Support for staff


Support for staff

Support for staff

Support for staff

The Edinburgh Futures Institute is committed to supporting, promoting, and enabling high-quality research in areas focused on the challenges and opportunities related to data driven innovation that have demonstrable ethical, social, cultural, economic and environmental impact.

The EFI Research team aims to support academic staff by developing strategic areas of research capability, developing and supporting research networks, and providing advice regarding grant applications related to our themes (Creative, Data Civics, Gov-Tech, Financial Services and FinTech, Tourism and Festivals, Future Infrastructure, Ethics of Data and AI).

We also aim to support a training and upskilling program of data-led research methods, managed by the Centre for Data, Culture and Society (CDCS), to allow existing staff and research students at the University of Edinburgh to grow and develop their own approaches to data-led research.

One of our priority areas is to support academics working on strategic research grant applications by providing expert advice on how to design, structure and resource a project and coordinate the submission process. We also support the grant application process by identifying colleagues who can constructively peer review proposals, facilitating networking and collaboration with external partners, providing teaching buy-out for applicants or buy-in for junior researchers who can support the PI in preparing the proposal. You can find the application form here, but please liaise with the EFI Research Manager if you have any specific request.

Our Research Capability Fund supports researchers by providing practical support, for example access to new data sets, software licences, strategic equipment, digitisation and training. It’s an open call so academics can apply at any time by sending to The application form is available here.

We also have two schemes to support projects which are relevant for our research themes: the EFI Research awards, which we now manage in collaboration with the CAHSS College Research Office as a stream within the Challenge Investment Fund. Please liaise with your School Research Office to check their internal deadline.

The second scheme is an open call to support networking activities, events and small pilot projects. Awards are usually up to £2,500 and we tend to confirm the outcome of the application within a week.  You can download the application form here and send it to

We support academics at all career stages through our internal affiliation programme, which aims to promote and support researchers who would like to develop their interests in or are already working on areas close to our themes.  The guidelines and application forms are available on our Sharepoint here.

EFI research awards 2021/2022

Our EFI Research awards are currently managed in collaboration with colleagues in the CAHSS College Research Office, as a stream within the Challenge Investment Fund (CIF) call. CIF Awards are aimed to support broader College research objectives to further synergies and areas of cross-disciplinary expertise within CAHSS, across College boundaries and/or outside the institution. Applicants whose research projects had a focus on the challenges and opportunities posed by Data Driven Innovation in one of the EFI research themes (FinTech and financial services, Data Civics and the future of public services, Creative Tech, Tourism and Festivals, Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence, Critical Infrastructure), were invited to flag this in their application form.

The CIF review panel agreed to fund 6 projects focussing on EFI research priorities and aiming at generating new knowledge and contributing to the solution of significant and complex real-world cultural, societal, economic and environmental challenges. We supported projects exploring a wide range of issues such as the application of data mining and machine learning to study archival materials on Scottish pre-Reformation music, the impact of Covid19 on mental wellbeing, co-designing social security systems for single parents, and the challenges of implementing Virtual Reality faced by museums and tourism organisations. You can find out more about the individual projects below:

James Cook

Lecturer in Early Music, Reid School of Music, Edinburgh College of Art

Exploring Data Driven Approaches to Researching Ephemeral Cultural Heritage

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Based on James’ previous work on Scottish pre-Reformation music, this project will focus on material in existence for Scotland which has been drastically underrepresented in the literature, simply because it is contained in often small, disparate, and complex sources. The project will pilot approaches through three case studies, exploring the application of data mining and machine learning techniques to the surviving archival material relating to music and musicians from three institutions in Historic Environment Scotland’s care. By applying DDI methodologies to the research, interpretation, and curation of important cultural heritage sites under the care of Historic Environment Scotland, the team will build a complete picture of each of the three case study institutions and will begin to develop public-facing data visualisation of the data collected, as well as working with Historic Environment Scotland on using this data for visitor interpretation.

James Cook’s profile page

Glenna Nightingale

Chancellor’s Research Fellow in Nursing Studies, School of Health in Social Science

Investigating mental wellbeing along the lifecourse (1991-2020) and during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on multiple spheres in society, including the overall mental wellbeing in our society.  This study will use the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) dataset (with ~30 years of data). The survey has been adapted to include COVID-19 related questions from early 2020. This study seeks to identify the factors which impact most on mental wellbeing, to determine the impact of the pandemic on the overall trend of mental health metrics over the years of the UKHLS and to make the findings easily accessible to relevant policymakers and researchers .The proposed research will generate findings that reflect the historical trend in mental wellbeing, investigate the impact of the pandemic on this trend, and identify and quantify the impact of key factors on overall mental wellbeing in the UK. One method of dissemination of findings is via a project dashboard.

Glenna Nightingale’s profile page

Patrick Errington

Early Career Teaching and Research Fellow, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Difficulty and pleasure in comprehending novel extensions of verb-based metaphors assessed using fNIRS

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The objective of this project is to examine how immersion and pleasure are affected by the anticipation of various post-reading tasks (including literary critical analysis), how these then affect reading habits, and how reading habits influence reader wellbeing. This study is at the forefront of emerging fields like neuro-aesthetics, cognitive humanities, and empirical literary studies. In addition to its immediate scientific outputs, this study will provide the basis for an interdisciplinary research programme and the impetus to build a network with external academic and public partners. The team will liaise with experts who are working near this intersection between literary studies, cognitive psychology, linguistics, phenomenology, and mental wellbeing, several of whom have already expressed interest in these projects.

Patrick Errington’s profile page

Hayley Bennett

Lecturer in Social Policy, School of Social and Political Science

Hard to reach? Co-designing social security digital interfaces and automation processes with lone parents using creative and participatory methods

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This project focuses on understanding the experience of lone parents of the complex, multi-level social security system in Scotland, which involves various administrative agencies, funds, and resources using different interfaces. Often designers work on a single agency interfaces (such as Universal Credit). However, this singular view fails to situate the digital and automated experience within the context of multiple benefits and various human and digital information sources. The team will engage with lone parents through our specific project partners, drawing on relationships with partners involved in related work (Poverty Alliance, Edinburgh Advice Bureaux for example) and will produce an engagement report about the suitability and success/limitations of the chosen deliberative and creative methods for engaging with lone parents as well as w creative booklet (such as a Zine) outlining the experiences about the system and how it could change.

Hayley Bennett’s profile page

Kirsten Cowan

Lecturer in Marketing, University of Edinburgh Business School

Integrating Virtual Reality (VR) into Tourist Organisations: Reproducing Museum Identity in Virtual Environments

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The objective of this research is to consider the role of industry adoption of VR focussing on how museums construct narratives in VR. It also aims to investigate obstacles to VR channel adoption faced by tourism organisations, to understand how to strengthen impact. Research suggests VR is the new normal for tourism and the route forward for aiding decision-making. Yet, very few museums and tourist organisations have developed virtual content. Moreover, much research considers a consumer/tourist view rather than a museum view. The project will develop a toolkit for museums to understand the real and perceived challenges of implementing VR as well as what criteria they might consider in storytelling using VR.

Kirsten Cowan’s profile page

Maria Cucciniello and Stephen Osborne

Maria Cucciniello – Senior Lecturer in Service Management, University of Edinburgh Business School, Stephen Osborne – Chair of International Public Management, University of Edinburgh Business School

What can we learn from the Covid-19 Pandemic? A Study of the Vaccination Programme in Scotland from a Service Perspective

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The Covid-19 pandemic has radically challenged how we can best protect the health of the population at the societal and global levels. Vaccination has been generally agree to be the cornerstone of any effective protection programme. The  vaccination  programme, however,  should  be  seen  and  analysed  not  as  the  logistical  delivery  of  public  health products  but  rather  as  a  public  service  that  is  enacted  within  a  complex  and  interactive  public  service  ecosystem,  at  the institutional/societal,  service  and  individual  levels. This project will further our understanding of divergent policy designs of vaccination, revealing the underlying mechanisms about how different  political,  cultural  and  social  backgrounds  can  influence  policy  designs  and  uncovering  how  different  policies  can  influence collaboration and individual behaviours. Our ambition is to produce outputs with meaningful, sustained and measurable impact in society. In this regard, this project can enhance vaccination research vaccination significantly, rather than incrementally.

Maria Cucciniello’s profile page


Research support

In addition to these research projects, we have also supported several events, workshops and initiatives with a focus on Data Driven Innovation, including:

Glenna Nightingale

Chancellor’s Research Fellow in Nursing Studies, School of Health in Social Science

Modelling the spatial correlation in University of Edinburgh halls of residence COVID-19 reported positivity.

The proposed work is to estimate the spatial correlation of COVID-19 incidence across the University of Edinburgh halls of residence with the use of Log Gaussian Cox Process models.  The study will also investigate the question of whether there is a higher reported incidence of COVID-19 positivity in University halls which are en-suite. This project will develop special models and use a data to generate knowledge on the spread of COVID-19 within the University residence context and will support public health policy and University Health and Safety policy UK wide

Glenna Nightingale’s profile page

Diana Paton and Rachel Scally

Diana Paton – William Robertson Professor of History, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Rachel Scally – Daiches-Manning Memorial Fellow, IASH Edinburgh

Building the New Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, c.1860-1879: Philanthropy and Legacies of Slavery in Nineteenth Century Scotland

The project will investigate the building of the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, which first opened on Lauriston Place in 1879, and its potential financial links to the transatlantic slave trade. It will conduct a prosopographical analysis of the donors to the building in order to shed light on their wider commercial and family networks, their cultural and philanthropic activities and will analyze how significant these donations were for the new hospital. This project grows out of contemporary debates about how the legacies of empire and slavery should be addressed in Scotland, Britain, and elsewhere. In order to address these legacies it is critical to establish a solid evidentiary base from which to make public history claims.  The project will involve biographical and bibliographic research and will utilize sources such as minute books, cash ledgers, correspondence and wills.

Diana Paton’s profile page

Rachel Scally’s profile page

Seongsook Choi, Andrew Cross and David Overend

Seongsook Choi – Senior Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies, Moray House School of Education and Sport, Andrew Cross – Impact Coordinator, School of Geosciences, David Overend – Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies, Moray House School of Education and Sport

Crossing the line: understanding the interdisciplinary classroom

In preparation for the launch of EFI’s undergraduate programme in September 2023, this project aims to initiate a long-term research strategy that will observe, document and critically reflect on the experience of learners and teachers in the interdisciplinary classroom. This research seeks to understand the experience of students and teachers as they ‘cross the line’ between disciplines. It explores (i) how students learn by making connections between ideas and concepts across different disciplines; (ii) how students apply the knowledge gained in one discipline to a different discipline as a way to deepen the learning experience; (iii) how teachers and professional partners collaborate to serve a common purpose helping students make the connections between different disciplines/subject areas.

Seongsook Choi’s profile page

Andrew Cross’s profile page

David Overend’s profile page

Liz McFall

Chancellor’s Fellow, School of Social and Political Science

The Urban Sociology of Insurance

The project explores the changing relationship between city planning, insurance buildings, insurance brands, and capital and property investment strategies. It considers how the business of property investment propelled the work of big insurers in shaping urban environments through the twentieth century and traces how that began to change as the century closed. The ascendance of the tech industries and the emergence of ‘insurtech’ has been accompanied by a change in the role property and architecture plays in insurance. Architecture, and interior design, still play a central role in branding but insurtech start-ups, and the insurtech branches of legacy insurers, use it to convey lightness, agility, creativity and informality. The project will examine the role of Prudential and Standard Life in reimagining urban environments in the post war period.

Liz McFall’s profile page

Jamie Chambers

Lecturer in Design (Film), School of Design, Edinburgh College of Art

Map of Stories

The proposed work is to develop an open-access, interactive website that will allow visitors (nationally and globally) to explore the strong connections to place within Scotland’s community oral storytelling heritage. The website will create a highly impactful platform for research into new, contemporary digital forms for traditional forms of folk culture and heritage, at a moment of considerable visibility for Scottish storytelling as part of VisitScotland’s global promotional campaign. The site will play a prominent role in encouraging responsible tourism as part of VisitScotland’s Year of Stories campaign, in mapping stories to particular places and locations across Scotland.

Jamie Chamber’s profile page

Details of past research awards and projects can be found here: