The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


13 Dec 2017 | 5pm | From Algorithms To Megaregions | Alasdair Rae

13 December 2017, 5:00 pm–6:00 pm

Alasdair Rae (2017)

From Algorithms To Megaregions: Mapping America's Economic Geography

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UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA)


LG04 Lecture Theatre, 26 Bedford Way, London, United Kingdom, WC1H 0DS

In this seminar Alasdair Rae will discuss his recent work on US 'megaregions', carried out with Garrett Dash Nelson, his US co-author at Dartmouth College. This story of open research and digital connectivity serves as a good example of the new possibilities and outcomes associated with taking a more open approach to scholarship. The work was based on the analysis of more than 4 million commuter flows in the United States and they used open source tools developed at MIT to analyse their data. This was achieved using Amazon Web Services cloud computing and it was all written up collaboratively in Google Docs.​ The aim of the work was to arrive at a better understanding of the functional economic geography of the United States. It struck a chord with many people, including members of the public on a Reddit AMA, but Alasdair would be keen to hear what the UCL audience thinks. He will also give a bit more information into the background to the work and why they really did it - following the maxim that "research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing".

Alasdair Rae is a Professorial Fellow in Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield. He holds a PhD from the University of Liverpool, an MA from The Ohio State University and a BA (Hons) from the University of Strathclyde. He is a planner/geographer with an interest in applied GIS - that is, more or less, using spatial analysis tools to understand and tackle real-world problems. One such problem is how geographic space is organised, and that is the subject of his talk. More generally, he is a proponent of open access, open data and open source software and seeks to make use of the wide range of new datasets that have become available in recent years; always with the aim of answering important underlying questions. His data analysis and mapping work has appeared in a variety of media outlets, including The Economist, the BBC, the Daily Mail, CityLab, the Washington Post, WIRED, The Guardian, and National Geographic. He is currently Editor in Chief at open access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science.

He tweets @undertheraedar and blogs at www.statsmapsnpix.com