London Data Observatory – get involved!

Throughout Future of London’s 2017 programmes, one word was on everyone’s lips: data. Our research and events highlighted needs across the sector to make better use of data, whether for assessing placemaking initiatives, streamlining planning decisions or regulating PRS landlords — not to mention the innovative approaches highlighted by our Smarter Cities events.

We’re now pleased to announce the London Data Observatory, a partnership with the University of Greenwich. The initiative will link PhD candidates with FoL members to develop bespoke research projects using data science methods and support evidence-based decision-making. Research costs will be subsidised by the university, making this an excellent opportunity to access a wide range of expertise and make better use of data at a fraction of the cost.

Host authorities will work with university staff to develop a custom three-year research project that will meet their needs. There will be a focus on applied research that is practical and useful for London’s public sector. Partners will work closely with the PhD candidates and get regular updates/briefings on progress.

We are now seeking expressions of interest from FoL members who could benefit from incorporating data science methods in their work. The focus is deliberately broad to allow any proposals that meet the needs of London’s public sector. They could be issues specific to one area or local authority, or be relevant across all local authorities (or housing associations, transport providers, etc.).

Proposals could include making better use of existing data or developing new sources of useful data that better meet members’ needs (e.g. that are more accurate, up-to-date, offer wider coverage or that are cheaper to access). The Observatory encourages place-based projects with multiple partners.

Who can apply?

  • All Future of London members can apply
  • Members can apply individually or with one or more partner organisations to address cross-boundary issues and reduce costs
  • Organisations can submit more than one proposal if they relate to different topics

What topics can we investigate?

  • This is up to you! Topics are open to any aspect of your work you feel could be improved by better data.
  • This could include supporting:
    Economic development, employment & skills, environment, fraud detection, housing, demographics, deprivation, finance, procurement, repairs & maintenance, planning, transport … or any other theme of your choice
  • Stuck for inspiration? Browse our recent Smart Cities sessions, or have a read of this handy post from Future Cities Catapult: Nine ideas of where to try data science in city authorities right now

How to apply

  • At this stage, we are seeking expressions of interest – you just have to send us an email
  • We’ll connect you with UoG experts to help you develop a project proposal

What costs are there?

The PhD programme costs approx. £60,000 per candidate over three years. UoG is running a scholarship that will meet half of this cost (£30,000), and the other half would be met by project partners. For projects with multiple partners, the costs will be proportionally lower (in a project with four partners, each might contribute £7,500 overall — £2,500 per year).

UoG also has discretionary funding available from the Future Cities Fund. Up to £5,000 is available to support projects, with those that can contribute cash or in-kind match funding prioritised.

What’s the timescale?

It’s open. Dates for the current round below, but there are opportunities to join throughout the year. If you’re not quite ready now, get in touch – we can get things lined up for a start in 2019.

Current round:

  • Feb-March 2018 – expressions of interest
  • March-July 2018 – project development
  • Aug-Sept 2018 – candidate recruitment
  • Projects will run three years from Sept 2018-21

Want to know more? Email us with any questions or to get the ball rolling!