Ewch i’r prif gynnwys

Newyddion

For a number of years the School of Sciences has run the ‘State of the Campus’ research project in the first week of term for returning second year students.

This annual week of activity, supported by Citizens Cymru, sees students take a topic important to their community to campaign for change. This year’s campaign focussed on the quality of student housing, safety and security, and relationships with letting agents.

Over five days the students collected over 200 images, carried out over 200 qualitative interviews and gathered over 1,000 survey responses from undergraduate students across the University campus. A number of recurring themes came up, including the poor condition of student properties, relationships between tenants and landlords, including issues with contracts

The culmination of the week’s hard work was presented through poster campaigns in the School of Social Sciences and at a Citizen Assembly to an audience of University staff, students and external stakeholders. 

Professor Amanda Coffey, Head of the School of Social sciences, attended the assembly and said: “The State of the Campus project is a great way to reintroduce our second year undergraduate students to the research environment. Working collaboratively, students undertake primary research on issues that affect them, and get the opportunity to see how research can be impactful."

The data collected during the project will be used to inform future action by students, including hosting a housing summit with students, landlords, letting agents, the students’ union and relevant authorities later this academic session, and engaging with local councillors, MPs and AMS. During the Citizen Assembly a tweet was also sent to all local AMs about including letting agencies in the Renting Homes Bill.

Dr Luke Sloan, Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Methods and academic lead for the project said: “State of the Campus is an incredibly important ‘learning through doing’ experience for our students. Learning about how to operationalise a research project and how to collect data in the field cannot happen effectively in a lecture – students need to be immersed in the process to gain a deeper understanding of the interplay between data and methods.

The vast quantity of data obtained and the impressive amount of analysis conducted is testament to the ability and effort of our students and they now have the opportunity to take the issues they identified forward with the support of a large amount of empirical evidence. We are very proud of what they have managed to achieve in a single week.”

Two final year Social Science students – Carly-jo Rosselli and Sarah Fuller – have recently returned to Cardiff having just completed summer placements at the Murphy Institute.

Based at City University of New York, the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies offers higher education programmes for working adults and union members, and serves as a resource centre to labour, academic and community leaders seeking a deeper understanding of labour and urban issues.

Competition for the placements was fierce with applications coming from all disciplines within the school.  Both students were supported by School staff Dr Steve Davies, Dr Sin Yi Cheung and Andy Dodge, our dedicated Employability and Placements Manager. They also had support from the University's Global Opportunity Centre.

Dr Steve Davies, Academic Lead on the project and key contact between the School and Murphy Institute said: “Everyone that we met at the Murphy Institute was tremendously helpful and welcoming. Not only did the students have the opportunity to develop their research skills working on a series of exciting research projects with leading academics but they were able to do it in one of the great cities of the world. We were also able to develop contacts between staff in Cardiff and the Murphy Institute, to talk about research interests and hopefully to lay the basis for future research collaboration.”

Carly-jo and Sarah were able to work on a range of different projects on placement. These included assisting Professor Penny Lewis, Academic Director, Labor Studies Programs, and colleagues with research for an alternative history of New York in the form of a tour guide, helping staff to prepare for a trade union climate change summit, and transcribing interviews with participants in the Occupy movement.

Carly-jo and Sarah took some time out of the new semester to share their experiences with us:

Carly-jo Rosselli: "The experiences I gained during my time at the Murphy Institute are invaluable not only to my university studies but also to my own personal development. Heading into my final year of university I have had great hands-on experience of completing extensive literature reviews while assisting Penny with her book, as well as hours of experience transcribing interviews. It has also been very eye-opening in terms of my own academic interests: my time in New York revealed the opportunity for cross-cultural analysis of issues such as gentrification, as well as the differing attitudes that people in places like New York have towards trade unionism in comparison to people in Wales. This is something I will keep in mind as I move forward with my dissertation.

Finally, having the unique experience of attending a research placement in an overseas institution where I was required to jump in straight away and work independently has helped me develop skills which I believe will aid me long after I graduate.”

Sarah Fuller: “Getting the opportunity to work with the Murphy Institute was fantastic, as they were all so welcoming and made us feel at home from the start. I had the opportunity to be able to discuss the labour movement and social history with people who were involved with changing the nature of work within New York, which was very exciting to be a part of. We also had the opportunity to attend talks - such as the talk about Walmart’s supply chain and what a global response to their power and mistreatment of its workers could look like - which made me realise how important a space such as Murphy is for facilitating social change.

Overall, the biggest thing I gained from going to New York is the confidence to be able to take on an opportunity in an unfamiliar setting and thrive upon the challenge of working to my own schedule whilst achieving the objectives set out by Murphy. A debate that came up regularly was the living wage debate, and I aim to study this debate in my dissertation. I hope to draw upon ideas and research that has been developed in the US to give my dissertation a broader understanding of what a living wage could mean.”

The Global Opportunity Centre provides a dedicated resource and source of expertise for all of the opportunities available at Cardiff University for students to gain an international experience. The centre supports students who are considering (or spending) a period of time abroad on a study or work placement, or who are interested in taking part on short-term programme including, study, work and volunteering opportunities. Students are able to apply for placements across Europe and internationally through a number of recognised schemes as part of their degree programme.

Ymchwilwyr y Brifysgol yn datblygu system ddeallus i adnabod dolenni maleisus a gaiff eu lledaenu drwy'r cyfryngau cymdeithasol

Mae troseddwyr ar-lein yn manteisio ar ddigwyddiadau yn y byd go iawn sy'n cael llawer o sylw ar Twitter, fel y Superbowl a Chwpan Criced y Byd, er mwyn rhoi dolenni mewn negeseuon at wefannau sy'n cynnwys maleiswedd.

I fynd i'r afael â'r bygythiad sydd yn yr 'amgylchedd perffaith' hwn, mae ymchwilwyr o'r Brifysgol wedi creu system ddeallus sy'n adnabod dolenni maleisus sydd wedi'u celu mewn URLs byrrach ar Twitter. Byddant yn profi'r system ym Mhencampwriaethau Pêl-droed Ewrop yr haf nesaf. Ariennir y gwaith ymchwil ar y cyd gan Gyngor Ymchwil y Gwyddorau Ffisegol a Pheirianneg (EPSRC) a'r Cyngor Ymchwil Economaidd a Chymdeithasol (ESRC).

Mewn astudiaeth ddiweddar, fe wnaeth y tîm ymchwil, o'r Labordy Gwyddoniaeth Data Cymdeithasol, adnabod ymosodiadau posibl ar-lein o fewn pum eiliad gyda hyd at 83% o gywirdeb, ac o fewn 30 eiliad gyda hyd at 98% o gywirdeb, wrth i ddefnyddiwr glicio ar URL ar Twitter gan achosi i faleiswedd ddechrau niweidio'r ddyfais.

Casglodd y gwyddonwyr negeseuon trydar yn cynnwys URLs yn ystod rowndiau terfynol y Superbowl a Chwpan Criced y Byd 2015, gan fonitro'r rhyngweithio rhwng gwefan a dyfais y defnyddiwr er mwyn adnabod nodweddion ymosodiad maleisus. Lle gwnaed newidiadau i beiriant y defnyddiwr, megis creu prosesau newydd, addasu ffeiliau cofrestru neu ymyrryd â ffeiliau, roedd y rhain yn dangos ymosodiad maleisus.

Yn dilyn hyn, defnyddiodd y tîm weithgarwch y system i hyfforddi dosbarthwr peiriant i adnabod signalau rhagfynegi sy'n gallu gwahaniaethu rhwng URLs maleisus a diniwed.

Dywedodd Dr Pete Burnap, Cyfarwyddwr y Labordy Gwyddoniaeth Data Cymdeithasol ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd, a phrif wyddonydd y gwaith ymchwil: "Yn anffodus, mae'r sylw aruthrol a roddir i ddigwyddiadau mawr yn creu amgylchedd perffaith i droseddwyr ar-lein ymosod yn llechwraidd. Rydym yn gwybod bod pobl yn defnyddio rhwydweithiau cymdeithasol ar-lein fel Twitter i ddod o hyd i wybodaeth am ddigwyddiadau.

"Gall ymosodwyr guddio dolenni at weinyddion maleisus mewn neges sy'n esgus bod yn ddarn o wybodaeth ddeniadol neu ddefnyddiol am y digwyddiad.

 "Mae URLs bob amser yn cael eu byrhau ar Twitter oherwydd y cyfyngiad nodau mewn negeseuon, felly mae'n anodd iawn gwybod pa rai sy'n ddilys. Ar ôl cael yr haint, gall y maleiswedd droi eich cyfrifiadur yn gyfrifiadur sombi sy'n dod yn rhan o rwydwaith byd-eang o beiriannau a ddefnyddir i guddio gwybodaeth neu hwyluso ymosodiadau pellach.

 "Mewn adroddiad gan Microsoft yn 2013, nodwyd y math hwn o faleiswedd ('drive-by downloads') yn un o'r risgiau mwyaf gweithredol a masnachol i ddiogelwch ar-lein.

"Ar hyn o bryd, mae llawer o'r rhaglenni gwrthfirysau presennol yn adnabod maleiswedd gan ddefnyddio llofnod côd hysbys, sy'n ei gwneud yn anodd canfod ymosodiadau sydd heb eu gweld o'r blaen."

Dywedodd yr Athro Philip Nelson, Prif Weithredwr, EPSRC: "Mae defnyddio'r cyfryngau cymdeithasol yn rhan annatod o fywyd modern, sy'n hanfodol ar gyfer sefydliadau, busnesau ac unigolion. Mae angen i'r DU weithredu mewn amgylchedd gwydn a diogel, a bydd y gwaith ymchwil hwn yn helpu i frwydro yn erbyn yr ymosodiadau troseddol hyn ar-lein."

Ymchwil newydd yn dangos bod côd post yn effeithio ar gyfranogiadaddysg uwch

Mae gobeithion disgyblion ysgol yng Nghymru o fynd i brifysgol yn amrywio'n sylweddol yn ôl yr ysgol y maent yn ei mynychu ac awdurdod lleol yr ysgol honno, waeth beth fo'u cyrhaeddiad addysgol unigol, yn ôl ymchwil newydd gan Sefydliad Ymchwil Gymdeithasol ac Economaidd, Data a Dulliau Cymru (WISERD) ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd.

Mae adroddiad newydd a gyhoeddwyd heddiw (24 Medi) gan y ganolfan, ar y cyd â Chyngor Ymchwil Economaidd a Chymdeithasol y DU (ESRC) a Chyngor Cyllido Addysg Uwch Cymru (HEFCW), yn dangos gwahaniaethau sylweddol rhwng ysgolion, o ran nifer y disgyblion sy'n ymgymryd ag addysg uwch.

Roedd disgyblion mewn ysgolion lle mae nifer uchel fel arfer yn symud ymlaen i addysg uwch, bron dair gwaith yn fwy tebygol o fynd i'r brifysgol, o'i gymharu â'r rheini mewn ysgolion â lefelau cymedrol o ymgymryd ag addysg uwch, waeth beth fo'u cyrhaeddiad addysgol, cefndir economaidd-gymdeithasol neu gefndir ethnig.

Yn yr un modd, roedd y rheini mewn ysgolion â'r cofnod isaf o symud ymlaen i addysg uwch, 42% yn llai tebygol o fynd i brifysgol na'u cyfoedion mewn ysgolion â lefel gymedrol o ymgymryd ag addysg uwch.

Er bod yr adroddiad yn dweud ei bod yn anodd canfod beth sy'n achosi'r gwahaniaethau amlwg hyn ym mha mor debygol mae disgyblion o fynd i brifysgol, mae'n pwysleisio pwysigrwydd y canfyddiad o ran tynnu sylw at rôl allweddol ysgolion wrth lunio patrymau mynediad i addysg uwch.

Dangosodd yr adroddiad hefyd bod yr un peth yn wir am y 22 o awdurdodau lleol yng Nghymru. Fodd bynnag, roedd ambell i awdurdod lleol sydd â'r lefelau uchaf o anfanteision economaidd-gymdeithasol – gan gynnwys Merthyr Tudful, Rhondda Cynon Taf a Blaenau Gwent – ymhlith y rhai lle'r oedd y bobl ifanc yn fwyaf tebygol o ymgymryd ag addysg uwch. Ym Merthyr Tudful, er enghraifft, mae dynion ifanc bron dair gwaith yn fwy tebygol o fynd i brifysgol na'r rheini yn yr awdurdod lleol arferol; ac mae menywod ifanc dros ddwywaith yn fwy tebygol.

Dangoswyd bod cefndir ethnig yn ffactor arwyddocaol iawn hefyd wrth bennu mynediad i addysg uwch. Roedd pobl ifanc o gefndir ethnig 'du a lleiafrif ethnig (BME)' ac o gefndir 'Gwyn Arall' yn llawer mwy tebygol o ymgymryd ag addysg uwch na'r grŵp 'Gwyn Prydeinig'.

Mae'r adroddiad yn gwneud nifer o argymhellion, gan gynnwys galw ar Lywodraeth Cymru i sefydlu fframwaith strategol cenedlaethol ar gyfer ehangu mynediad i addysg uwch, sy'n cynnwys pob sector o'r system addysg yng Nghymru, ac nid y prifysgolion yn unig. Yn ôl yr adroddiad, byddai'r fframwaith hwn yn ceisio mynd i'r afael â'r anghydraddoldebau yn ymdrechion pobl ifanc i gael mynediad i addysg uwch, ac yn helpu i gynyddu nifer y bobl ifanc sy'n parhau ar gyrsiau addysg uwch ac yn gwneud cynnydd yn eu cymwysterau.

Arweiniwyd yr astudiaeth gan yr Athro Gareth Rees a'r Athro Chris Taylor.

Dywedodd yr Athro Taylor:"Er gwaethaf rhai newidiadau cadarnhaol mewn degawdau diweddar yn y patrymau ymhlith rhai grwpiau o'r boblogaeth mewn addysg uwch, gyda chyfranogiad menywod, rhai grwpiau lleiafrifoedd ethnig, a phobl ag anableddau yn cynyddu'n sylweddol, mae anghydraddoldebau mawr o hyd yn lefelau cyfranogiad mewn addysg uwch.

"Mae mynediad teg i addysg uwch yn flaenoriaeth allweddol i Lywodraeth Cymru, ac mae'r gwaith ymchwil hwn yn cyfrannu negeseuon pwysig at y ddadl gyhoeddus ar y mater allweddol hwn. Mae'r neges i ysgolion yn glir - mae angen iddynt roi'r un sylw i gyrchfan y rheini sy'n gadael yr ysgol ag y maent yn ei roi i lefelau cyrhaeddiad.

"Yn bwysicach byth, mae'r canfyddiadau'n dangos yn glir bod yn rhaid ymgorffori'r agenda ehangu mynediad ym mhob cam o'r daith addysgol, er mwyn llywio patrymau mynediad i addysg uwch. Byddai ein hargymhelliad i sefydlu fframwaith strategol cenedlaethol ar gyfer ehangu mynediad, gan ymgorffori pob sector o'r system addysg yng Nghymru - nid dim ond prifysgolion - yn fuddiol yn hyn o beth."

Dywedodd Dr David Blaney, Prif Weithredwr HEFCW: "Bydd y darn pwysig hwn o waith ymchwil ar ddilyniant i addysg uwch yn dylanwadu ar ein polisïau ehangu mynediad dros y blynyddoedd nesaf. Rydym yn ddiolchgar i WISERD am roi i lunwyr polisi'r mewnwelediad pwysig hwn i effaith ysgolion yn hytrach na chefndir economaidd-gymdeithasol. Edrychwn ymlaen at weld prifysgolion a'u partneriaid yn parhau â'u gwaith ehangu mynediad gyda phobl o bob oed, gan sefydlu partneriaethau newydd a deinamig gydag ysgolion a cholegau."

The School of Social Sciences recently hosted a two day event looking forward to developments in three key research areas.

Rounding off a year of celebrations for 40 Years of Ethnography at Cardiff, the event explored the future of three research areas: Biomedicine and Genomics, Enculturation and the Arts, and the Future of Ethnography and Qualitative Methods.

This event also celebrated the contribution that Distinguished Research Professor Paul Atkinson has made to the discipline of sociology. Paul joined Cardiff University in September 1974 and he and Dr Anne Murcott established the Cardiff Ethnography Group.

School of Social Sciences’ staff were joined by sociological colleagues from across the UK and beyond; the event provided the opportunity for the UK and international sociological community to consider future directions and developments in the aforementioned research areas.

Academic alumni from Cardiff also attended - colleagues who over the last 40 years have helped to shape sociology and the social sciences at Cardiff University – and enjoyed hearing from keynote speakers including Professor Stefan Timmermans, UCLA, Professor Andrew Webster, the University of York, Professor Tia De Nora, Exeter University and Professor Martyn Hammersley, Open University, as well as Paul himself. 

Dr Sara Delamont, Reader and academic lead for the event said: “This was a truly excellent occasion. The most important element was that we were looking forward, with a focus on three areas to which Professor Atkinson has made such a substantial contribution.”

An online memory book was put together, enabling delegates to leave comments and thanks to Professor Atkinson for his work over the past 40 plus years. Head of School Professor Amanda Coffey presented this to Professor Atkinson towards the end of the second day.

Dr Sara Delamont, Reader at the School of Social Sciences, received the British Educational Research Association’s John Nisbet Fellowship on Tuesday 15th September.

Since 2014 the British Educational Research Association (BERA) has awarded the John Nisbet Fellowship, named in honour of the Association’s first President of BERA, to people deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to educational research.

Dr Delamont received the award at the BERA conference in Belfast in recognition of her lifelong commitment to this field. She is one of only four people who have had their contribution honoured in this way.

Dr Delamont’s relationship with BERA began in 1974 when she was one of the organisation’s founding members. She also went on to become the association’s first female president in 1984.

This award sits alongside Dr Delamont’s previous accolades; she is an elected member of the Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences and was awarded the British Sociological Association’s Lifetime Service award in 2013.

Dr Delamont was the first female dean of the former faculty of humanities and social studies at Cardiff University, a post she held from 1983-1985, and was awarded the Cardiff University Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

Head of the School of Social Sciences, Professor Amanda Coffey spoke on behalf of her colleagues, saying: “we are really pleased that Sara's contribution to education has been recognised in this way”

The British Educational Research Association is a member-led charity that exists to encourage educational research and its application for the improvement of practice and public benefit.

For the first time in Wales, residential child care workers and foster carers will come together for a conference to discuss how to improve outcomes for children in care and those leaving care.

Billed as a ‘knowledge-exchange’ conference, the Cardiff event will be addressed by Professor Mark Drakeford AM, the Minister for Health and Social Services. It will allow those who work with children in care to share their knowledge, views and experiences.

The conference, hosted by Looked After Children Network, CASCADE (Cardiff University’s Children's Social Care Research and Development Centre) and the Care Council for Wales, will also explore the development of a common learning framework that will span across the residential childcare and foster care workforces.

Ann James, Workforce Development Manager at the Care Council, said: “While it is important to recognise the unique features of both types of care experience, we believe there are common elements in working with children in care. Using this conference as a springboard, we want to harness and enhance these so we can maximise the potential of those children in residential and foster care and achieve the best-possible outcomes for them.”   

The conference will include discussions on an approach to caring for children which combines education and care; an enhanced foster care programme; child sexual exploitation; and the contribution research can make to practice.

Dr Sophie Hallett, Research Associate in CASCADE, which is based in the University’s School of Social Sciences says: “We are delighted to have been involved in the planning and hosting of this event. CASCADE is all about collaborating and engaging with practitioners and policy-makers in order to share knowledge and research with the goal of improving outcomes for children. Research with looked after children is a particularly strong area of our expertise, and we are so pleased to have this opportunity to share and build on knowledge with those who work in this field.”

The conference takes place on Wednesday, 9 September at Cardiff University. A report on the outcomes from the conference will be available in due course.

Professor Teresa Rees was awarded a Damehood for services to Social Sciences in the 2015 New Years Honours. In July she was invited to Windsor Castle to receive the accolade from the Queen. Here she shares her experience with us.


"I was very surprised and delighted to be made a Dame in the 2015 New Year Honours. This was for services to the social sciences, which are not as well recognised in the awards system (or in my mind, by people in general) for what they do.

My work has been focussed on developing research for evidence based policy, in particular in gender equality in education, training and the labour market for the European Commission and some of the Member States, for work on women and science and how to improve the quality of science by paying attention to gender and equal pay. I have also led Commissions of Inquiry on higher education and student funding in Wales and served on various research funding bodies. However, I would not single myself out above my many excellent colleagues in Cardiff University for contribution to the social sciences. 

Some years ago, I had lunch with Her Majesty the Queen in Buckingham Palace, along with about five other guests (a senior fire fighter, editor of respectable newspaper, Lord Chief Justice, actress, bishop). Her Majesty said that she’d heard I was a real expert on this ‘gender mainstreaming malarkey’ (or words to that effect) and she’d be very grateful if I’d tell her all about it. Which I did. At some length.

Well, I was delighted when a few years later when the law was changed to allow the line of the throne to go through females well as males - gender mainstreaming reaches the monarchy! I take full credit for this – a real ‘impact’!

So, when last month I was invited to go to Windsor Castle to be made a Dame, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of saying to Her Majesty how pleased I was that this had happened. (There is still unfinished business here though. The husbands of Dames receive no title whereas wives of Knights automatically become Ladies. Now we have gay marriages, we shall see how this gender discrimination combines with sexuality discrimination. I have written to Stonewall about this!).

I received the honour for services to social sciences, having previously received a CBE for services to higher education and equal opportunities in 2002. The CBE investiture took place in the Committee Rooms in the Glamorgan Building, where I thanked Prince Charles for coming to my workplace. I imagine the DBE was for long hours (and, I like to think critical contributions to strategic thinking and policy) in the Economic and Social Research Council, Academy of Social Sciences, Learned Society of Wales, Higher Education Funding Councils for both England and Wales, various funding bodies, Government Departments, European Commission and indeed a senior leadership role in Cardiff University. All went well, and I was delighted to see Rosie Moriarty, whom I had taught years ago, receiving her MBE.

Afterwards, my brother, son, daughter in law (Victoria Rees – who now works in the University, in Careers) and I had lunch in Heston Blumenthal’s pub in Bray, which was brilliant. Heston (known to my brother) laid on champagne. We all agreed it was the best meal we had ever had in our entire lives – highly recommended to whoever becomes the second Cardiff University Dame.

I’d like to extend a big thank you to colleagues and friends for your congratulations (slightly outnumbered  by all the highly amusing ‘Nothing like a Dame’ videos, references to pantomines etc. I bet Knights don’t get quite as much teasing as I have)!"

Dr Alison Parken, Senior Research Fellow and Director of Women Adding Value to the Economy programme, spoke to the BBC about the obstacles women face in the workplace

Research by the Chartered Institute of Management found that women managers in Wales were earning, on average, up to £3000 a year less than men.

Women managers in Wales are more likely to work in health, education, leisure, retail and the voluntary sectors – and these roles can often be valued differently to those of their male counterparts, in energy, finance, transport and logistics related roles. These jobs may incorporate the same skillsets but the sectors worked in can impact on pay scales.

Dr Parken explains to BBC Wales economics correspondent Sarah Dickins that this disparity doesn’t only exist between different sectors, but also within organisations. She goes on to say that women can still face obstacles to promotion if they take time out in their careers and that the gender gap grows as women age, demonstrating that women aren’t promoted in the same way as men.

Dr Parken says: “While some progress has been made in allowing women to return to work after a career break into more flexible and higher graded jobs there is still a lot of work to do in this area. I am pleased to see this issue at the forefront of the news agenda and have been working with a group of employers who are dedicated to making changes within organisations to address the gender disparities still prevalent in the workplace.”

Sarah Dickins’ interview with Dr Parken is available to view on the BBC Wales website. Research reports from the Women Adding Value to the Economy programme, in which Cardiff University has been working with employers to analyse their employment and pay data, and support them to act to address these structural employment issues, can be accessed online.

Social and computer scientists at the Social Data Science Lab at Cardiff University have analysed tweets to help predict crime patterns in London.

In 2013 the Lab was awarded an Economic and Social Research Council grant to examine if ‘big data’ - data sets so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate - can predict crime.  It took 12 months to collect 180 million geocoded tweets and close to 600,000 Metropolitan Police recorded crime incidents, and a further nine months to transform the data in order to build their predictive models.

The inter-disciplinary project team includes academics from Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences and the School of Computer Science and Informatics.

The research developed new data fusion techniques and improved upon existing mathematical models that have used social media data to predict voting patterns, the spread of disease, the revenue of Hollywood movies, and the estimates of the centres of earthquakes.

Project leader and Lab Director Dr. Matthew Williams, who came up with the hypothesis that social media communications are related to offline crime patterns said: “These studies illustrate how social media generates naturally occurring socially relevant data that can be used to complement and augment conventional curated data to predict offline phenomena.

In our project, we hypothesised that crime and disorder related tweets would be associated with actual crime rates. Our preliminary statistical results that are driven by criminological theory show that tweets about certain crime types and signatures of crime and disorder help estimate actual patterns of crime, often over and above conventional correlates such as unemployment and proportion of young people in an area”.

The outcomes of the project will be of use to such organisations as the Metropolitan Police Service, the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the College of Policing, Police and Crime Commissioners, the Office for National Statistics and various voluntary organisations. 

Dr Luke Sloan, Deputy Director, said: “The potential value added by social media data is that it is user-generated in real-time in voluminous amounts. As such it can provide insight into the behaviour of populations on the move; the ‘pulse of the city’. This is in contrast to the necessarily retrospective snapshots of social trends and populations provided by conventional methods such as household surveys and officially recorded data.”

“We have employed advanced statistical analysis that takes into account variation in time and space given that new forms of big data, like social media communications, occur in real-time, unlike conventional data that the police are used to using.  These models allow us to re-test classic criminological theories, bringing their explanatory power into the 21st century” said Dr. Williams.

He continues: "Recent claims have been made that big data make theory and scientific method obsolete.  Yet high profile failures of big data, such as the inability to predict the US housing bubble in 2008 and the spread of influenza across the US using Google search terms, have resulted in many questioning the power of these new forms of data."

Dr. Pete Burnap, Director of the Lab and computational lead on the project, commented: “To date the default approach in big data research seems to have been wholly data driven in the effort to predict.  However, without theory driven data collection, transformation and analysis we cannot answer the substantive questions about social processes and mechanisms that concern us. Purely data driven approaches tend to produce models and algorithms that are over fit to the idiosyncrasies of a particular data set, leading to spurious results that often do no not reflect reality.  This is why we have put a series of strict checks and balances in place, such as augmenting big data with conventional sources and using theory to drive our analytical process.”

This work was made possible by a National Centre for Research Methods Methodological Innovations grant and was recently featured in their summer newsletter. Funds from various Economic and Social Research Council programmes including Digital Social Research, Google Data Analytics, Global Uncertainties and National Centre for Research Methods, have also enabled the Lab researchers to detect online racial tension following sporting events, model the propagation of cyberhate following a terrorist attack, and detect the presence of counter-speech as form of online community based regulation.