ITRC WS1 Visualisation Workshop: Visualisation of multi-dimension data, 22/05/2013, St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford

As the ITRC programme progresses and approaches the mid-term review stage, in June and July of 2013, the of the work stream 1 (WS1) infrastructure capacity and demand modelling teams are beginning to produce outputs from their next round of modelling. Furthermore, the parallel development of spatial infrastructure networks as part of work stream 2 (WS2), is beginning to raise some significant challenges in terms of appropriate and effective data dissemination, communication and interpretation. The underlying high-dimensionality nature of the data being produced as part of WS1 for example, coupled with the complexity of the networks generated as part of WS2 means the consortium as a whole needs to begin to think about appropriate mechanisms to visualise these data.  For example, some initial prototypes of possible visualisation tools are beginning to be developed, (see here), but rather than build and design tools from the perspective of one researcher, it was considered more appropriate to consult with, other similar projects who are visualising similar data, or will require the ability to visualise similar data in similar ways to that required of ITRC, and also a host of visualisation and design experts from around the UK to gain better perspectives.

An initial workshop, organised by ITRC members, Dr Alex Otto (ITRC WS1 investigator), Dr Greg McInerny (Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford), Mr David Alderson (Researcher in GeoInformatics, Newcastle University), Dr Stuart Barr (Senior Lecturer in Geographic Information Science, Newcastle University) and Miriam Mendes (ITRC Programme Manager, University of Oxford), sought to bring together relevant researchers from the plethora of Adaptation and Resilience in a Changing Climate (ARCC) network projects and leading researchers and experts in the field of data visualisation and design. Prior to the workshop, a questionnaire was distributed to both the invited ARCC project representatives and the visualisation experts in an attempt to give the organising team a better centralised perspective of what the respective groups would want to hope to gain by attending the workshop. The responses were then studied to tease out any overlaps between visualisation challenges faced across the ARCC projects, to attempt to collate a set of discussion points upon which to focus discussions in the afternoon of the workshop. Prior to these more focussed discussion sessions, the workshop initially allowed the ARCC project representatives to briefly (in 5 minutes or less) explain the nature of the project in which they are working, but also describe and explain some of the visualisation challenges being faced within that project. The aim of this early session was to allow the visualisation experts time to understand the background of the projects themselves, and also the nature of some of the data being produced, such that the more focussed discussions taking place in the afternoon had a little context.

From the responses to the questionnaire, and also following the morning’s ARCC project overview session, a series of 5 discussion topics were devised, that attempted to encapsulate the common visualisation challenges across all the projects, and are listed below.

  • Visualising multiple dimensions and scenarios;
    • Chair: Martino Tran (ITRC – University of Oxford)
    • Rapporteur: Craig Mills (Visualisation – UN)
  • The spatial dynamics of infrastructure networks;
    • Chair: Scott Thacker (ITRC – University of Oxford)
    • Rapporteur: Martin Austwick (Visualisation – UCL)
  • Temporal visualisation of infrastructure behaviour and response;
    • Chair: Sean Wilkinson (RESNET – Newcastle University)
    • Rapporteur: Min Chen (Visualisation – University of Oxford)
  • Simplifying and communicating effectively complex model outputs;
    • Chair: Jason Dykes (Visualisation – City University, London)
    • Rapporteur: Scott Kelly (ITRC – Cambridge University)
  • Multi-disciplinary co-production for infrastructure visualisation.
    • Chair: Simon Blainey (ITRC – University of Southampton)
    • Rapporteur: Jane Lewis (Reading e-Science Centre, University of Reading)

A chair and rapporteur, selected from the list of workshop attendees was devised such that each topic had a representative from the ARCC network, and from the visualisation community. Each topic was then discussed by attendees for about 10 minutes, with the chairs and rapporteurs capturing the salient points discussed around that particular topic. After 10 minutes of discussion the attendees subsequently moved on to the next discussion topic and a different table. Overall as a format for delivering break out sessions, this quick-fire, round-robin approach seemed to work well, allowing all attendees to discuss all the common discussion topics about visualisation, whilst at the same time having the discussions steered and reported by representation from both sides. The approach also seemed to help stimulate discussions between project representatives and visualisation experts, which was one of the objectives or organising and delivering the workshop. However further work is currently being undertaken to transform some of the excellent discussions in to a positioning paper with respect to visualising high dimensionality data for infrastructure planning and provision purposes. It is hoped that representatives from the projects, particularly those organising the workshop and on the ITRC side will be looking to further engage and collaborate with the visualisation community.  Watch this space…

Links to presentations split by those relevant to different communities are listed below:

Full Attendee List

ARCC Project-affiliated attendees (* speaker on visualisation challenges)

ARCC Project Representative Affiliation
ITRC Alex Otto* University of Oxford
ITRC Stuart Barr* Newcastle University
ITRC David Alderson Newcastle University
ITRC Raghav Pant University of Oxford
ITRC Scott Thacker University of Oxford
ITRC Jim Hall* University of Oxford (Principal Investigator – ITRC)
ITRC Miriam Mendes University of Oxford (Programme Manager – ITRC)
ITRC Simon Abele University of Oxford
ITRC Alex Leathard Newcastle University
ITRC Meysam Qadrdan Cardiff University
ITRC Modassar Chaudry Cardiff University
ITRC Simon Blainey University of Southampton
ITRC Kate Young University of Oxford
Transport Utilities’ Conversion Points (TUCP) Liz Varga* Cranfield University
All-in-One Tomasz Janus De Montfort University, Leicester
Undermining Infrastructure Jonathan Busch* University of Leeds
Land of the MUSCos Christof Knoeri* University of Leeds
Step-change Miles Tight* University of Birmingham
RESNET Sean Wilkinson* Newcastle University


Visualisation / Design Experts (presentations and speakers listed below):

Greg McInerny University of Oxford, Microsoft Research
Min Chen University of Oxford
Craig Mills United Nation Environmental Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Jason Dykes City University, London
Jane Lewis Reading e-Science Centre, University of Reading


Other invited attendees:

Vicky Hayman UK Climate Impact Projections, University of Oxford
Chris Cooper IBM, London
David Miller IBM, London
Mathew Carlos University of Oxford
Zoe Austin University of York
Martin Austwick UCL
Craig Robson Newcastle University
Glenn Hart Ordnance Survey
Paula Engelbrecht Ordnance Survey
Andrew Munslow Met Office


UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (UK ITRC) University of Oxford Newcastle University

From Rotterdam to Hannover via Köln then home

The last two weeks saw the World Geospatial Forum, Rotterdam and the ISPRS Hannover Workshop where the latest research and commercial activities in photogrammetry and remote sensing were presented.

Only attending the final day of the World Geospatial Forum meant a chance to attend the Technology Forums. These consisted of presentations from commercial vendors such as Leica Geosystems, RIEGL and Optech showing their latest hardware and software developments as well as universities and research institutes presenting their work. The final session of the day, entitled ‘3D – the next challenge for national mapping agencies’, presented how methods developed in research were being utilised by the Dutch national mapping agency for the reconstruction of buildings at the Level of Detail 2, in accordance with the CityGML standard. Although a very commercial conference some resources were sourced for the research into automated 3d building reconstruction.

After a nice weekend trip to Köln enjoying the sights and the sunshine, the ISPRS Hannover Workshop about High-Resolution Earth Imaging for Geospatial Information began. Talks included data collected from space all the way down to the bottom of the ocean for various applications. Across the four days keynote presentations were given by Rainer Sandau of DLR in Berlin who spoke about how space collected data can be used for disaster management and the integration of data, Lorenzo Bruzzone from Trento university spoke about the challenges and trends of multitemportal imagery and Charles Toth, the current ISPRS Commission 1 president, spoke about the different platforms available for data collection. The final keynote was Michael McCullagh from Nottingham University who spoke, a little off topic, about crowd source data. Several interesting examples were given, some closely related to the Twitter work undertaken by Newcastle whilst presenting a website ( for a non-profit company promoting open-sourced data.

Research institutes and universities presented their current research which led to many discussions being carried on in the coffee breaks. Newcastle’s Abdulhamed Gneeniss presented his PhD work on the integration of photogrammetric and lidar data for aerial triangulation and camera calibration alongside several other young researchers, presenting in both oral and poster formats. Two poster sessions portrayed varying amounts of research including UAVs, GPS solutions and building detection from differing sourced data.

The conference’s main sponsors, Hexagon, gave a master class in the new hardware and software they have developed. After a brief overview of the company’s history, the company’s new large-format and medium format cameras were presented as well as their new oblique camera systems. The software included their photogrammetric software developed by tridicon, which included semi-global matching algorithms for point cloud generation from aerial imagery as well as automated 3D building reconstruction.

Social activities included an ice-breaker evening on the rooftop of the Leibniz Hannover university’s Institute of Photogrammetry and Geoinformation and the conference dinner at the Wilhelm Busch Museum where extravagant buffets were laid with some nice local beer to taste. These gave a great opportunity to discuss in further detail the research presented in the day and way to get to know people.

Thank you to Christian Heipke and the team at Leibniz Hannover University for organising such a captivating conference.

Modelling change and adaptation in infrastructure systems: state-of-the-art modelling and simulation approaches @ TU Delft, Netherlands, 14th May 2013

As part of the geospatial engineering team’s on-going involvement in the ITRC project, researcher David Alderson was accompanied by newly-recruited Computing Science PhD student Mr Razgar Ebrahimy to attend a workshop kindly organised by Margot Weijnen, at TU Delft entitled “Modelling change and adaptation in infrastructure systems: state-of-the-art modelling and simulation approaches”. The workshop aimed to bring together researchers and academics from the Next Generation Infrastructures (NGI) team at TU Delft, representatives from across work streams 1 and 2 from ITRC (), and also welcomed the visit of Research Director of the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong, Australia, Professor Pascal Perez, with the aim of sharing experiences, projects and outputs of each research team to help further build and maintain the research links and community developing between these three groups.

The morning session of the workshop consisted of a series of short presentations, each delivered by a representative of one of the afore-mentioned groups, with a view to then discussing some of the topics and concepts raised during the post-presentation discussion session. Initially we heard from Professor Paulien Herder about how research in to the current and possible future states of infrastructure systems should be considered as a combination of understanding both the traditional physical, technical components thought of when infrastructure comes to mind e.g. power stations, roads, water treatment works, but also the social actors that operate, maintain, build and ultimately consume services offered by infrastructure. Many studies of infrastructure systems tend to focus on the technical aspects of the systems, which are clearly of paramount importance to being able to deliver the levels of service society has become to expect when interfacing with infrastructure, but perhaps do not consider enough the impacts that “people” have on the performance and evolution of infrastructure over time.

The audience subsequently heard from Pascal Perez about the great work being undertaken at the University of Wollongong, Australia as part of the SMART Infrastructure Research Facility. A key aspect of the outcomes from Pascal’s presentation, was again the need to think about how the social actors play a role in the infrastructure “complex” system. This was of particular focus when thinking about the economic benefits of infrastructure service provision, and the conundrum as to whether it is society that drives the economic growth/decline in the first instance leading to either increased/decreased demand for infrastructure services, or whether economic growth/decline leads to changes in societal make-up and thus acts as the stimulus or suppressant for infrastructure demand and supply. The “chicken-and-egg” discussion point of whether it is the economy driving society or vice versa was of particular interest to Professor Peter Tyler (ITRC), Ed Oughton (ITRC) and Robert Carlsson (ITRC) who are interested in understanding the interactions between infrastructure and the economy, whether at a national, or regional level.

From a more technical perspective, the audience learnt about the excellent work being undertaken at SMART with respect to their development of a regional, SMART Infrastructure Dashboard, helping to enable infrastructure decision makers gain access to a plethora of infrastructure-related information via a tablet/mobile-compatible interface. The technical components, but also the design process through which this dashboard has been developed is of particular interest to work stream 1, 2 and 4, as it is the intention that something equivalent be prototyped and developed to potentially enable UK-based policy makers and planners, as well as scientists and researchers, to ability to access outputs from the various capacity and demand modelling activities from work stream 1, as well as looking at the possible infrastructure failures as part of work stream 2.

A mixture of further presentations by Pieter Bots, Igor Mayer and Igor Nikolic focussed more on the ways in which infrastructure systems and complex systems can be modelled and evaluated. In particular Pieter, thankfully, raised the point of ensuring that modelling, and the subsequent dissemination of results of those models, be tailored to suit the problem or challenge to be solved, but also tailored to the audience to which the results are being presented. A “one-size-fits-all” approach to dissemination is not an appropriate solution as the types of questions to be asked of complex systems by different audiences, may require different tools, techniques and visualisations suited to each audience. This ideal fits well with the approaches being thought about within ITRC, where tools developed will need to be adjusted to suit the needs of those using them. For example a three tier approach could be conceived to determine the functionality of any interface to infrastructure modelling data, whereby the highest tier offers access to information to a wider audience but allows decreasing levels of functionality and therefore reduces the complexity of questions that can be asked, against the lowest tier offering potentially more analytical capabilities but to, for example, only researchers within the relevant fields.

However, Dr Mayer’s presentation and discussion focussed on the potential application of gaming, or correctly termed, “serious gaming” to help evaluate the interactions between the social and technical aspects of the complex infrastructure system. For further information on some of the evaluation work, and other projects undertaken by Dr Mayer and his team, can be found here. It was particularly interesting to here how this approach allows the individual stakeholder to actually be immersed in the model or environment itself, and how their interaction or reaction to particular events or shocks can be evaluated as examples of how user’s interact with complex infrastructure systems outside the test environment. Dr Mayer raised a point heard previously when considering the use of games to evaluate socio-technical systems and that is to ensure that the appropriate level of abstraction from reality is applied such that a user does not become too disconnected from reality and as such does not interact in a manner as close to mimicking interaction with the “real” system as possible. This abstraction is important at both the functional level in terms of what functions any model is representing, but also in terms of the physical representation of real world features in a computer environment, whether that is in terms of selecting appropriate temporal and spatial scales across which to model a system. One drawback however, highlighted as part of the discussion sessions during the course of the day, was that the use of serious gaming to evaluate interaction can really only be performed a handful of times due to the restrictions of having to utilise people heavily in the evaluation process, and so this can make it difficult, to repeat evaluation activities.

Dr Nikolic helped to conceptualise the problem of complex adaptive system modelling, giving a great overview of what is really happening when a modeller models something. Dr Nikolic stated that any model, or any system is effectively a three-step abstraction from reality, with the level of complexity found within each of the following steps, increasing from left to right:

Computer Model <- Modeller’s Conceptualisation <- Stakeholder Understanding <- Reality

This was an interesting point to raise, and highlighted the necessity to include as many relevant stakeholders in the modelling design process to help capture as much of reality from different perspectives as possible. However, the audience agreed that stakeholder interaction and engagement, especially when thinking about the multiple actors involved in modelling complex infrastructure systems, can be one of the most challenging aspects of the modelling process.

Further during the post-lunch session of the workshop we heard about some great research efforts being undertaken in TU Delft to help develop tools and methods that can help in the modelling of complex systems. For example, Dr Gerard Dijkema, delivered a fantastic presentation on behalf of PhD student Chris Davis and others on the Enipedia database developed at TU Delft. The database contains relevant information on power generation facilities worldwide, gleaned by marrying together different linked open data sources available across the web. Clearly something of this nature is not only interesting in terms of a pure inventory of information, but is also of interest as a repository of information for energy-sector modelling purposes. The Wikipedia-style nature of the database, allows online users to edit information, as well as review different visualisations, plots, charts, maps, graphs of energy-sector information. These types of tools are now being used within TU Delft to help in further research work, and underlines the importance of trying to use consistent data sources for these areas of modelling activity.

Overall the workshop was a fantastic opportunity to see some of the research being undertaken within the Next Generation Infrastructure group at TU Delft, and subsequently further enhance potential collaboration opportunities between that group, UK ITRC and SMART, Australia. Many thanks to Margot Weijnen and her team for the invitation! It is likely that a similar workshop will be organised and hosted within the UK, for some time in 2014 to help continue building the links between the NGI, ITRC and SMART infrastructure research teams.


UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (UK ITRC) Next Generation Infrastructure Logo SMART Infrastructure Facility Logo

Open Source, Open Standards 2013 Conference, 18/04/2013, America Square Conference Centre

A member of the Geospatial Engineering team at Newcastle, David Alderson, recently attended a GovNet series conference in London, entitled “Open Source, Open Standards”. This was held at the America Square Conference Centre, and more information about the conference can be found here.

The conference delegates were largely comprised of various government agencies including the Department for Transport, Office of National Statistics, representation from emergency services, Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Education, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as well as representation from many local councils from around the UK. From within these various organisations the delegates were largely found to be based within some part of their specific IT operations.

Keeping in mind the public sector background of a significant number of the delegates in attendance at the conference, many of the exhibitors were offering open source solutions to various IT-related challenges including content management, telecommunications, secure mobile offsite collaborative working, data storage amongst others. Some of the major players in the open source world were also exhibiting their products, and post-purchase services including redhat, and MySQL (Oracle), whilst there were also stands from (amongst others):

The conference overall was a fantastic opportunity for public sector employees, to gain further insight in to how open source solutions can offer alternatives to proprietary software, that are often found within government department and agencies as a result of a legacy of long-term IT contracts and vendor lock-in. The general feeling amongst those presenting was that open source offers IT managers, and those involved in the procurement process of IT within the public sector, fantastic competition to the proprietary software providers meaning that the options available are greatly increased and improved. However Tariq Rashid, Open Source Policy Lead, HM Government and a speaker at the conference was keen to stress that open source is not being “favoured” over proprietary solutions, and that both operate on a level playing field. The take home message for delegates seemed to be more related to understanding what open source can offer by dispelling fears and myths about it’s use or misuse, whilst intimating that the choice of open source vs proprietary should be more related to the problem to be solved, and that a mixture could be the best solution. 

A number of keynote presentations were delivered during the conference, and further information can be found at the conference website, including hopefully the presentation slides themselves. Of particular interest to geospatial people was the presentation delivered in the afternoon by Executive Head of Technology at the Met Office, Graham Mallin. He introduced some excellent work that has been undertaken at the Met Office with collaborations from other national meteorological services from France, South Korea and Australia, nearly all put together using open source products including the ever-popular Python products, Numpy, Scipy, Matplotlib, as well as GeoNetwork and PostgreSQL. A Space Weather interface was also briefly demonstrated during Graham’s presentation highlighting how open source is completely capable of handling all types of data and IT-related challenges.

Further information on the OpenWIS project can be found at the Met Office website.

Some other interesting talks were given by Mark Taylor, CEO of Sirius Corporation which operates as the UK’s leading Open Source services provider. Mark gave some interesting examples of how aspects of IT infrastructure within different organisations or government departments with which Sirius has worked with, were swapped or migrated to open source alternatives. The general take home message there seemed to be that caution is sensible and making the right choice for your problem is key, and that finally taking bite-size steps to replacing components is more sensible than wholesale change.

Upon reflection many of the speakers and exhibitors did a great job of promoting the use and exploration of open source alternatives at all levels of spatial and non-spatial software stacks but ultimately that the process of technology selection, deployment and maintenance is not that different to when considering purchasing licensed-based proprietary software.

Some interesting links: – IRIS tool – OpenWIS explained by Graham Mallin, Executive Head of Technology, Met Office


A number of the Geospatial Engineering team attended GISRUK 2013 (Geographical Information Science Research UK) held at the University of Liverpool April 2nd ~ 5th.  Neil Harris presented a poster showing his work on the real-time air quality sensors and the NUIDAP architecture (Ncl Uni Integrated Data Access Platform) for transport and air quality modelling.  Javier Urquizo (Phd student in Architecture with Phil James and Carlos Calderon) presented  a paper his work on spatial urban energy models.

The short talks and lively atmosphere with a mix of young researchers and a digestive base of more mature academics and researchers provided a great platform for seeing the breadth and depth of GI research in the UK.  This year there were some interesting technology observations with R and PostGIS providing the underpinning to many analyses and research.   There were a also some great talks on visualisation (not a subject I normally warm to) including some great visualisations by keynote Jason Dykes (links can be found here:    GISRUK 2014 returns to Glasgow.  For those that remember the last time – bring on the beige food and the ceilidh dancing (or maybe not..).

Nice summary of some of the talks here:  Thanks to Addy Pope at EDINA.

Adaptation Training School – Bilbao

From the 18-22 February 2013 the Adaptation Training School (COST Action TU-0902) was held in Bilbao, Spain. The main objective of the training school was to generate basic knowledge for adaptation management in beginner cities. It also aimed to provide an opportunity to identify key policy needs to overcome difficulties for adaptation implementation at local level, helping scientific agents to scope and align their research with those needs.

Each day was split into to three main sections; firstly a group of presentations in the morning, with secondly a practical exercise in the afternoon (outlined before).

On the Monday sessions were led by Efrén Feliu, and some of his colleagues from Tecnalia in which an overview of the week’s timetable, as well as to an introduction to vulnerability assessment. Tuesday consisted of presentation & a practical exercise from Astrid Westerlind Wigström on the Adaptation Management cycle. In addition Birgit Georgi discussed policies, initiatives, tools and upcoming EU Adaptation Strategy. Wednesday Juergen Kropp introduced uncertainty management and Alistair Ford discussing integrated assessment of urban sustainability, including a practical exercise.  Thursday Johannes Flacke outlined co-benefits and trade- and Peter Bosch provided information and a practical on integrating adaptation in land use and urban planning. Friday’s presentations were: green Infrastructures and ecosystem services role in adaptation measures (Kari Oinonen); regeneration of Bilbao; Urban metabolism and industrial ecology (Rolf Bohne); and Economics of adaptation (Graham Floater).

Finally a discussion focusing on both; the key take home messages from the day’s work, and how the scientific community can aid local authorities in initiating such programs. These discussions had familiar themes, such as: practitioners being unaware of the tools that exist; language differences; a lack of expertise to produce maps, etc., required for decision making purposes; a “gap” between scientists and local authorities.

Various ideas to counter these issues were also discussed, with the idea of knowledge mapping of tools and research seen as an important step to allow for beginner cities to start on the road of climate change adaptation, as well as the age old need for science to be presented in a useful form for those who are to apply it. A further suggestion was to address a funding gap which may exist been when a research project is completed and the dissemination of methods to local authorities. It was proposed that funding applications in the future could be adapted to include the resources to allow academics to spend time with practitioners at the end of a project to increase the likelihood of ideas to be implemented.

The training school, in my opinion, was an initial success as it brought representatives of sixteen European cities together (with four early career researchers) to discuss how cities could begin to adapt to climate change. Although, if it is to be seen as a long term success these cities must assimilate what they have learnt and implement it within planning and policy to allow for adaptation to take place.

Shaun Brown

From Newcastle to Darlington and back again…a tale of infrastructure failure.

Two members of the Geospatial Engineering team (David Alderson and Craig Robson) were due to present their current infrastructure/network-related research at the recent ITRC Early Career Researcher’s conference, held at Cambridge University on November 27th 2012. As such both embarked on a journey, departing from Newcastle at 0556 on the morning of the 27th, that would end having only reached as far South as Darlington…approximately 6 hours after departing! The cause of being only able to travel a few miles in that time…a flood-related failure of the rail network leading to a loss of power to the train and line between Durham and Darlington.  A set of images taken on the day of the failure illustrate the researcher’s plight. – the train being towed (or not) by a DIESEL-powered engine – the train being stuck… – the water rises

The presentations that were due to be delivered are now available, along with a recording (cringe) of each presentation given by David and Craig.

ITRC Stakeholder Workshop, The Royal Statistical Society, London, 6th November 2012

The second ITRC Stakeholder Workshop was held at The Royal Statistical Society, on November 6th 2012. The workshop presented an opportunity for project partners, stakeholders and the Expert Advisory Group of the ITRC project to hear about progress on the main work packages from a wide range of researchers and investigators, and again offer their opinions and feedback as to what aspects of the programme they would like to know more about, or become further engaged with.

Those attending the workshop, included representation from industry, government and academia who participate in infrastructure provision, maintenance, delivery and research, including:

Government / Pseudo-government Research / Academia Infrastructure / Utility Providers Engineering Consultancies Local Government Other
Committee on Climate Change University of Illinois at Urbana-Chamaigne BP International Atkins Hampshire County Council Institution of Civil Engineers
Department of Energy and Climate Change ECI, University of Oxford United Utilities Black & Veatch CIRIA
Department for Transport University of Cambridge Northumbrian Water Ltd JBA Trust
Highways Agency Imperial College London Thames Water John Dora Consulting Limited
Climate UK University of Southampton National Grid Bam Nuttall Ltd
Environment Agency University of Oxford COSTAIN Group
DEFRA University of Leeds Parsons Brickerhoff
HM Treasury University of Newcastle AECOM
EPSRC University of Exeter CH2M HILL
National Soil Resources Institute, Cranfield University MWH
Sandia National Laboratories
University of Birmingham
TU Delft, Netherlands
University College London
Judges School, Cambridge
University of Wollongong, Australia
University of Sussex
UKCIP, University of Oxford


During the workshop, presentations were delivered by various members of ITRC, including the following:

–          ITRC Infrastructure Strategies (WS1): Alex Lorenz (Oxford University)

–          Process for conducting the next cycle of ITRC assessment (WS5): Robert Nicholls (Southampton University)

–          Infrastructure Risk Analysis and the ITRC Infrastructure Database (WS2, WS4): Raghav Pant (Oxford University), Stuart Barr (Newcastle University)

One of key aims of the workshop was to help guide aspects of WS1, and consult stakeholders about reviewing and identifying infrastructure options and begin to build cross-sector strategies. This process was coordinated by Alex Lorenz (WS1 Researcher) and Roger Street (ITRC Stakeholder Champion), and required stakeholders to review the proposed infrastructure options from ITRC within each infrastructure sector (energy, water / waste, transport) for their completeness and priority for evaluation. The options proposed within each sector represent a change or alternative to the current status, possibly in terms of structural change, or influencing supply and/or demand. For example, consideration of the electrification of transport could be considered an option within the energy sector. Furthermore, this led to consideration of cross-sector strategies whereby options from different sectors can be considered together e.g. energy-transport options, or energy-water options for example.

The workshop also presented an opportunity to showcase the custom network database schema developed within Geospatial Engineering @ Newcastle, and the Python linking architecture coupled to that. This system is being used to build national and regional-scale infrastructure network models to then subsequently form part of the infrastructure risk analysis being carried out in WS2. If you would like to read more about this, please see a previous post here.

Further to the afore-mentioned, ITRC-specific presentations, the audience also heard from two external speakers, who delivered keynote addresses on complex adaptive system modelling, and future finance options for infrastructure provision:

–          Complex Adaptive Systems modelling to inform policy decisions: Theresa Brown (Sandia National Laboratory)

–          New business models for national infrastructure provision: Simon Taylor (University of Cambridge)

Stakeholder workshops such as this, provide project partners with a direct opportunity to get involved in the various aspects of the consortium, and help to continue the consortium’s success to date with stakeholder engagement and co-production, a key deliverable and consideration of WS5. This process will continue with the next cycle of assessment as part of WS5.

Geospatial Engineering @ 4th Annual Open Source GIS Conference, University of Nottingham, September 5th 2012

The 4th Annual Open Source GIS Conference, held at the University of Nottingham on September 5th this year was attended by four members of the Geospatial Engineering team at Newcastle; David Alderson, Tomas Holderness, Alistair Ford and Craig Robson. The conference offered an opportunity for those working in academia, government and the private sector to listen to some of the latest technological and research developments focussed around open source GIS.

During the conference, David Alderson, Research Associate in GeoInformatics delivered a presentation focussed around the network modelling framework being developed at Newcastle University, entitled “An open source relational database schema and system for the analysis of large scale spatially-interdependent infrastructure networks”. The framework links the network analysis Python package, networkx, with a PostGIS database, allowing a user to take raw point and line data, and convert them in to topological and spatial networks. Additionally the framework, and database schema, enable the interdependencies between different networks to be represented and stored. The modelling of interdependencies between different infrastructure networks e.g. between gas and electricity, or water and electricity, will help to understand how infrastructure networks are dependent on resources supplied from a different network. This work has been a collaborative undertaking between researchers, and PhD students within the Geospatial Engineering team at Newcastle.

The slides delivered at the presentation are here.

The conference also offered an opportunity for the team to attend a workshop on the open source software “GeoNetwork”, with a view to potentially utilising this as an alternate front-end to the Geomatics Data Server (GDS) developed at Newcastle University. The GDS was developed to act as a metadata server, and data repository for data held by colleagues working within the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences. The system allows users to add and search metadata records, stored within a PostGIS database. Currently the system is used by researchers, 3rd year undergraduate project and PhD students, to help assist them in finding data for their research. The GeoNetwork workshop gave the GDS developers some basic knowledge of the capabilities of the software, and some more detailed tutorials and materials to help further explore whether the software will be suitable for the GDS.

The paper is available here.

TyReNe Meeting September 2012

As part of the TyReNe meeting in September 2012 a breakout group continued with writing a collaborative multi-disciplinary paper relating to the broad topic of modelling (summarised below). The group aim to carry on working together and to have a publishable paper in the not-too-distant future.

Summary of key topics

Modelling is “the process of generating a model as a conceptual representation of some phenomenon”. The output has a purpose, although this varies between disciplines and phenomena studied. Models have limitations; are unable to fully capture reality, although transparency and accuracy help to ensure credibility.

Modelling and Scenarios

Future-oriented studies widely apply scenario analysis that “attempts to describe in some detail a hypothetical sequence of events that could lead plausibly to the situation envisaged”. But different meanings exist for modelling used alongside scenarios: ‘what-if’ picture of reality; or a technique for developing scenarios, as well as contradictions to how scenario building links to forecasting.

Economic Models

The only source of data for these models is the market. The data has high degrees of abstraction and simplification; although agent based and stochastic models attempt to overcome this. Integrated assessment models (IAMs) can do be both stochastic and agent-based models. One such IAM is the Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy (DICE), which (as is the case with all IAMs) combines economics and climate sciences. Basic equations facilitate analysis, although questions have been raised about the appropriateness of simplistic assumptions.

Weather and Climate Models

Throughout history people attempted weather prediction. However, it took until the mid-20th century, to attempt modelling based on physical principles, and build global climate models; such as Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs).

Resource Models

Over recent decades the demand for resources has increased to which it outstrips supply to the extent that it is now widely considered to be a limiting factor and serious threat to the functionality of economies and society. As non-renewable resources are finite, the availability and abundance drives supply and demand projections. Whereas approaches for modelling infinite renewable resources tend to differ, the focus is still on projecting supply and demand, and quantifying the extent of the resource reserve.

Infrastructure Modelling

The lifeline infrastructure networks provide: safe drinking water, sanitary conditions, warmth and light, communication, and transportation. Models that integrate various infrastructure networks are in their infancy and, similarly to research in the field of climate change, many recent decision support models have embraced uncertainties, assessing various solutions/strategies under multiple possible futures. Such models facilitated decision-making in land use, transport and energy technology sectors against the various scenarios, testing their resilience to the potential futures.

Discussion Points

  • Range of model of different complexity are useful
    • Simplistic v/s complicated
    • Complexity in the modelling process v/s ease of interpreting result
    • Also models should fulfill standards
      • Transparency
      • Subjectivity
      • Take in to account criticisms