JBA in particular. Further, more specific results will be reported after ongoing knowledge transfer activities conclude.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description EPSRC Responsive Mode
Amount
Funding ID EP/R010889/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2020
 
Description Faculty Staff Travel Grants
Amount £350 (GBP)
Funding ID TG 16/69 
Organisation Lancaster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 07/2017
 
Description Faculty Student Travel Grants
Amount £114 (GBP)
Funding ID GSTG-17-103 
Organisation Lancaster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 07/2017
 
Description New Approaches to Data Science EPSRC Call
Amount £2,656,400 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R01860X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2023
 
Description Acknowledgement of support from Small World Consulting 
Organisation Small World Consulting
PI Contribution TBC re Current Global Food Production is Sufficient to Meet Human Needs in 2050.The Ensemble supported the development of a model that traces every human-essential nutrient from field to fork and other end-points at the global and regional level. And at national level, although the quality of some of the data begins to break down. The final title of the paper is Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is societal adaptation And we submitted it to Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene Right now the editors are looking at the reviewers comments. It has been a long process. I presented the findings as one of the keynote speakers at the N8 Agrifood conference in January. This may result in a collaboration with the Environmental Change Institute in Oxford, but we are still just talking.
Collaborator Contribution TBC
Impact TBC
Start Year 2016
 
Description Video conference with Environment Agency 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Video conference with Doug Whitfield from Environment Agency as part of the flood sprint.
Collaborator Contribution TBC
Impact TBC
Start Year 2017
 
Description Big Data and The Earth Science Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Ross shared about Ensemble's work at the Big Data and The Earth Science workshop in California, 31st May - 2 June, promoting the project and disseminating initial research ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://prp.ucsd.edu/BigDataEarthScience_Agenda_FINAL.pdf
 
Description Biodiversity launch workshop at Brockholes 
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 2 day workshop at Brockholes in Preston (12th-13th March, 2018) to launch the biodiversity sprint. Team shared their research aims and biodiversity partners shared the challenges they face - project ideas were formed for the team to carry forward. The workshop was important to build a community around the work going forward. The workshop also involved a strong element of disseminating our work to key stakeholders including Natural England, JBA Consulting, JRC, CEH and the Eden Project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Blog article by Watermark about Data Drift 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://watermarkfund.org/calderdale/a-day-at-warland-farm/
 
Description Blog article from JBA Consulting about Manchester Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.jbaconsulting.com/knowledge-hub/flood-impacts-science-technology/
 
Description Data drift walk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Data walk near Todmorden, arranged and led by Louise Mullagh as part of her PhD (which is strongly linked to the work of the Fellowship). This walk visited the Todmorden catchment - and area that has experienced severe flooding, and included researchers, local flood action groups, and representatives of JBA consulting and the environment agency allowing dialogue across these groups in a more informal setting. The walk was also used as a data gathering exercise to capture insights and views about flooding in that catchment, including consideration of mitigation strategies. This has led to future plans fro collaboration building on these insights. This walk took place on 20th July 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Extreme Value Analysis for Natural Hazards Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Disseminating project outputs and discussions about how research could be used in practice. Further evidence from US Army Corps of Engineers about the benefits of the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://evan2017.wordpress.com/programme/
 
Description Flood Modelling Sprint Workshop 
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 Flood Modelling Sprint Workshop, 20th-21st March 2017

This workshop is co-organised by Lancaster University and JBA Trust and is a key stakeholder engagement event driving the first sprint associated with the Senior Fellowship - targeting the role of digital technology in transforming future flood modelling architectures.

This overall goal of the workshop is to drive innovation in flood modelling tools and provide initial input to the sprint team, funded by the fellowship.

The more specific goals are to:
1. Map out the policy/business drivers and applications that require an understanding of flood risk
2. Identify innovations in digital technologies that could be exploited for flood risk modelling
3. Inform and advise the Sprint team on priorities for innovation and experimentation

The audiences consists of key individuals with strategic and/or high-level technical interest in flood risk modelling and data, in particular with a focus on decision making over a range of time and spatial scales, from local to national, and from event scale to climate change adaptation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Hosted presentation from Theresa Griffin MEP 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Hosted Theresa Griffin (MEP) for a session looking at how researchers can translate data-driven science into policy including practical steps to influence key policy development. This was an important session for the team and for the broader Data Science Institute, helping us to develop (often very practical) skills for how to engage with politicians and how to influence policy. The meeting also had a very positive side-effect in terms of Theresa Griffin becoming aware of the important research being carried out at Lancaster around technology, data science and society..
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description HydroInformatics Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Ross spoke at the HydroInformatics Conference, Alabama, 25-27th July, promoting the project and disseminating initial research ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description International Workshop on Data Science for High Impact Weather and Flood Prediction 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk presented on the research being carried out in the fellowship, eh talk being entitled: A
Data Science of the Natural Environment: Applied to Flood Risk Management. The event took place from 20th-22nd Novermber 2017 in Reading and included a broad audience of academics and practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Living with Environmental Change Fellows Workshop 
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 A workshop bringing together EPSRC's Living With Environmental Change Fellows to explore the interconnections between this exciting and varied new programme of research. The workshop also provided an opportunity to discuss Lancaster's interdisciplinary approach to 'living with environmental change' research, including the innovative new links between the Data Science Institute and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology focused on creating data science for the environment; and the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business's approach to bringing science and business together to co-create sustainable solutions.
This event was hosted in Lancaster on 9th and 10th February 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2017
 
Description Manchester Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Fellowship team joined with others from JBA Trust, the Environment Agency, the Cuidar project and HighWire Centre for Doctoral Training to deliver a series of installations at the Manchester Science Festival (21st October 2017). The installations, which were located on the 'Pi Platform' in the Power Hall at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, attracted nearly 2000 visitors in a single day, the highest number of visitors to any Pi Platform event during the festival this year.

The activities addressed flooding from a variety of perspectives including flood risk, flood preparation and resilience. Outputs of the day included educating public and interest in developing some installations for further distribution.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.ensembleprojects.org/manchester-science-festival/
 
Description Manchester Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.ensembleprojects.org/manchester-science-festival/
 
Description Meeting with ECMWF 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Team travelled to Reading to meet with ECMWF team to hear about their work and and the challenges they face in terms of technical infrastructure. We also described our approach incl. our use of cloud computing and also the use of triple stores/ linked data together with emerging notebook technology. This was very well received and will be considered for ongoing work at ECMWF.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation at DARE workshop (Data Assimilation for the Resilient City) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://research.reading.ac.uk/dare/events/workshop-on-data-science-for-high-impact-weather-and-floo...
 
Description Press Release - Senior Fellowship 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Press release announcing Prof. Gordon Blair's senior fellowship on 'The role of digital technologies in understanding, mitigating and adapting to environmental change.'

This press release was picked up by the THES, and featured in their gran winners section.

The press release was also featured on Lancaster University and EPSRC websites.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/grant-winners-27-october-2016#survey-answer
 
Description Press Release for Manchester Sceince Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/news/articles/2017/flood-impacts-brought-to-life-through-science-and-tech...
 
Description Research visit to U. Griffith, Brisbane 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk presented at University of Griffith on 12th February 2018 on Digital Technologies for Environmental Science. This visit also included discussions with researchers working on the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory - with plans to collaborate closely in future activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk at Faculty Christmas Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Prof Blair presented a talk on Environmental Data Science: Addressing Global Challenges through Data-driven Innovations at the Faculty of Science and Technology Christmas conference, Lancaster University on 19th December 2017. This disseminated results of the fellowship to a broad audience from across the university and was also used to inspire researchers to carry out work in this area. Members of teh general public were also present.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Team meeting to Environment Agency office 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Team travelled to meet with partners at Environment Agency in Leeds. The meeting involved dissemination of the interim results of the flood sprint and getting feedback on the work to date. This is part of a deep interaction with the Environment Agency which is influencing their thoughts on the role of data and data science in future flood planning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Team members at Leeds and Bradford Royal Statistical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Session focusing on statistics, the media and public engagement and included dissemination of the results of the flood spring in the fellowship.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Teleconference with United Utilities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Demonstrate the outputs of the flood sprint and how these might feed into the MENTOR bid. Potential crossovers with the operations of United Utilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Visit to CEH, Edinburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Prof. Blair presented a talk on a Data Science of the Natural Environment to CEH (Edinburgh site) on 24th October 2017. This helped disseminate results of the fellowship to a broader audience and also led to further collaboration with the Edinburgh site of CEH.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Visit to JRC, Ispra 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Prof. Blair presented the work of the Fellowship and also Models in the Cloud to the EU's Joint Research Centre, in Ispra Italy, disseminating results of this work and also building partnerships for ongoing collaboration. This is important as JRC are at the heart of work to influence European policy based on scientific evidence. The visit took place between 5th and 7th July 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop for flood sprint launch 
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 A two day workshop with the team and project partners to launch the flood sprint, held in Kendal (20th-21st March, 2017). This workshop helped shape the agenda for the activities of the next year and also built a community to support the research, with strong participation from the Environment Agency, JBA Trust, ECMWF, Oasis and United Utilities, along with a number of leading academics from flood risk and hydrology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop on Software Engineering for Sustainability 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A two day workshop was held involving members of Lancaster University and INRIA, held in Rennes on 28th February - 1st March 2017. The purpose was to share our research on the topic of software engineering and sustainability/ living with environmental change, and to look at specific collaboration around the role of model-driven engineering in supporting such work.
This workshop builds on a previous visit by Benoit Combemale to Lancaster University on 5th and 6th December 2016.
It is anticipated that this will be an important ongoing collaboration for the Models in the Cloud project and the greater Living with Environmental Change activities at Lancaster.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop to conclude flood sprint 
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 Two day workshop in Kendal to conclude the flood sprint (23rd-24th January 2018). The team presented the work and, with partners, developed further projects to embed the findings into industry. Outputs included requests for further involvement, future project plans, as well as plans for artistic outputs. Influencing key stakeholders, esp EA, DEFRA and JBA, influencing future directions for NAFRA 2 and DAFNi. It is very likely that there will be at least three further research proposals emanating from this workshop, all targeting knowledge transfer, and these will be reported in future through Research Fish.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018