Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian is Lecturer/Assistant Professor (Ad Astra Fellow) in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering, and work package leader of WP3 of the NexSys Offshore WindStrand, entitled “Monitoring”. We learn more about his research below.
What is your NexSys research about and what are you working onat the moment?
My research is about employing novel sensing systems and data analytic methods to reduce the cost of operation and maintenance and de-risking the wind energy sector.
What first got you interested in your research area?
The challenging and complex environment that offshore wind turbines are operating in and how we can use fundamental science to overcome these challenges.
What is one interesting fact about your research area people may not know about?
Data collected from cheap sensors installed on wind turbines can tell you many facts about their structural condition. We can detect structural anomalies at their early stage and extend the life-time of offshore wind turbines using these information.
What is the wider relevance of your research to the energy transition?
Considering the number of wind farms reaching their end-of-life, ensuring safe and profitable life extension will have great environmental impact by avoiding the need for new wind turbines. In addition, it is expected that, that up to 5% reduction in the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) can be achieved by extending a turbine’s lifetime by up to 15 years.
Commuters in County Dublin prefer walking over bikes and e-scooters as a means of getting to and from work before or after a public transport journey, according to astudy co-authored by NexSys researchers recently published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Cycling and Micromobility Research.
Micromobility – a term used to describe small, light electric vehicles such as bikes and e-scooters – is often promoted as a low-carbon alternative that can help people move away from using private cars and taxis since it can improve connectivity of existing public transport networks. However, there has been little research to date on micromobility as a travel choice in the first mile (also known as access trip) and last mile (egress trip) of a commute.
The study authors, through an online survey with 450 responses, investigated how commuters in County Dublin prefer to travel in the first- and last-mile of public transport trips. They also examined the influence of characteristics such as gender and age on people’s choice of micromobility, including shared bicycles and e-scooters, compared to walking.
In the survey, residents of County Dublin were asked about the mode of transport they would choose in hypothetical commute scenarios, including in the first mile of a commute with private bicycles and e-scooters, and in the last mile with shared bicycles and e-scooters.
Using statistical models to analyse the responses, the researchers found that walking was the preferred option for commuting for most respondents, even when other options were available and provided significant reductions in travel time.
“This was one of the more surprising outcomes of the survey,” said lead author Giulia Oeschger, PhD candidate at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering. “I was expecting a lot of people to be more concerned with travel time, since cycling and e-scooter-use drastically reduced travel time in the experiment, but despite this a lot of people still deliberately chose the walking option which is always the longest. The population of Dublin seems to really love walking and our survey shows they do it for enjoyment or for exercise. This seems to be a characteristic of the city of Dublin,” she said. However, how the available infrastructure and the perceived safety of cycling and e-scooter use on the streets of Dublin influence the results has not been looked at in this particular study, and is something that the authors feel should be investigated further.
Left: Lead author Giulia Oeschger; Right: Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and lead of the transport strand at NexSys at UCD
The authors also found important differences in transport preference in relation to gender and age. Young (less than 35 years old) and male respondents are significantly more likely to choose e-scooters and bicycles, while older and female respondents are significantly more likely to choose walking, even if other options were significantly faster. This is consistent with previous studies which also found that e-scooter users are predominantly young and male, the authors note in the paper.
Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in Transport Engineering at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and one of the authors of the study, states that “while the results of this study highlight that walking was the preferred choice for first and last mile segments of a journey, it also accounts for the existing limited ability to combine active modes or micromobility trips with public transport in Dublin and across the country due to, in some cases, modes not being well integrated with one another and the limitations in bringing private bikes or scooters onto public transport vehicles. However, the walkability of our access trips to and from public transport stops/stations is a key component influencing the attractiveness of public transport services.”
Availability of secure parking was an important consideration when it comes to choosing transport modes, the authors found.
The researchers argue that these results confirm that younger generations have a growing interest in micromobility, but regulations and adequate infrastructure are needed to promote equitable access to these modes of transport, with a particular focus on attracting users away from more carbon-intensive transport such as private cars and ride-hailing trips.
The paper co-authors are:
– Giulia Oeschger, PhD candidate at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering;
– Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and lead of the transport strand at NexSys at UCD;
– Professor Brian Caulfield,Professor in Transportation in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and funded investigator with NexSys. Giulia Oeschger and Dr Páraic Carroll are also part of theUCD Transport Research Hub (TREAH), which Dr Carroll leads.
This research is funded by University College Dublin, School of Civil Engineering, under the MicroActive Dublin research project.
About NexSys and its transport strand
Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) is an all-island, multidisciplinary energy research programme. NexSys is hosted by the UCD Energy Institute in partnership with eight other leading research institutions. 46 leading academics work in partnership with industry to tackle the challenges of energy decarbonisation, developing evidence-based pathways for a net zero energy system.
The NexSys transport research strand is investigating the critical infrastructure, behavioural and policy challenges of transitioning to decarbonised multi-modal transport and renewable energy use in a fair way, and identifying tangible evidence-based solutions via engagement and collaboration of key stakeholders tasked with implementing them.
In the latest installment of Silicon Republic’s series on Ireland’s research leaders, Creating the Future, NexSys Director Prof Andrew Keane is interviewed by CEO and co-founder of Silicon Republic Ann O’Dea about his research career as well as NexSys’ work and mission.
In a wide ranging conversation, they discuss decarbonisation of the electricity system, the need for multidisciplinary research in the context of the energy transition, advice for researchers interested in getting involved in the net-zero effort, and Keane’s background and career path, with time spent in industry and academia, as well as his passion for coffee!
Clíodhna Ní Shé is a PhD student in the Transport strand of NexSys, based in the School of Business at University College Dublin. Clíodhna’s research focuses on optimisation algorithms, with a focus on electric vehicle routing problems and last mile logistics. A vehicle routing problem is a combinatorial optimisation problem which aims to find the optimal set of routes for a fleet of vehicles to traverse in order to deliver to a given set of customers. Last mile logistics concerns the last stretch of the supply chain, from the last distribution centre to the recipient’s preferred destination point.
In her spare time Clíodhnaplays Gaelic Football for Carlow. From 25 to 29 June, she attended the EURO PhD summer school on sustainable supply chains in Hagen, Germany, and writes about her experience below.
I set out from Dublin to Dusseldorf airport, where I would have to navigate two connecting trains and a bus to get me to my accommodation in Hagen, a city in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. I was due to arrive at my accommodation around 12 noon, but due to numerous delays and miscommunications in Deutsche Bahn, I only checked in at 5 o’clock. Hungry from the arduous trip, I was overjoyed to be greeted by a generous buffet of Lebanese food as I entered the Sunday evening get together. Following mildly awkward introductions, we enjoyed the delicious food in the heat, along with bottles of beer, cola and ‘radler’, a traditional German drink.
Bright and early in the morning, summer school delegates walked from the accommodation to the FernUniversitat, Germany’s only state distance learning university. With over 73,500 students, it is also the largest university in Germany. Throughout the busy week we were treated to lectures and tutorials on designing sustainable supply chains, benchmarking supply chains, and the circular economy. Monday’s lecture and tutorial concentrated on assessing sustainability in supply chains. First, I learned about the relevance and challenges of life cycle sustainability assessments. Following this, I learned about the steps of a life cycle assessment (LCA) and how to interpret the results. I was then introduced to social LCA and how to assess the environmental and social impacts, an interesting aspect of LCA that I hadn’t encountered before. In the afternoons, we were split into groups to work on various case studies. The case studies were introduced to us by representatives from industry partners Volkswagen and Holocene.
As the week went on, lecture focused on the planning of sustainable supply chains and the problems that arise when doing this planning. As part of learning about benchmarking sustainable supply chains, we were also introduced to data envelopment analysis.
A highlight of the trip was the field trip on Tuesday evening that we took to the Koepchenwerk pumped storage power plant, which has been shut down since 1994. We were treated to a very informative tour of the scenic plant. We then walked to an Italian restaurant where we had a lovely meal together.
Thursday’s lecture on the circular economy was particularly interesting as we discussed many possible circular supply chains and the possible advantages and disadvantages of them, as well as their realistic viability.
On this final day of the summer school, we presented our case study presentations to our peers and to the relevant stakeholders.
There is no doubt that throughout the week we gained valuable knowledge from experts that guided us through cutting edge quantitative research in this vital field. However, the most valuable information was gained from my peers with whom I collaborated and had the opportunity to share stories and connect with.
Introducing NexSys research through the lens of publication abstracts
by Brian Boyle and Stefan Müller
Brian Boyle is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin. Brian’s main research interests include social inequalities and representation in political behaviour and political communication, with a focus on the use of quantitative and computational social science approaches.
Stefan Müller is an Assistant Professor and Ad Astra Fellow in the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin. His research focuses on political representation, party competition, political communication, public opinion, and quantitative text analysis. Stefan is a core member of the Connected_Politics Lab, a fellow at the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy, a member of the UCD Energy Institute, co-author of the quanteda R package, and maintainer of the Irish Polling Indicator. He established the Text & Policy Research Group at UCD.
Keen to learn more about NexSys and unsure where to start? In this blog post, we use bibliometrics, the statistical analysis of publications, to introduce the NexSys team and their research.
We were curious to find out how our team’s prior work relates to the core aims of the NexSys programme, and which issues relating to the strands of NexSys have been addressed in past abstracts of publications. Our results illustrate the depth and breadth of NexSys research.
Over 2,600 publications from ten different subject areas
We systematically collected information on previous academic publications from the NexSys team. The Elsevier Scopus database contains abstracts and citation information on over 85 million documents, across more than 25,000 peer-reviewed journals, books, and conference papers. Of the 74 NexSys team members listed on the project staff page [data collected in January 2023], 59 were present in the Scopus database. This covered all staff members with the exception of our PhD Students and non-academic members of the team.
While over half of NexSys researchers have an engineering background, the full team covers ten different subject areas, including architecture, computer science, economics, and social policy. The engineers themselves come from over seven sub-fields, including chemical, civil, electrical, marine, and mechanical engineering.
Searching the Scopus database by author returned 3,200 publications, 2,880 of which contained a valid digital object identifier (DOI), and relevant summary description text (e.g. article abstracts). The NexSys members’ publications were spread across a variety of formats, including 2,000 journal articles, 600 conference papers, as well as 160 books and book chapters.
Differences Across Disciplines
We provide descriptive analyses of publication abstracts using the quanteda R package (Benoit et al. 2018) for quantitative text analysis. The table below lists the number of abstracts from each subject area. We also report the abstracts’ most frequent terms and phrases, after removing punctuation characters, numbers, and so-called “stopwords” which appear in almost all scientific publications.
The list underscores the depth of our research, but also shows that researchers from most disciplines have directly worked on one or more of the core issues of the NexSys programme.
Most Frequent Features in Publication Abstract by Subject Area
Mechanical Engineering (598 abstracts): building (166 mentions), performance (156), experimental (148), system (127), compared (125), potential (118), damage (112), flow (112), numerical (112), energy (107)
Other/Non-academic (187 abstracts): system (68 mentions), adaptation (55), ieee (54), network (53), voltage (52), impact (49), methodology (48), control (46), load (45), power_systems (44)
Politics and Social Policy (33 abstracts): housing (48 mentions), parties (24), voters (23), policy (20), social (17), electoral (15), support (14), problems (13), government (13), party (12)
The Focus on the Five Strands
NexSys consists of five strands: four hub strands (Water; Cities and Communities; Transport; Offshore Wind), and the Energy Systems core strand linking these four areas.
We explore how the NexSys team’s research fits into each strand (due to the overarching scope of the Energy Systems core strand, this was excluded from the current analysis). In order to classify the database of publication abstracts, we used a two-stage procedure. First, we selected ‘seed words’ that were narrowly and directly related to each strand (water; cities, city, community; transport, infrastructure; wind, offshore wind). We then checked whether or not an abstract contained none, one, or more than one of these keywords.
With this initial simple classification, we moved on to so-called keyness analysis, a method through which frequent words can be identified (see, e.g., Bondi and Scott 2010; Zollinger 2022). Taking each strand in turn, we set the abstract texts that were identified as belonging to that strand based on the dictionary search as our target category, and all other abstract texts as the reference group. We then compared the relative frequency of features (this could be words or multi-word expressions) across each set of documents and identified words strongly associated with a specific category.
Words that occur very often in documents in our target category, but do not appear much in any of the reference documents, would produce a relatively high Chi2 value. Words that appear frequently in the reference documents, but not very often in the target documents would contain negative values.
From the keyness analysis, we took the ten most distinctive features for each strand and ran new dictionary searches using this expanded set of keywords to re-classify the publication abstracts, which are outlined below.
Strand Classification – Keyness Analysis 10 Most Distinct Features
After this second round of classification, we took each set of abstracts labelled under each strand and then ran a final keyness analysis. For abstracts falling into each of the four strands, we compared publications by engineers with researchers across all other subject areas. This allows us to explore how our team’s overall previous research aligns with the NexSys strands. The keyness analysis also helps us understand how the focus on each strand differs across research fields.
The results for each strand are displayed in the figures below.
Broadly speaking, we observe clear differences in terms of both the language used across each of the four strands, as well as between engineering and other disciplines’ focus within each strand.
Engineering research tends to have a more focused scope, that is directly tied to concepts surrounding measurement, technology, and physical systems. The remaining research fields, meanwhile, tend to relate to a somewhat broader level of analysis, with the most distinct terms focusing on people-centred aspects of each strand. Examples include urban areas, specific locations and places, and the human impact of climate change.
This very preliminary result highlights that NexSys researchers have focused on a combination of the technical questions and societal effects of these technologies.
What we learned
Exploring the abstract texts from the NexSys team’s previous publications highlights the breadth of research experience and knowledge offered within the programme. It is clear that bringing together researchers from a broad range of subject areas is a key advantage of NexSys in its endeavour to develop technical, political, and social solutions to reach our net zero energy goals. This initial textual analysis shows how NexSys addresses the programme’s core objectives from various angles.
Benoit, Kenneth, Kohei Watanabe, Haiyan Wang, Paul Nulty, Adam Obeng, Stefan Müller, and Akitaka Matsuo. 2018. “Quanteda: An R Package for the Quantitative Analysis of Textual Data.” The Journal of Open Source Software 3 (30): 774. https://doi.org/10.21105/joss.00774
Bondi, Marina, and Mike Scott, eds. 2010. Keyness in Texts. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/scl.41
Zollinger, Delia. 2022. “Cleavage Identities in Voters’ Own Words: Harnessing Open-Ended Survey Responses.” American Journal of Political Science published ahead of print. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12743
Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) is an all-island multidisciplinary research programme, involving nine different research institutions, alongside industry partners from across the energy sector. The programme’s key aims include tackling the challenges of energy decarbonisation, and developing evidence-based pathways for a just, net-zero energy system.