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May 19th, 2017 4:30 PM   to   6:30 PM

Friday 19th May 2017, 4.30pm

Future Living

Dr. Alasdair Rae

University of Sheffield

Director,  Sheffield Q-Step Centre

Title: The United States of America, or just a bunch of 'megaregions'? An alternative view of the economic geography of the United States?

Abstract: In this presentation I discuss a recent piece of research I conducted on the geography of so-called 'megaregions' in the United States. In collaboration with my colleague Garrett Nelson at Dartmouth College (US), I used a large dataset and cloud computing to algorithmically define commuter megaregions in the United States. The paper was published in PLOS ONE in November 30 2016 and since then has racked up more than 220,000 views. The associated data has also accumulated more than 44,000 views and 6,400 downloads on Figshare. The reason for this is partly because it was an open access paper but also because it struck a chord with people, as we saw through the large number of post-publication engagements, including a Reddit AMA on the topic. In short, we offered a new view of the economic geography of the United States that cuts across existing state and county boundaries in order to define 50 new 'megaregions'. My presentation includes lots of maps and emphasises the benefits of speaking beyond the 'echo chambers' of our own academic disciplines.
Bio: Alasdair Rae is Reader in Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield in the UK. His work focuses on the manipulation, analysis and visualisation of large geographic datasets in relation to cities, neighbourhoods, transport and economic development. More widely, 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 tweets at @undertheraedar and blogs at and is currently Editor in Chief at open access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science.

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Aim of the Series

The University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences is pleased to host this seminar series, presenting topics in the broad areas of geographical information and remote sensing, under the auspices of the Edinburgh Earth Observatory. This prestigious series combines research seminars with talks of professional interest and is open to students and staff across the University and beyond, together with professionals in the field working in Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland. Supported by the Association for Geographic Information in Scotland (AGI Scotland) as a professional seminar series, it aims to be inclusive and broad-ranging. Talks are timed for the late afternoon to bring a social dimension.

These seminars also represent an important networking opportunity, with a growing audience comprising some of the key players in the Scottish geographical information industry. Talks are followed by AGI Geo-Drinks which take place in the Teviot Library Bar allowing plenty room for informal professional networking.

Our typical audience numbers 40-60 and combines staff and students from GeoSciences, Informatics and other Schools within the university, with professional colleagues from the Scottish Government, British Geological Survey, EDINA, Registers for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Forest Research and several SMEs from across Central Scotland and beyond.


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Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 3116