Search site

School of Geography

Talisman Summer School: Computer Programming for Social Scientists, 21 - 27 July 2014

Location: School of Geography, University of Leeds
Cost: £210 for postgraduate students/researchers, £420 for academic staff*
Application deadline: 23 May 2014.
How to apply
Contact: Rosie Temple

*Fees will include tuition, refreshments and lunches for the week. Travel and accommodation are not included in the fee. Accommodation on campus is available and can be booked through: Individuals, however, will be free to arrange alternative accommodation.

This hands-on seven day summer school aims to bring social scientists without any programming experience to the point where they can program their own social science models and applications. It will provide a beginner's-level introduction to computer programming using examples drawn from social science. It will also introduce key libraries, methodologies, and platforms available for social science programmers.

The emphasis for the school will be on practical, hands-on development of skills, each day building up core programming ideas. Students will learn the high-level programming language Java. Java was chosen because it is the most in-demand language in industry, and because people who learn the language should have no difficulty subsequently picking up other languages. Students will be introduced to general good practice in coding and other aspects of programming.

Practical work will include building up social science models. Practicals will centre on Agent-Based Modelling, as it is a powerful technique that is nevertheless relatively clear for beginners. However, the course will also introduce students to Spatial Microsimulation, a range of Artificial Intelligence techniques, and Scientific Visualisation. Days four and seven will be "hacking" workshops specifically for students to build their own software with advice from experienced staff.


(This may change in detail, but is broadly correct)

Day 1

The core elements of computer programming I:

  • Objects, classes, and variables
  • Arrays and Collections
  • Evening lecture

Day 2

The core elements of computer programming II:

  • Flow control
  • Methods and access control
  • Evening lecture

Day 3

The core elements of computer programming III:

  • Inheritance
  • Packages/Libraries
  • Evening lecture

Day 4

Students get to work on their own projects, with support from staff.

  •  Using Eclipse

Day 5

The core elements of computer programming IV:

  • Input/Output
  • User interfaces and graphics
  • Evening lecture

Day 6

The core elements of computer programming V:

  • Visualisation 
  • Agent-Based Modelling platforms (alternatives will be available for those not wanting to do ABM, including GIS programming)

Day 7

Students get to work on their own projects, with support from staff.

  •  Using Github

                      Click image to download flyer

Agent-based crime model
Petrol price analysis surface
Petrol price analysis surface


Dr Andy Evans has over 30 years programming experience, and has taught social science programming for over 10 years. His specialist areas are online GIS and agent-based modelling of socio-economic and ecological systems.

Nikée Groot is a researcher working on ecological and environmental models, and has considerable experience in programming in an array of languages. She is an alumna of the Microsoft Research training programme.  Her research interests include environmental resilience, data distribution, and epidemiology.

Dr Nick Malleson completed a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Informatics before building agent-based crime models for his PhD. He now works in the Centre for Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy at the University of Leeds. His research interests include socio-economic and crime modelling, along with Big Data and social network analysis.