COVID-19 and community support: Mapping unmet support needs across Wales

Project team: Dr Oliver Davis, Dr Valerio Maggio, Dr Alastair Tanner, Nina Di Cara, Chris Moreno-Stokoe, Benjamin Woolf.

Since the pandemic started, communities have been mobilising to help each other; from shopping for elderly neighbours, to offering to offering a friendly face or other support.  Mutual aid networks have sprung up all over the country, and neighbours who hadn’t previously spoken have been introduced to each other via street-level WhatsApp groups. But the degree to which offers of help are matching up with the need for help has been unknown, and this poses a problem for organisations who need to make decisions about where they should target limited resources.

Screenshot from the site.

Ensuring support is available where needed

Community support can offer a protective factor against adverse events. Some areas are more vulnerable than others, but knowing which areas are most likely to have a mismatch between support needed and support offered is difficult. To address this issue, a collaboration between the Public Health Wales Research & Evaluation Division and the Dynamic Genetics lab, part of the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol and supported by the Alan Turing Institute, has mapped these support offers and needs.

Using data from Wales Council for Voluntary Action, COVID-19 Mutual Aid, Welsh Government Statistics and Research, the Office for National Statistics, and social media the project team have created a live map that highlights the areas where further support for communities may be needed. It shows data on support factors, such as number of registered volunteers and population density, against risks, such as demographics, levels of deprivation, and internet access. It aims to inform the responses of national and local government, as well as support providers in Wales.

The site also provides the links to local community groups identified helping to raise awareness of the support available locally.

This map is part of an effort to better understand which communities have better community cohesion and organisation. We are keen to find out your views on how this can be more useful, or other community mobilisation data sources which could be included. Please contact Oliver or Nina with your comments:

Dr Oliver Davis:
Nina Di Cara







Further information


JGI Post Graduate Researchers seed corn funding winners 2020 announced

The winners: Mayra Rivera, Thomas Statham, Xiaoran Liang, Hugo Alcaraz Herrera, Lenka Hasova, Katie Winkle

JGI Seed Corn scheme

The Jean Golding Institute are pleased to announce the Post Graduate Researcher seed corn funding awards. Every year we provide seed corn funding to Post Doctoral Researchers, but this year we are pleased to also be able to provide funding to small-scale projects for Post Graduate Researchers at the University of Bristol, which we hope will help to develop their projects further. Through our seed corn funding scheme we aim to support initiatives to develop interdisciplinary research in data science (including Artificial Intelligence) and data-intensive research. 

The winners

  •  Hugo Alcaraz Herrera 

Hugo is studying for a PhD in Evolutionary Computing and Machine Learning. Hugo’s research fields are Evolutionary Computing (mainly Genetic Algorithms and Genetic Programming) and Machine Learning (supervised learning). He has applied these techniques to solve problems related to logistic processes. Hugo’s project is called ‘Evolutionary Systems for personalised wellbeing recommendations’ – a food and physical activity data-driven user study. 

  •  Mayra Rivera Lopez 

Mayra is a third year postgraduate researcher. Her doctoral research investigates the data driven design and optimization of novel ultra-thin radiation resistant nanocomposite structures for space applications. She has collaborated on publications with members from University of Surrey and ESA. Prior to her PhD she obtained her MEng (Honours) in Aerospace engineering at the University of Bristol. Mayra’s project is called ‘Optimisation of ultra-thin radiation resistant composites structures for space applications’. 

  •  Katie Winkle 

Katie Winkle is studying for a PhD in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. Katie’s project is called ‘Real-time, On-Board Robot Assessment of In-the-Wild Child Social Dynamics for Supporting Education’. The aim of the project is to develop a system that can automatically, in real time, identify the social engagement, and/or social attitudes of children that are interacting with each other in a classroom context based on an audio/video feed.  

  •  Xiaoran Liang 

Xiaoran Liang is undertaking a PhD in Evidence-Based Economics (joint graduate school of Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich, FAU Nuremberg, University of Regensburg and KU Eichstätt Ingolstadt). Xiaoran ’s project is ‘Agglomerative Hierarchical Clustering Method for Identifying Valid Instruments and Heterogenous Causal Effects with Applications in Genetic Epidemiology and International Economics’. This project aims to develop a novel data-driven method to select valid instrumental variables for causal analysis with interdisciplinary applications in health and international economics.  

  • Lenka Hasova 

Lenka Hasova is studying for a PhD in Advanced Quantitative Methods. Lenka’s project is ‘Modelling Mobility Trajectories: Exploring Individuals spatial behaviour and assessing the trend of the Bristol population spatial interaction’. This project focuses on analysing individuals movement trails in Bristol, which can be retrieved from the individuals locational traces captured by their mobile devices. By investigating the movement trajectories, each stop and preferred destinations we can better understand individuals spatial preferences and spatial behaviour. This knowledge will be then used in building more comprehensive models of human spatial interaction and its prediction.  

  • Thomas Statham 

Thomas Statham is undertaking a PhD in Advanced Quantitative Methods in the School of Geography. Thomas’s project is ‘Applying deep learning and high resolution satellite imagery to estimate income at the urban neighbourhood level’. This pilot study applies deep learning to produce spatially explicit income distributions for several urban areas in Europe. Training on high resolution satellite imagery and small area income data, this research fills important data gaps for future urban research and policy.  

The projects

Due to the COVID-19 circumstances, unfortunately not all projects are able to start immediately. However, three projects have already started (Katie Winkle, Mayra Rivera and Xiaoran Liang), and we will provide updates on those and the other winners (if those that are delayed can start in the future) on the JGI blog. 

Thanks to all that participated in this call and congratulations to the winners! 

More information

For more information about this and other funding and projects we have supported, take a look at our Projects page on the JGI website and read about different Funding schemes we offer and provide information about. 

GCRF-ESRC funding success to explore access to the essential services of water, sanitation and energy in areas of rapid population growth and informal settlements.

Professor Guy Howard in collaboration with Professor Kate Robson Brown, Dr Jitendra Agarwal, Dr Maria Pregnolato, Dr Sam Williamson and colleagues from external partners will receive £1.7M for the project “Beyond the networked city: building innovative delivery systems for water, sanitation and energy in urban Africa”

The vision for this project is to develop and test in two African cities a mixed economy model of on-grid and off-grid systems to deliver water, sanitation and energy services to marginalised people.. Central to their thinking is that both on-grid and off-grid systems should provide users with the same safety and adequacy of service.

Professor Robson Brown will be involved in geospatial analysis of the urban settlements, mapping current access, future development and assessing hazards and risks, using official data sources as well as land-use, topographical maps and high resolution remotely sensed data to produce detailed maps of current coverage with on and off-grid water, sanitation and energy services. This will input into the analysis and overall assessment of service development.

Professor Robson Brown said: ‘The importance of access to clean water and sanitation, and affordable and clean energy, is enshrined in SDG 6 and 7. This project will harness the power of data science to predict risk to urban development and service delivery in Africa, and it is a privilege to be part of such a multidisciplinary and international team working to improves the lives of people in rapidly growing cities.’

We will keep you updated on the project achievements on our blog pages.

Bristol Data Science Seminar Series

Heilbronn Data Science Seminar Series

Last October 2019, The Jean Golding Institute teamed up with the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research to bring the latest research in Data Science to our community as part of an exciting series of data science talks and seminars. Over the past few months we have welcomed an array of internationally recognised speakers from Harvard, Tokyo and the London School of Economics, to name a few.

As we look to the year ahead, we speak to our colleagues from the Heilbronn Institute to find out more about this unique series of events and what is in store for the coming months.

What are the main objectives of the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research?

Data Science graphic“The Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research is a national centre supporting research across a range of areas of mathematics in the UK. The Institute is engaged in both classified research, which is directed by GCHQ, as well as an extensive external research programme.

The University of Bristol is the Institute’s principal academic partner and together we run a highly successful programme of events, which includes conferences, focused research groups, visitor programmes and workshops. These activities are designed to enrich the research environment in the mathematical sciences, both in Bristol and across the whole country. More generally, the Institute is also increasingly involved in advocacy for mathematics in the UK.” – Tim Burness, Reader in Pure Mathematics

Next we spoke to Dan Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Data Science,  one of the main event organisers.

Dan Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Data Science
Dan Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Data Science, and Seminar Series event organiser

Can you tell us a bit about the Bristol Data Science Seminars?

“The Data Science Seminars are an avenue for data-intensive researchers to meet and exchange ideas. By teaming up JGI with the Heilbronn Institute, we have been able to bring expert data scientists from institutions around the world to Bristol, from both academia and industry. These seminars cover a range of areas of data science, spanning statistics, machine learning, algorithms and applications including energy, bioinformatics and more.”

Who have you got lined up to talk in this year and what are the main themes to look forward to?

“Confirmed speakers in the next 12 months include Pierre Jacob from Harvard, who is an expert in Bayesian Statistics and Taylan Cemgil from Google DeepMind. One key theme is the link between academia and industry which is only set to grow in importance as Machine Learning becomes an essential part of more businesses.”

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Simulated Graph
Simulated Graph

“The Data Science Seminars are always looking for suggestions of speakers with connections to Bristol, from methodology, science application or industrial application backgrounds.” If you’d like to make a suggestion, please get in touch with Dan Lawson.

Thanks to Dan and Tim for speaking with us.

Join us for the next event in the series, a talk by Pierre Jacob from Harvard University on ‘Unbiased Markov chain Monte Carlo with couplings’, Wednesday 11th March, 15.30 – 16.30. Register on Eventbrite today.

Click here for the full list of upcoming Data Science Seminars.

Sign up to the Jean Golding Institute mailing list

Sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear about new events and updates from the Data Science Seminar Series, as well as wider JGI and data science related events.

Heilbronn and JGI logos

New GW4 Data Science Network Launched

The Jean Golding Institute in collaboration with the GW4 Alliance has launched a new GW4 Data Science Network which will act as a hub for news, events and funding opportunities in data science research that are available to staff and students throughout the GW4 Alliance. In particular, the Network will highlight opportunities and events coming from The Alan Turing Institute that are open to all GW4 universities.

The Alan Turing Institute is the national institute for data science and AI in the UK.  The Turing was established with the remit to innovate and develop world-class research in data science and AI that supports next generation theoretical developments and is applied to real-world problems, generating the creation of new businesses, services and jobs.

The GW4 Data Science Network aims to capitalise on the upcoming opportunities that GW4 partners can access via the membership of two University partners (Bristol and Exeter) of The Alan Turing Institute.

The Network has administrative support in all university partners, with a hub at the Jean Golding Institute at the University of Bristol. For more details please contact Elaine Young at

Members of the GW4 Alliance are able to see the latest opportunities and events using the GW4 Data Science Network Portal.  Please email Elaine Young for access.