York City Environment Observatory (YCEO): Understanding How the Total Environment Affects the Health, Wellbeing and Equity of City Populations

York Lead: Prof. Alistair Boxall
York Departments Involved: EnvironmentStockholm Environment Institute-YorkSociologyElectronic EngineeringHealth SciencesHistory


By 2050, 66% of the world’s population will live in cities, and it has long been recognised that the totality of this urban environment – made up of a complex combination of natural, built, cultural and social factors – has a powerful impact on the health and well-being of individual citizens as well as the economic prosperity of cities themselves.


The York City Environment Observatory (YCEO) aims to establish York as an exemplar city for better understanding the links between the quality of the environment and the health and well-being of citizens and the economy of the city. Using this understanding, we aim to support evidence-based decision-making on how we design, manage, use and interact with our environment.

Structure/Methodology and Outputs

The YCEO project is led by the University of York and City of York Council. It also involves a number of collaborating organisations and partners from a range of sectors including businesses, local government, national agencies and research institutes.

During this pilot phase, we have engaged with over a hundred York residents to understand what environmental themes and questions are most important to them. We have also carried out a data audit, identifying the types of data that would be needed to support effective decision-making in relation to the environment and health and well-being. This involved identifying whether this data currently exists, and exploring possible innovative future techniques for collecting data (e.g. sensor networks). The third part of our project focussed on making information that is crucial to evidence-based decision-making available. We have achieved this through the creation and continued growth of the YCEO York Open Data site (yceo.org.uk), which contains almost one thousand openly-accessible datasets relating to the environment and health and well-being. The final part of this pilot phase project has been the initial scoping of an analytical framework that would support the development of a decision-support tool – YorDecision – that would allow users to draw on disparate data sources to answer their specific questions. This tool would use innovative data-analysis technologies to draw on the available information to produce a user-friendly output that facilitates evidence-based decision-making (e.g. as a website, mobile device app, or report etc.).

Going Forwards

Moving into the future, we are keen to continue to use and further the outputs of our pilot phase to maximise health & wellbeing by supporting decision-making across a range of scales and users. If you would like to discuss this further please contact Prof. Alistair Boxall at alistair.boxall@york.ac.uk.

YCEO Brochure (PDF  , 833kb)

Additional Project Details

Project Directors: Prof. Alistair Boxall and Ian Cunningham (Business Intelligence Group Manager, City of York Council)
Co-Investigators: Dr Steve CinderbyDr Damian Murphy, Dr Darren Reed, Prof. Karen BloorProf. Sarah Rees-JonesDr Daryl Martin
Principal Funder: This research was funded by Research Councils UK and Innovate UK as part of the Urban Living Partnership (York City Environment Observatory: Diagnostic Phase; EP/P001947/1).
External Partners and Collaborators: City of York Council; British Geological Survey; SimOmics; YorkMetrics; Arup; The Rivers Trust; Centre for Sustainable Healthcare; Forest Research; AECOM; Science City York; Natural England; PerkinElmer; The Woodland Trust; Environment Agency; IBM UK; Public Health England; York Minster; Tang Hall Big Local
YESI Involvement:  YESI Research Theme Leader Prof. Alistair Boxall is a Co-Project Director, administrative support