In May 2019, a group of staff and students from the University of Bath travelled to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in order to deliver a workshop on effectively using data to inform air pollution policy. This was a joint initiative delivered by SAMBa (the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Statistical Applied Mathematics), the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at the University of Bath, and the National University of Mongolia (NUM).
The workshop consisted of two interweaving strands: mornings, led by Julie Barnett from psychology with Eleanor Eaton from Economics, were devoted to exploring how using data science can help inform understanding and analyse the way in which air pollution relates to key sustainable development goals; afternoons, led by Julian Faraway from Mathematical Sciences, supported by eight SAMBa students, delivered training in the using the statistical package 'R' for data analysis.
Approximately 40 participants from academic and government institutions in Mongolia joined the workshop and took part in discussion groups, and knowledge exchange sessions, as well as the training.
Odmaa Battumur from the Mongolian National Centre for Maternal and Child Health said: "6 participants from NCMCH gained new knowledge and skills including questionnaire development, data collection, analysis and dissemination of findings, and user skills of R software. We appreciate very much the opportunity provided from the workshop."
As well as a capacity building exercise for those based in Mongolia, the workshop provided a fantastic chance for SAMBa students to put the training they receive through the programme into practice. Teo Deveney, who also spent a month in Ulaanbaatar prior to the workshop, liaising with stakeholders and gathering data said: "It was great to realise how valuable our technical skills are. Mostly from a data perspective, but also on the applied maths front where there was interest in physical modelling of air pollution. Practice with engaging at a non-technical level with people in government was good experience that is typically hard to find in a maths department, and one that I think will benefit me in future."
Julie Barnett, who has been working with SAMBa for three years on the collaboration with Mongolian partners added: “This was my second time in Mongolia with the SAMBa team and it was great! The strengths - indeed the necessity - of interdisciplinary collaborations were again really evident. The workshop we convened was a great mix of learning statistics in the context of discussions about the role of data, and exploring evidence in developing policies to address air pollution. The air pollution issue in Ulaanbaatar is perhaps the most pressing policy challenge that they are facing and the Bath team are developing a long term relationship with academic and policy colleagues there as they build capacity to address this.”
The funding for the workshop was awarded from the University of Bath's Research England Global Challenges Research Fund.