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At SocMap, we use empirical research based on mixed methods and mapping methods to analyse and bring out new insight which helps challenge and rearticulate prevailing theories in the fields of urban sociology/social geography, demography, education and health. With our point of departure being issues relating to (local) communities, demographic change, inequality, health, etc., the group has a common aim to focus these analyses on territorial issues. Each group member works with his/her specific areas of expertise and topical interests in an overarching framework relating to socio-spatial changes and territorial relationships where categories such as space, place, city, home and mobility play decisive roles. SocMap also focuses on territorial inequality where the specific location can mediate, i.e. compensate or worsen various types of socially-contingent problems.
Thus, SocMap combines elements of individual disciplines with linked approaches such as socio-demography, socio-geography, urban sociology, geo-demography, health sociology, educational sociology, health demography and bio-demography. In terms of methodology, the research group uses mixed methods research, particularly in combination with mapping methods (GIS), qualitative field work, statistics, registry data, surveys and econometrics. As a result, a crucial strength of SocMap comprises the highly differentiated methods and particularly the lessons learnt from combining these in empirical studies.
Organisation and members
SocMap – the “Demography, Social Geography and Health” Research Group, led by Professor Anja Jørgensen, comprises associate professor Mia Arp Fallov, associate professor Anette Quinto Romani, associate professor Lene Tølbøll, associate professor Hanne Louise Jensen, associate professor Claus D. Hansen, assistant professor Anna Diop-Christensen, PhD scholarship holder Rolf Lyneborg Lund, professor emerita Lisbeth B. Knudsen, as well as a few more loosely affiliated employees: Peter Clement Lund, professor emeritus Ole Riis, and post doc Rasmus Hoffmann Birk. The group was set up in 2010 and can be described as a growing research environment that actively addresses national and international socio-spatial issues, particularly focusing on local communities/local affiliation, demography and health. SocMap holds weekly Thursday meetings, where all ongoing cases and types of information are shared. A lengthier meeting is held about once a month with an academic agenda, and an academic whole-day seminar is held every six months or so. At these forums, guest lecturers are occasionally invited to speak on relevant, specific research themes and/or methodologies.
The research group, as an organisational entity, is the most central entity of the academic work. This is where academic, theoretical, empirical and methodological expertise is created and maintained through joint writing projects, research applications, presentation of papers and articles, discussions, participation in conferences and international networks, presentations by invited guests, etc. The research group is also a forum for mentoring, feedback and socialisation in terms of training of young and/or new colleagues as part of teaching positions and other aspects of academic life at the university. Therefore, it is important for the research group to actively hold meetings – formal and informal alike – on an ongoing basis and to initiate and support joint academic activities and academic–social integration. SocMap deems it crucial to include young scientists in applications, the writing of articles and in meetings with prospective partners within and outside the university. This is important because these elements of university life need to be learned as early as possible, but also because ensuring that members of a research group feel included in a collegial workplace is important to well-being, job satisfaction and the generation of new ideas. The research group must also liaise with other research environments in Denmark and abroad. At SocMap, we have participated in changing constellations at many conferences, meetings and other cooperative ventures at various locations in Denmark and abroad. This gives the group a wide-ranging, active network which continuously strengthens and further develops the group academically in the form of joint research projects, writing projects, seminars, etc. In addition, the research group is also a natural link to other levels of the university organisation such as department councils, department management, academic councils, faculty management, etc.
SocMap will maintain a high level of applications to various private and public sector research funds and foundations both as a group and as individual members.
SocMap will continue to read and comment on one another’s applications, and we will also include other relevant professionals in the group’s applications or for mentoring/feedback when this is deemed appropriate.
External research applications
Despite its young average age, the group has scientifically consolidated itself with sound academic breadth within the main topics and, by virtue of its Horizon 2020 grant, it has experienced a sharp increase in scientific volume. The issue of socio-graphical differences and socio-geographical segregation are highly topical in a policy context of both European regions and Denmark as a nation. Therefore, SocMap is applying for research funding in both international and national contexts. We are therefore working to acquire strategic funding via Innovation Fund Denmark, but we are also interested in Denmark’s open research funds in the form of funding for basic research, as well as various types of private grants. SocMap’s combinations of socio-geography, urban sociology, demography, education, health and mapping methods are key to many of the social challenges being addressed in many contexts right now, making it essential to ensure that research results and researcher networks relating to COHSMO get a spill-over effect in the form of new applications and related issues. In this context, we send applications on ongoing basis to the Independent Research Fund Denmark, which takes a basic-research approach within the combination of these topics.
In terms of foundations, we are continuously applying for research grants and cooperation. Foundations vary greatly in terms of how they cooperate with research institutions, and in this respect, we are involved in various cooperation projects that we wish to further develop and continue wherever possible. This applies to both locally and nationally based foundations and foundations with a more international outlook, but it is also true of foundations that are specifically oriented towards certain issues and foundations interested in basic research.
Specific project applications:
Over the years, SocMap has received external grants from various sources, including EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme for Research and innovation “EUROPE IN A CHANGING WORLD/REV-INEQUAL-07-2016, ERC –(European Research Council) Advanced Grant, The Independent Research Fund Denmark|Social Sciences Business (IRFD), The Obel Family Foundation, TrygFonden, SparNord, The Danish Working Environment Research Fund, Real-Dania, Danish Health Authority, NordForsk. Most grants were given to open researcher-initiated research while others have been linked to specifically assigned tasks for which tenders were invited.
Thus, SocMap will prioritise the correlation between local communities and local climate-adaptation solutions. In 2017, SocMap began cooperating with Århus Forsyning, Århus Vand, Haderslev Municipality, Provas Holding A/S, Odense Municipality and Vandcenter Syd, as well as consulting engineer firm EnviDan concerning an application targeting Innovation Fund Denmark’s grand solutions commitment.
SocMap will also give priority to efforts involving the interrelationship between territorial inequality, education, health and locality. In light of persistent urbanisation, it is becoming steadily more urgent to study the impact of this on overall public health both in densely populated and sparsely populated areas. There has long been a movement in health research towards studying physical, mental and social well-being in small geographic entities. A wide range of options already exists for exploring the interrelationship between areas’ characteristics, poverty/deprivation and public health in the SocioDemographic Database at the Department of Sociology and Social Work. Therefore, allowing our knowledge relating to meaningful, variable-based classifications to interact with health research, improves the possibility of better understanding the geographical variations in health research and thus perhaps also create more targeted, useful knowledge relating to prevention and combat. Thus, SocMap has submitted a research application based on this topic to FSE.
A final specific research agenda where SocMap wishes to be active is the issue concerning “ghettos” and generally the consequences of social life in these areas, which is inadequately discussed in Danish contexts. In Denmark, the share of immigrants and their descendants has been increasing for years, and there is a tendency for many of them to settle in housing districts around major cities – often referred to as ghettos in the Danish debate – together with others with an immigrant background. This generates lots of concern, but the problem is that we lack insight into both the positive and negative consequences of what it is like to live in these areas. SocMap has submitted a research application based on this topic to FSE.
Therefore, part of SocMap’s work going forward is to make a targeted effort to persistently obtain strategic research grants at national and international levels insofar as these are within the group’s range of expertise and research interests. The group continuously applies for support to open researcher-initiated research, in part from state research councils and in part where other foundations can be made interested in supporting projects.
Here it is worth mentioning our possibilities of conducting continuous analyses based on already collected data in research projects which are formally completed vis-à-vis the commissioning party. This applies, for instance, to FSE-supported projects such as Belonging, Compi and “Structural Factors in Relation to Youth Behaviour, Lifestyle, and Health”. This gives the group access to data in quite a number of areas at no great cost. It is particularly worth mentioning that at the Department of Sociology and Social Work, a Socio-Demographic Database has been set up containing individual-based registry data on the entire Danish population. These data are also accessible to the group’s researchers and thus provide opportunities for open research.
During the period, SocMap will continue to publish the results of high-quality research in international journals. This will be done on the basis of the research group’s basic methodological and theoretical developments. Therefore, the publications will be associated with empirical surveys, theoretical surveys and combinations of theoretical and empirical elements from individual disciplines to multimethod approaches.
SocMap has experience of making joint publication in the form of articles for various international periodicals, the anthology “Mapping-metoder” (mapping methods) (Jørgensen & Jensen, ed., 2014). The group will continue to work on joint publication tasks and will publish a joint research anthology during the period. The research group members also have a series of external partners and networks through which they will publish articles in periodicals and provide input to high-quality research anthologies. SocMap prioritises research of continuously high quality. The research group’s topics and interconnections between demography, health and socio-geography have a high degree of social relevance and this will also be apparent in future publications as the group aims to communicate research results to a wider public audience and partners outside the auspices of the university.
Regular meetings, seminars and other academic events are designed to ensure ongoing lively discussion and a space for the development of new ideas for further research and publication. In addition, papers and articles are presented at the group’s regular meetings, which helps ensure the high academic quality and methodological refinement of the publications. Members of SocMap take part as lecturers and keynote speakers at conferences in Denmark and abroad, where they communicate the group’s research and results. In addition, research and results are disseminated through Danish-language articles, daily newspapers, etc., and to more specific partners in municipalities, regions and research foundations, etc.
Talent management, career and cooperation
A significant aspect of efforts to ensure a rewarding professional career for young researchers at the department involves creating an environment where regular lunch meetings make it possible for members to feel an affinity with the group and with one other. In such an environment, it will be possible for young researchers to learn how to present their research and continuously receive constructive criticism from other group members, which ensures high-quality academic development.
Another key element relating to the group of young researchers also deals with their career planning. At SocMap, we consider it important for the senior researcher to frequently discuss young researchers’ future careers and actively take part in planning them. This happens in several different ways. A key method practised up to now has been to include young researchers in the applications for external grants, which can ensure their continued employment. This is done through collective projects, etc., in which several research group members participate or by applying for funding specifically linked to the individual young researchers’ areas of academic interest. In this context, the group is keenly focused on ensuring the quality of the applications submitted, and one way of doing this is to discuss applications with the group’s senior members with the most experience of drafting applications.
SocMap creates a social impact in different fields and at different levels. This is done through research input which moves individual research fields forward. It primarily applies to research into the interrelationship between social inequality and territorial cohesiveness where the research group (through the COHSMO project, etc.) contributes to an understanding of socio-geographical inequality, as a phenomenon driven by both socio-economic inequality and factors dealing with different dimensions of local affiliation. Social affiliation to localities varies with respect to family and kinship, friendships, neighbourhoods, association activities, etc., which constitutes a layer of social affiliation that is important to know when seeking to offset and alleviate the harmful effects of territorially-based inequality. In the same context, SocMap has developed a special method for capturing these various dimensions or layers of different social bindings which combines GIS data with registry data, survey data and qualitative data in one and the same model.
In addition to moving and affecting urban sociological and socio-geographical research, these effects are also crucial for the development of geodemography, health research and education, as well as in environmental and climate issues, etc., in which the group is involved. In relation to practice and social work, these insights also have a specific meaning, as they have been used in conjunction with specific projects revolving around local social integration, usually of socially disadvantaged individuals.
Contributions to research-based teaching
All permanent members of SocMap are teachers in the sociology study programme, the MSc programme in Social Work, at the programme City, Housing and Settlement Patterns, as well as in the criminology study programme, in addition to teaching in other departments such as Public Health, Political Science and Learning. SocMap members are the primary teachers in the sociology programme’s area of specialisation Sundhed, Rum og Sted (health, space and place), and the area is coordinated by three members of SocMap. In addition, SocMap members are visible in the programme in conjunction with methodology classes, demography and classroom teaching. Several SocMap members also comprise parts of the teachers’ group, as well as help coordinate City, Housing and Settlement Patterns, originated by Anja Jørgensen and Hans Thor Andersen some time ago. This particularly involves the subjects demography, local and spatial sociology, social differentiation in cities and teaching in the combination of GIS and various types of social data.
SocMap is involved in a number of different cooperation projects with partners in both national and international research environments. A key partner for SocMap is SBi, with which the group cooperates as part of the COHSMO project and the master’s programme in City, Housing and Settlement Patterns (BBB). In addition, the cooperation with SBi also focuses on launching a series of externally funded projects. SocMap wants to focus on other partners, too, as there are good cooperation possibilities within (e.g. the Clinical Research Department relating to health interventions and health surveys) and outside the framework of AAU with related departments (particularly the University of Copenhagen – Geography, Sociology and the Nordic Research Centre, and MOSPUS at Roskilde University Centre insofar as cities’ internal social development is concerned – and Vive and the Danish Centre for Rural Research at the University of Southern Denmark relating to settlement patterns and demography outside major cities). The objectives are achieved and supported through cooperation and feedback internally within the research group, and relevant external partners and networks (such as the national teams in COHSMO) are involved as partners where this is deemed to enhance the quality and achievement of the above-mentioned objectives. In addition, the group persistently and actively takes part in university courses in drafting applications, and the group also seeks to cultivate interdisciplinary cooperation at the university. Thus, SocMap is related to the Centre for Regional Disparity (Jørgen Goul Andersen), in ongoing cooperation with employees in and around the C-MUS environment and with employees in and around the public health environment and finally by exploiting the potential within existing international networks.
It would benefit research if a framework were established for the acquisition of expert assistance in individual projects (or joint projects), which could infuse the group’s work with special expertise. This could be for biostatistical analyses and other statistical methods that are beyond the group’s field of expertise.
Another focal point of the group’s external network are the efforts of both Danish and Nordic demographical societies. A third focal point for the group’s external network are the international relationships within the group’s relevant academic areas.
Aalborg University, 2018