Characterising Networks in Geographical and Social ‘Space’


This project establishes workflows for geocoding of contact diary data, describing interactions of households in discrete social locations, to facilitate linkage with relevant available datasets accessible through the AURIN Portal. This allows analysis of the relevant influences of household and neighbourhood factors on relative propensity to social interaction.
It also integrates an existing suite of social networks analytic software (BPnet) and accompanying tools into the AURIN platform, to facilitate network parameter estimation, simulation and visualisation using the aggregated data in the figure below.

Project overview

The purpose of this project is to facilitate the estimation of social network parameters from contact diary data collected in diverse neighbourhoods, with particular reference to the influence of household and neighbourhood level characteristics on the propensity to form connections. The project will utilise AURIN’s geospatial linkage capabilities to extract neighbourhood contextual information for matching with individual participant records, prior to estimation and simulation of observed networks in the geographical areas in which they are embedded.

This engagement with AURIN is enabling a larger project conducted by collaborators based at the University of Melbourne’s Schools of Population and Global Health and Psychological Sciences. The research is funded through an ARC Linkage Project, in which we are partnered with VicHealth, the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services, the City of Boroondara and Broadmeadows and Sunshine Uniting Care. It seeks evidence to support qualitative observations of structural and functional differences between networks in advantaged and disadvantaged neighbourhoods, of relevance to a range of health and wellbeing outcomes. In addition, it will provide information about community locations and resources that foster connectedness, of interest to our community partners and to urban planners more generally.

L3.5 figure

Project output

Preparation of contact diary dataset for network analysis – establish workflows for:

  • Automated geocoding of four-field addresses
  • Extraction of spatially explicit data from AURIN-accessible datasets, matched to geocodes
  • Linkage of spatially explicit data to contact dataset records
  • Automation of network feature extraction for further statistical analysis
  • Automation of network feature extraction for further network analysis

Integration of BPNet software into AURIN e-research platform:

  • Design and implementation of AURIN/BPNet interface, including integration of BPNet into AURIN’s computational resources
  • Investigate parallelisation of estimation algorithm for efficiency, and implement in AURIN if practicable
  • Testing and evaluation of AURIN/BPNet interface

Joint stream:

  • Application of BPnet to Boroondara contact diary data for estimation of network parameters
  • Simulation of networks using estimated parameters, applied to situational objective data (relevant population demography, spatial context)
  • Visualisation of spatially embedded networks within AURIN platform, potential extension of visualisation capability

Documentation, development of end-user tutorials to promote expert usage of software tools

Project team

This cross-disciplinary project, led by A/Prof Jodie McVernon in Population Health and Prof Robins in Psychological Sciences, draws skills and insights from researchers with expertise in mathematical modelling of infectious disease in heterogeneous populations, network estimation and simulation, social disadvantage and health, and urban planning.

SONY DSCAssoc Prof Jodie McVernon
Program Leader
NHMRC Career Development Fellow
Head, Modelling & Simulation Unit
Centre for Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Melbourne School of Population & Global Health
The University of Melbourne
and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
03 8344 0633
Garry RobinsProf Garry Robins
Social Networks Laboratory (MelNet)
Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences
The University of Melbourne
03 8344 4454

Project Partners