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Neighbourhood watch: science makes cities safer and more enjoyable


Australia is one of the world’s most urbanised countries – nearly 90% of our population live in urban areas – so the work done by urban designer and social entrepreneur Jessica Christiansen-Franks is super important.


Jessica co-founded Neighbourlytics with Lucinda Hartley. They use data from geo-tagged social posts and photos, including Instagram, Facebook and Google about the places people go, the things they do and what they value in their areas. Neighbourlytics makes recommendations so that planners can create useful and relevant public places – like bus stops, parks and shops – to reflect the needs of the communities. “People are more authentic in their social media posts than when they fill in a survey,” says Jessica.

Risky business

For emergency management specialist Andrew Gissing, who leads Risk Frontiers – a natural hazard research centre – managing disasters isn’t just about responding to fire, flood and earthquakes – it’s also about finding out how to be better prepared, so less damage occurs.

Andrew’s team’s analysis of flood fatalities dating back to 1900, found that most deaths occur when people try to drive or walk through floodwater. In 2017, four deaths in Western Australia directly resulted from flood disaster, so Andrew and this crew got to work surveying people in the local areas where floods occur. They found that even though nearly everyone agreed entering floodwater is dangerous – most also believed they knew when to give it a shot.

“Twenty-six per cent believed that it was somewhat, or completely, safe to drive through knee-deep still floodwaters,” Andrew says. It isn’t!

Making society safer for women

Zoe Condliffe, founder of She’s A Crowd and a PhD candidate at Monash University’s XYX lab, is a gender advocate and another data guru using digital mapping to make change.

“The biggest barrier to addressing gender-based violence is a lack of data about gender inequality: how it looks, feels and operates in our society,” says Zoe.

Her digital mapping tool ‘Free To Be’, gathers first-hand stories of girls and young women in five major cities (Sydney, Delhi, Kampala, Lima and Madrid) to identify places where street harassment and attacks occur. That data is then aggregated and analysed to form in-depth insights into where gender-based violence occurs and help planners rethink city spaces with women in mind.


Start your career here

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Science + society study

Australian National University – Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Public Policy:

University of New England – Bachelor of Urban Planning:

UNSW Sydney – Bachelor of Data Science and Decisions:

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Science + society jobs

Urban planner: $47K–$96K

Policy advisor: $60K–$106K

Data scientist: $61K–$135K*

*Source: salaries according


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