Research Method: Critical Spatial Data Science

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30th May 2023

This ‘how to’ guide outlines the Critical Spatial Data Science research method used by Dr Caitlin Robinson from the University of Bristol. The artwork was created in collaboration with Jack Brougham.

Social scientists from the Methods for Change project came together to discuss the research methods they use and how methods create change in society. Drawing from the expertise in the Aspect network, they collaborated on a series of ‘how to’ guides which are step-by-step instructions and top-tips for adopting these methods in a range of sectors. Visual and multisensory pieces, including comics, illustrations, posters, booklets, short films and animations were then developed in collaboration with creatives to capture the key value of these research methods with a view to being able to convey them to a variety of audiences.

It is hoped that these resources will be useful for people in higher education, commercial, public sector, third sector and community organisations who are interested in experimenting with, and expanding professional skills in, the adoption of social science research methods.

Funded Project:
Methods for Change Phase 2

Critical Spatial Data Science (or Geographic Data Science) analyses quantitative data with some form of spatial identifier – for example, a coordinate, a street name, or a census block – to generate new knowledge.

In carrying out analysis of spatial data, a critical analysis is typically underpinned by theories that help us to understand – and therefore to best represent – complex real-world processes. Critical Spatial Data Science has wide-ranging applications with the potential to provide new insights into the distribution and dynamics of populations and societies across space and time. However, most commonly it seeks to understand and evidence socio-spatial inequalities, for example, inequalities in health, infrastructure, or education. Critical Spatial Data Science is founded on principles of openness, transparency, and reproducibility. At its best, the approach can be used to evidence and challenge injustice and have real-world impacts beyond academia. The field is rapidly expanding, drawing on an increasingly diverse range of spatial methods and data.

Download the Critical Spatial Data Science ‘how to’ guide.


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Should we spend more time talking about methods?

This blog by the Methods for Change team, illustrated by Jack Brougham, asks if we should spend more time talking about the methods we use as researchers. Drawing on a recent paper, we suggest that researchers need to articulate why methods matter in creating change to global challenges. We share three creative techniques that we have experimented with across the Methods for Change project that can encourage playful, reflective conversation about methods and their role in galvanising change.

Collaborative Zine Making Method

This ‘How-To’ Guide outlines the Collaborative Zine Making Method used by Professor Sarah Marie Hall from the University of Manchester and developed in collaboration with Inspire Women Oldham. The zine was also created in collaboration with Inspire Women Oldham.

Oral Histories of Sensory Memories

This ‘How-To’ Guide outlines the Oral Histories of Sensory Memories method used by Associate Professor Roisin Higgins from Maynooth University, Republic of Ireland. The poster was created in collaboration with Maddy Vian, Maddy Vian Illustrations.

Pop-up Stall Method

This ‘How-To’ Guide outlines the Pop-up Stall method used by Dr Robert Meckin and Dr Andrew Balmer from the University of Manchester. The poster was created in collaboration with Maddy Vian, Maddy Vian Illustrations.