Wednesday, 31 October 2012

ESRC Success Rates 2011/12

I'm currently in the process of thinking about submitting another ESRC grant proposal. To date, I have put in a few but without success. I'm not easily discouraged though and I have had a lot of good feedback (but no money!). Thankfully, I have been able to secure funding from other sources but the vital statistics from ESRC do suggest that I might need to up my game considerably - or switch to Socio-Legal Studies! What am I talking about? Success rates of course. The LSE Impact blog just did a post on this issue and the figures really are striking. So striking, in fact, that I felt the need to turn it into a chart. Just look at the data (click charts below). 39% success rate for Socio-Legal Studies and 0% success rate for Environmental Planning (among others).

Click chart to enlarge

Click chart to enlarge

In relation to the number of submitted grants, Psychology is the clear category leader with 185, though the success rate in this category is just slightly higher than the average (16% compared to 14% average). The highest number of grants to any one category is in Sociology, with 16 awards (19% success rate) during the 2011-12 period.

See the full ESRC report here, where you can also find a break down of the figures by institution.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Digital democracy in action

A short story about digital democracy today. Anyone with an interest in politics, democracy or government will have been intrigued by the publication of the latest proposed parliamentary constituency boundaries for England. The next step would then obviously be to look more closely at the proposed changes, but how might we do this? Well, you can go to the website and look at some Excel files or some PDFs. Or, you could go to a public office and look at a map (I even took a picture of one of these - below).

The problem here of course is that it is 2012 and most people might like to have a nice interactive, user-friendly map to look at which allows them to zoom into their area to see how the changes affect them. But this wasn't produced by the Boundary Commission for England. Instead - just like last time - a user-friendly interactive map has been produced by expert-enthusiasts, if I might call them that. The one I did was just a quick overnight project and although the new version is much nicer than my one it was still not produced by the people who actually should have done it. The O'Brien/Cheshire version is covered in the Guardian DataBlog and you can see from the comments that it allows people to understand in fine detail how the proposals might affect them.

Why does any of this even matter? It matters because changing parliamentary constituency boundaries is a key aspect of our democratic system and the people who represent us in parliament are tied to individual areas. Changes in these areas are not trivial and we need to be able to understand - in as much detail as possible - how proposed changes will impact upon us. It is also imperative that as many people as possible are able to see the new proposals. Publishing them in PDFs, Excel and in hard copy in a number of locations is okay but it falls well short of what we ought to expect. It shouldn't be left to mapping experts to produce interactive maps - even if it is quite enjoyable making them!

Using the current/proposed slider on the new map I can tell within 10 seconds that if the proposals go ahead I may very well have a new MP. With the spreadsheets, PDFs and hard copy map this is just not possible. Time for the Boundary Commission for England to revisit their approach in my opinion.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Data visualisation at

With so many different maps, infographics and other types of visualisations appearing on the web each day, it can be difficult for those interested in the visual display of quantitative information to keep up with the tools of the trade. Thankfully, the people at in Switzerland have put together a selection of the most powerful and useful tools currently available (see image below). 

The examples page

Click on any of the images and you'll see the flipcard format in action, whereby the image flips round and tells you where you can find out more about that particular image, tool and further technical information.

They included an example from Google Fusion Tables that I developed for a newspaper here in the UK but more interestingly they have highlighted a whole range of tools that are either quite new and unknown (e.g. CartoDB) or more for technical experts (e.g. data.js). However, there are tools here that anyone can use - even those with no technical knowledge (e.g. Google Chart Tools). Thanks to Alex Ghita for pointing this out to me.

So, definitely worth a look. I should also add that this is quite similar in nature to the examples provided in a joint CLG/OCSI project a couple of years ago which produced the DataViz pages - in relation to improving data visualisation for the public sector.