Workshop 5: 16:00 – 17:30

SDR-UK strategic advice team: Exploring researchers’ experiences in using smart data for the social sciences – an exploration through Lego.

Location: 2D3, Priory Road Complex, University of Bristol, 12 Priory Rd, Bristol BS8 1TU

Organisers: Jessica Crosby (Newcastle University), Simeon Yates (University of Liverpool), Jeanette D’Arcy (University of Liverpool)

For any questions about the workshop, please contact Jessica Crosby on


In today’s digital-by-default societies, smart data – the data generated by everyday engagement with digital devices, sensors, and services – can be a rich source of insights into social and cultural issues, with the potential to deliver real social impact through research.

The proposed workshop session offers an opportunity for open community dialogue on common challenges, shared experiences, and best practice in the use of smart data for social science research, exploring the complexities of navigating different stakeholders/disciplines, and the relationships, networks and resources that could be of benefit to this space. Lego Serious Play® has proven to be an effective method for exploring both individual and group experiences, examining decision making processes and dynamics, and offering participants opportunity to experiment with new solutions and ideas in an interactive and engaging context (Roos and Victor, 2018). The workshop will focus on infrastructure solutions, including how to access, use and link smart data to address major social challenges.

This workshop session will be run by Professor Simeon Yates (University of Liverpool), Dr Jeanette D’Arcy (University of Liverpool) and Dr Jessica Crosby (Newcastle University), members of the Strategic Advice Team (SAT) for Smart Data Research UK. The SDR-UK programme (formerly Digital Footprints) is a large infrastructure investment programme, centred on enabling better access to data services for researchers. We will explore the views and experiences of researchers, focusing on the key barriers and enablers faced by those who work with, or would like to work with, smart data for social research.

This workshop invites researchers working with (or who would like to work with) digital footprints/smart data to share their experiences, contribute to a wider understanding of challenges and enablers in this space, and help to shape the SDR UK infrastructure programme moving forward. This workshop should offer an engaging opportunity to develop networks within the digital footprints/smart data community and contribute to both academic and practical understanding of the ways of using smart data within the contexts of social science research.


After a short introduction to the SDR UK programme, this 90-minute session will build on methods used in the DDRC Attitudes Towards Data project (McClure & Hardy, forthcoming) and Lego Serious Play® (LSP®) methodology to use Lego model construction challenges in an exploration of shared experiences of using (or attempting to use) smart data for social research. LSP’s® balance of challenge and play has been proven to incite modelling of complex concepts, resulting in rich, in-depth reflections on attitudes to, and processes of, strategy and decision-making (McCusker, 2020).

SDR-UK Strategic Advice Team: Professor Rachel Franklin (Newcastle University), Professor Simeon Yates (University of Liverpool), Dr Elena Musi (University of Liverpool), Dr Omar Guerrero (Alan Turing Institute), Dr Seth Spielman (Microsoft), Dr Jeanette D’Arcy (University of Liverpool) and Dr Jessica Crosby (Newcastle University)