Piloting digital approaches to evaluate population level change in wellbeing behaviours

Project Abstract:

The aim of the proposed project is to accelerate real-world wellbeing research, focussing on the use of unobtrusive methods to capture wellbeing behaviour data among the general population and potentially Higher Education students. To achieve this, the unique opportunity provided by UoM’s recently launched Manchester Urban Observatory (MUO) will be leveraged. MUO is a £1 million real world infrastructure laboratory, which comprises mobile environmental and health sensors, a real time open data platform and a living lab partnership.

This project would form part of a wider exploration of mutually advantageous cases relating to wellbeing and sustainability in urban spaces. BHE are seeking to enhance their digital and analytical capabilities for, and raise profile with, new and existing clients – in particular, undertaking cost-effective high-quality data collection and analysis. New digital technologies present an opportunity to make a step change in how wellbeing is understood and evaluated in different built environments through delivering increased data and reliability for lower cost.

A significant boost to the project, is that Dr Jamie Anderson would represent the industrial partner. Dr Anderson currently works part time for BH (0.6 FTE) and UoM (0.4 FTE – until May 2022) and this will greatly facilitate the collaborative side of the project.

In Dr Anderson’s MUO capacity, initial feasibility work has been undertaken with UoM’s Information Governance and ethics committee, to use wireless cameras and sensors in public spaces. The successful PhD candidate would pilot the automation of data collection and analysis, using MOHAWk (Method for Observing pHysical Activity and Wellbeing), a recently developed UoM tool (protocol information here, full final manuscript to be published soon). In particular, the student would seek to evaluate a real-world intervention, whilst reducing required time for data collection, coding and inferential statistics, and exploring the credibility of 3rd party visual analytics.

Research questions might cover the following range of topics:

  • Using mobile sensors/cameras and compared to manual MOHAWk process:
    • How much data collection and coding time can be saved?
    • To what extent is representation/generalisability and inter-rater reliability improved?
    • Can validity of measurement be improved for busy spaces?
    • How do the public respond to this type of wellbeing research?
  • Using 3rd party visual analytics and compared to MOHAWk:
    • How accurate are counts of five key behaviour types?
      • What are parameters regarding minimum image resolution, positioning, effect of different light levels etc?
    • Can further testing of sample size calculations for different sites be undertaken?
      • e.g. variation in activity across and between days of week and evenings
    • How might Information Commissioners Office’s emerging stance influence ability to use demographic and biometric data for research purposes?
    • What are the implications in terms of use cases for urban design and planning and healthcare provision?

Building on existing relationships, the real-world data collection may be undertaken with an end-user/client such as Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester City Council and/or the Greater Manchester universities. Interventions might represent changes to physical environment (e.g. new/improved green spaces) or operational environment (e.g. temporary markets in public space). Alternatively, cross-sectional associations between space and behaviour type may be tested.

Project reference: MN43

Application deadline: 14th April