Sustainable Development Goals
KMi Research Overview and Social Responsibility Statement
We develop and integrate technology into human activities to support human and environmental needs and augment societal capabilities to influence and respond to changing circumstances. We believe strongly in the social justice mission of the OU, and conduct research in computing technologies for the social good. This page overviews our main research themes and how they align with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are proud to address these socio-technical problems in an era when computing is fully integrated in society.
Social Data Science
Our research on social phenomena on the Web helps uncover child grooming behaviour patterns, detect radicalisation and classify social media crisis information. This interdisciplinary research has attracted over £6m in funding in the last seven years, producing a number of key insights. Our findings on online misogynistic communities and our analysis of the spread of COVID-19 misinformation were covered by several mainstream media outlets, including BBC radio and TV, and WIRED Magazine. The latter also formed the basis for a submission to the parliamentary DCMS Select Committee.
Our research creates and provides policies and guidelines for improved crisis governance, focusing on responders to public health emergencies, and their needs to make informed decisions (HERoS project) SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing, promotes information literacy, and misinformation intervention strategies co-developed across a wide range of stakeholders (Co-Inform Project) SDG 4: Quality Education, tackles misogyny and harassment and radicalisation online (TRIVALENT project) SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and develops tools to assist in disaster management, including tools that filter citizen reports as they arrive, removing irrelevant, uninformative or misinforming content (COMRADES project) SDG 13: Climate Action.
We firmly believe that scholarly knowledge should be available to all, not just a privileged few. Open Access and Open Science are key drivers for equal access to information for everyone. Through our CORE service, we deliver credible scientific information to tens of millions of people from more than 260 countries each month SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. Our work on CORE (multiple grants totalling £2.7m and licence income of £200k) develops new techniques in machine processing of scholarly information. As of 2020, CORE hosts 25 million open access articles. CORE has been selected by Research England to support the REF 2021 audit on open access compliance. Recent adopters of CORE include arXiv, the most widely used ePrints server in the world SDG 4: Quality Education.
We have also developed a strategic partnership with Springer Nature, which has funded our research since 2014 to generate value from scholarly data. A key result is the Computer Science Ontology, a taxonomy of research areas in Computing, which is an order of magnitude bigger than the most widely used alternative, the ACM Computing Classification. Building on this work, OU researchers developed the Smart Topic Miner system, which has been in routine use at Springer Nature since 2016. This research has also focused on the automatic generation of large-scale scholarly knowledge graphs. Outputs include the Artificial Intelligence Knowledge Graph, a knowledge base with 850k elements extracted from the most cited 330k articles in AI; and Academia Industry Dynamics, a knowledge graph that integrates information about 21m publications and 8m patents. Our work in Digital Humanities focuses on developing technologies to support scholarly enquiry in specific domains, such as Musicology or European Literature SDG 4: Quality Education.
Enabling timely access to knowledge and developing more advanced solutions to representing and sharing scientific knowledge can impact on several SDGs, in particular the ones characterised by major scientific/technological challenges, including (but not limited to) SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy SDG 13: Climate Action.
Ideation and Deliberation in Society
We investigate theories, methods and tools accounting for the centrality of social interaction and discourse in public engagement, urban informatics, e-democracy and social innovation contexts. Our research focuses on models of dialogue and argumentation; models of crowdsourcing and participatory representation; and the design, implementation and uptake of online systems that seek to increase collective environmental awareness and capacity to make sense of complex issues, like social justice and environmental sustainability. Our focus is on enabling ideation and deliberation at unprecedented scale to realise a more open, peaceful and just society. Our research directly targets SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions SDG 17: Partnerships for the goal (especially 17.8 to enhance the use of enabling technologies, in particular information and communications technology in developing countries).
Some of our tools have directly contributed to promote and facilitate peace building education in Rwanda after the 1994's genoside SDG 17.8; have been used to support a more democratic engagement with Elections debates in the 2015, 2017 and 2019 UK general elections SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; and are currently used by a large community of teachers in Brazil to promote open education for all, thus contributing to SDG 4: Quality Education for all. Ultimately, in line with many SDG principles and target goals, our citizen engagement and deliberative participation research and its enabling technologies, aim to allow many voices to contribute to effective, unbiased, democratic conversations that lead to more intelligent - and just- group behaviors, and positive social change.
Our work with museums investigates how technology can support citizens in taking part in curatorial activities and appreciating alternative cultural viewpoints SDG 4: Quality Education SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions SDG 8.9: promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.
Biodiversity Citizen Science
Our research develops AI technologies and Haptic interfaces for biodiversity citizen science and outdoor learning, supported by over £2m in funding from the EPSRC, NERC, National Geographic and H2020. Our innovative iSpotNature Social Citizen Science Platform helps the public identify and record plants and animals from photographs and has collected 850,000 biological records of 30,000 species from 75,000 citizens. iSpot has contributed to national and international datasets used for conservation and planning purposes, e.g., to the UK mammal atlas, and partners the State of Nature reports SDG 4: Quality Education SDG 15: Life on land SDG 13 Climate Action.
Through our X-Polli:Nation project we seek to localise, define, monitor and implement SDGs within school grounds. By encouraging urban schools to start conversations around waste, recycling and permaculture principles, we also seek to contribute towards SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities and SDG 12: responsible consumption and production. Our projects in schools and communities actively push for inclusivity, with respect to access to nature and the outdoors and to learning about sustainability and science in inquiry-led contexts. We simultaneously address current needs to equitably SDG 5: Gender inequality SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities increase (especially young) people's access to the outdoors for health and wellbeing SDG 3: Good health and well-being and their participation in environmental action and learning SDG 4: Quality education.
Distributed Ledgers and Blockchains
We also tackle challenging topics around data privacy. The unit's work on Distributed Ledger Technologies investigates how personal data can be decentralised, giving users ownership and control whilst maintaining integrity guarantees. This work has attracted over £1m in funding through a number of projects, including a cross-university platform for storing, sharing and verifying qualifications (QualiChain, 2018-2021) and the Institute of Coding (IoC, 2017-2021). The work has been highlighted in the European Commission's JRC Science for Policy Reports (2017 and 2019), and in a report from the American Council on Education (2020). The vision for a fairer, more just, and more resilient participatory platform for education can be expanded to wider fields and more areas of application, reducing the digital divide and lowering the cost of entry for information innovation across the world SDG 4: Quality Education SDG 9: Innovation and Infrastructure SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. We produced the world's first decentralised privacy-preserving certification system for COVID-19, an achievement that was extensively reported in the media SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing.
Our research on technology for learning draws on our proven track record of teaching innovation and expertise, established in online and distance learning. The work is central to current educational debates given the increasing prevalence of e-learning and social approaches to learning. Our research into predictive learning analytics has led to significant enhancements in teaching practice and increased student retention. Results from this work have been deployed in the OUAnalyse system, which is used in over 250 undergraduate modules by 4,500 tutors at the OU. A formal evaluation revealed that OUAnalyse tutor usage is one of the two significant predictors of whether students will complete and pass a module. OUAnalyse has been adapted to a face-to-face setting at the Czech Technical University (Prague), which after deployment in 2015, saw the average first-year student drop-out rate decrease from 33% to 19%. OUAnalyse received the 2020 DataIQ Award. Such proactive approaches to student retention directly address inequalities in education SDG 4: Quality Education SDG 5: Gender inequality SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities.
Our HEFCE-funded MK-Smart project (2014-2017, £17M) in collaboration with Community Action MK, ran an initiative at city scale to solicit ideas for - and then develop - projects that embed 'smartness' into community concerns, from breastfeeding apps for new mothers to a community fridge. Our MK Data Hub won The Smart Cities UK Awards 2017 - 1st prize in the Data category SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities SDG 17: Partnerships for the goal. Our current work develops intelligent systems able to reason about people's health status, to improve decision making in emergency scenarios, and robotics technology to provide in-house assistance to elderly people SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing.