"The aim of my research is to develop innovative approaches to measuring accessibility to sporting facilities; however, the research developed in this application will be transferable to other types of service provision. The research is based around developing a web-based open-source solution to compute accessibility to facilities and with visualising results of the models. Within the research, the first aim is to develop an open-source solution using open spatial data which can be used by policy officers and planners not necessarily familiar with the use of Geographical Information Systems.
"The second aim is to include multiple forms of transport during the calculation. For a more accurate representation of accessibility, it is essential to include the likelihood of a percentage of the population who use different transportation. For example, a person travelling by car would likely travel further in the same amount of time than someone via public transit as they are not fixed by routes or times etc. To get these journeys for multiple forms of transport an open-source route planner is required. I have implemented OpenTripPlanner into the solution, which is a free and open-source route planner to obtain these transport journeys.
"Another aim is to implement the system within a web-based environment. Sports organisations such as Sport Wales work with National Governing Bodies to help improve facilities for clubs and organisations. This means that they often work off site, and it would be valuable to access this solution through a web-based system. Additionally, within recent months due to COVID-19, lockdowns have meant that staff have been working from home and the implementation of such solutions over the Internet in such circumstances could prove beneficial. This is turn has meant that consideration has to be given to the design of the user-interface and, through regular consultation with users, the solution has been fully evaluated to enable staff to implement models with appropriate help and guidance provided within the overall framework.
Screenshots of the current system, three of the main pages that form part of the overall design of the software. These images are the main set up of the initial calculation, the calculator itself and finally the visualisation of the data on a leaflet web map that allows users to examine and interact with the data.
"I have two supervisors monitoring the progression of my PhD, Dr Mitch Langford and Professor Gary Higgs. Weekly meetings keep them informed on the progress I have made and allow discussions regarding the overall direction of the PhD. They have helped guide me into reading material, as I did not come from a GIS background and have helped pushed the direction of the project. Gaining feedback from them has been crucial not just to the PhD progression, but also my growth in the field of GIS and academic background.
"In addition to my supervisors at USW, I have a company contact/supervisor at Sport Wales, Dr Jonathan Radcliffe. In addition to valuable feedback at all stages of the PhD research, Sport Wales have set up contacts within one of the National Bodies (Welsh Gymnastics) to enable us to use their data and show the real world impacts my research will have in meeting their operational and strategic objectives.
"During the beginning of my PhD as a postgraduate research student, most of my time was spent reading around the subject, looking at some of the more recent technologies that would benefit the solution. Unlike my previous postgraduate degree, everything is self-taught, and research involves searching around the subject and experimenting with things yourself. There are several conferences and training events, but there are no seminars, lectures, or tutorials to follow and everything needs to lead to a contribution to knowledge. Therefore, an average day involved reading into the subject, testing out the research found (e.g. programming, scripts and libraries) and writing up findings.
"I am six weeks away from submitting my PhD and am writing my thesis whilst improving my solution to enhancing our understanding of accessibility. It is an exciting time, knowing that my work will soon be submitted and I can now advance in my career with the knowledge and skills I have gained during the past three years.
"Studying at University of South Wales as a PhD student has been a valuable experience with great opportunities. Being able to present my work at conferences, across the country, meeting people within the industry to share ideas and seeing all the other projects that may influence my subject area has been a good experience. Presenting at conferences such as GISRUK, one of the UK's largest GIS annual conferences, helped improve confidence when speaking to large audiences. Another highlight of my time as a PhD student is that a paper summarising the main findings from the PhD research has been accepted for publication in a leading international GIS journal, which hopefully will lead to future opportunities to derive impact from my research."
Andrew's PhD is funded by Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2), a pan-Wales operation supported by European Social Funds (ESF), and is in partnership with Sport Wales, the main adviser to Welsh Government on sport.
"Being innovative and creating opportunities for people to be active is an important element for sustaining and increasing sport participation in Wales and this is where Andrew’s PhD helps. He has shaped a web-based tool for measuring accessibility to sports facilities and moreover, has done so in a way so that it can be used by anyone, no matter what their level of expertise.
"The tool developed by Andrew can help multiple organisations and businesses come together to make evidence-based decisions around the optimum locations for these facilities to ensure they are accessible.
"If any other sport organisation has a database containing the locations of their facilities then we would encourage them to explore these spatial datasets using the accessibility tool developed by Andrew in order to better understand accessibility issues and to ensure their provision has the maximum positive impact on the nation
"Working with Andrew and the GIS Research Team at the USW has helped us to rethink the way we approach sport facility accessibility and provision in Wales."
Jonathan Radcliffe. Senior Insight Officer at Sport Wales