Questions, questions, questions at Open Science Showcase

Can we agree that, in terms of pretty good questions for municipal government, these are three pretty good questions for municipal government?!

One: From the perspective of underprivileged youth, where are large-scale recreation centres needed most in Edmonton?

Two: How is the City encouraging physical activity in winter through access to its provided outdoor winter activities?

Three: Which places in Edmonton are best-suited for medium-density infill development?

These questions, and 11 more that were also in the pretty good question category, were the stars of the show at the Open Science Showcase event held earlier this month in the City Room at Edmonton City Hall.

Actually, the stars were the question askers. The questions came from Human Geography and Planning students at the University of Alberta who were armed with data from the City of Edmonton’s Open Data Portal.

City employees and members of the public ask questions at the Open Science Showcase

City employees and members of the public ask questions at the Open Science Showcase

“The students’ work has shown what is possible with Open Data,” said Ph.D candidate and project supervisor Darcy Reynard.

“They’ve put together posters on a wide variety of subjects, especially things that young people are thinking about, which is important because these are the next generation of thinkers and planners in our city.”

The event, now in its fifth year, featured a blossom of academic posters and a buzz of conversation as citizen-researchers explained their findings to and took questions from curious Edmontonians, City Councillors and City of Edmonton employees.

U of A student Jacqueline Johnston talks about medium-density infill development in Edmonton.

U of A student Jacqueline Johnston talks about medium-density infill development in Edmonton.

Besides social equity, recreation opportunities and infill strategy, the researchers shared their perspectives on other timely topics, including public transit, bike lanes, affordable housing and urban sustainability.

“All the data we used was Open Data,” said Benjamin Vanderveen, one of the University of Alberta students. “We needed to create our network, so we got streets data, and we represented recreation centres by their total bookings, which were also from the City of Edmonton Open Data website. Open Data was absolutely central and key to our project.”

The Open Data Portal, located at data.edmonton.ca, houses over 2,100 City data assets, including maps, visualizations and datasets. This data can be accessed by anyone for free, providing an open window into how City decisions are made. The portal provides users the opportunity to create useful information about potholes, transit, playgrounds, and almost everything in between, from raw data.

The science showcase collaboration between City and academia was not only a way for the researchers to flex their data muscles. It was also a chance for City of Edmonton employees to get a first-hand perspective on the students’ perspectives. Mission accomplished.

U of A student Fatemeh Fazeli explains her research on downtown bike routes and facilities.

U of A student Fatemeh Fazeli explains her research on downtown bike routes and facilities.

“One of my colleagues who’s working on WinterCity activities already asked me for the students’ contact info,” said Karen Parker, Program Manager, Business Analytics. “This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the potential of Open Data and what amazing results we can get when we work together.”

Learn a little more about the research and researchers by taking a look at this video interview with Benjamin Vanderveen and Andew McNicoll:

Learn a lot more about the research, and the Human Geography and Planning program, by checking out the website at https://www.ualberta.ca/earth-sciences/urban-regional-planning.

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