A key collaborative focus for the Accessibility Modelling and Spatial Inequalities Research group has been the ESRC/HEFCW-funded Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD).
WISERD is a collaborative venture between the universities of Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, South Wales and Swansea and was established to promote cross-institutional and multi-disciplinary research in the social sciences across the UK and internationally.
WISERD hosts the UK-wide WISERD Civil Society Research Centre, a major investment by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). In 2018 WISERD was successful in securing a highly competitive Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centres Competition grant, which secured £6.3 million as reinvestment into the continuation of civil society research. This is the third major funding award in WISERD’s ten-year history and will involve an ambitious new five-year programme of work. WISERD’s total research grant capture since 2009 is £36.2m, and in 2019 amounted to £8.9m.
The new ESRC-funded Civil Society Centre was launched in February 2020 at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, with the stakeholder event, Celebrating Civil Society Research: A New Chapter. Mark Drakeford (MS) First Minister of Wales and Professor Alison Park, Director of Research at the Economic and Social Research Council spoke at the event. As part of this Third Phase of funding, WISERD will undertake a five-year programme (2019-2024) of policy relevant research to address Civil Society, Civic Stratification and Civil Repair in Wales, the UK, and internationally. The research will be inter-institutional and multidisciplinary and produce new evidence on the changing nature of civil society.
Since 2009, Professor Gary Higgs has served as Co-Director of WISERD at the University of South Wales. In the first phase of funding, researchers in the GIS Research Centre were involved in developing a geoportal to social science data and information that has subsequently been enhanced to form the WISERD Data Portal. The Portal continues to have impact both by providing a unique data service to civil society organisations and through a secondment to the Senedd | Welsh Parliament that has developed a constituency mapper tool. Research funded within the second phase has been concerned with developing innovative GIS-based approaches to examine spatial variations in accessibility to social goods and outcomes.
Our work on network-based GIS models has informed and enabled several bodies to develop and enhance their policies ensuring close synergy between WISERD scientific impact and policy impact outside academia.
Our research has demonstrated the role of GIS modelling approaches incorporating public, private and active modes of transport firstly in identifying gaps in service delivery following austerity-driven changes in public service provision and secondly in optimising the future configuration of facilities to address a wide range of performance goals.
In the third phase of WISERD, this research will be further developed to examine the use of GIS-based approaches to examine potential associations with spatial inequalities, civic loss and well-being. See all WISERD research.
Following the announcement from ESRC that they will be investing £2.8m in the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) over five years until 2024, WISERD is among the nine partner centres who will continue to work with the NCRM to deliver a new phase of innovative training and capacity-building activities. These will be in the application of core and advanced research methods techniques. Higgs directs WISERD's Training and Capacity Building programme and will lead on the organisation of training events across WISERD’s disciplines, which will be delivered to a wider UK audience through his appointment as a Senior Fellow of the NCRM.