Hi, you are logged in as , if you are not , please click here

Spatial Interaction Modelling

More Info

Course Information


This two day course is designed to equip participants with the knowledge and skills to build, calibrate and apply powerful spatial interaction models (SIMs). SIMs are used to estimate flows between origins and destinations and have a broad range of applications within geography, planning, transportation, social science and the commercial sector. We assume no prior experience of working with SIMs (or gravity models as they are also known) and focus on both the theoretical and technical components of model building using examples which are intuitively straightforward and familiar to participants (shopping behaviours and migration).

Course Code


Course Dates

19th October 2017 – 20th October 2017

Places Available

Course Leader

Dr Andy Newing & Dr Adam Dennett
Course Description

Spatial Interaction Models (SIMs) are statistical models used to predict origin-destination flows. They are widely applied within geography, planning, transportation and the social sciences to predict interactions or flows related to commuting, migration, access to services etc. They are also widely applied across the commercial sector for example to model flows of consumers between home and retail centres with broad applications in commercial decision making and policy evaluation.

This hands on course is designed to equip participants with the skills to build, calibrate and apply spatial interaction models suitable for addressing a broad range of research questions. We dont assume any prior knowledge of spatial interaction modelling and begin by building a SIM for modelling consumer flows between home and retail stores. This intuitively straightforward example is used to understand the model structure, key theoretical assumptions and the model building and calibration process. We work with this model to understand model disaggregation and we also use this example to highlight one of the major commercial applications of the SIM.

The second part of the course will explore how we can use SIMs to explain and predict flows of humans such as daily commuting flows or less frequent migration flows. We will explore how to build and calibrate a production-attraction constrained SIM using the powerful open source software package R. Techniques for fitting a SIM to existing flow data and using the model to estimate missing data or predict future flows will be explored. We will also be able to discuss your own potential applications of the SIM.



- To introduce participants to the production-constrained and production-attraction constrained SIMs and their applications within geography, social sciences, planning and the commercial sector.

- To enable participants to build and calibrate SIMs using Microsoft Excel and R, particularly within the application areas of modelling retail or migration flows.

- To equip participants with the skills to apply their models to predict flows under various what if? scenarios and to estimate missing data.

- To encourage participants to evaluate their modelling framework, to assess model performance and to identify opportunities for model enhancement.


- Participants should have a good working knowledge of Microsoft Excel.

- No prior knowledge of R is required as everything will be taught on the course, however some familiarity will be advantageous if you have no prior knowledge of programming at all. For absolute beginners, resources such as code schools R tutorial http://tryr.codeschool.com/ - or any of the resources recommended on https://www.rstudio.com/online-learning/#R will be good for gaining familiarity before the course.

- It would be helpful if participants had some experience in using GIS (e.g. ArcGIS, QGIS or MapInfo) but this is not essential. We will use GIS to map modelled flows from our Excel model but participants will not be disadvantaged if they are not a GIS user.

Recommended Reading:

- Birkin, M. and Clarke, G. P. 1991. Spatial interaction in geography. Geography Review, 4(5), pp.16-21. [A copy will be provided to all participants by email prior to the course].

- Wilson, A. G. 2010. Entropy in urban and regional modelling: retrospect and prospect. Geographical Analysis, 42(4), pp.364-394.

- Dennett, A. 2012. Working Paper Series Paper 181 Estimating flows between geographical locations: get me started in spatial interaction modelling. London: Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London.

Additional reading material will be recommended during the course.

Outline Programme (subject to minor change):

Tuesday 21st

From 10:30 Registration

11:00 12:00 Lecture 1: Introducing the SIM

12:00 13:00 Practical 1: Building a disaggregate production-constrained SIM

13:00 13:45 Lunch

13:45 14:30 Lecture 2: Model calibration and testing

14:30 15:30 Practical 2: Model calibration and testing

15:30 15:45 Coffee/tea

15:45 17:00 Practical 3: Using the SIM to evaluate What if? scenarios.

Wednesday 22nd

9:00 10:00 Lecture 4: Introduction to SIMs for migration and commuting analysis

10:00 10:30 - Coffee/tea

10:30 12:00 Practical 4: Working with spatial interaction data in R

12:00 13:00 Lunch and opportunity to discuss your own potential applications of the SIM with course leaders.

13:00 14:45 Practical 5: Fitting SIMs, interpreting outputs and estimating flows

14:45 15:00 Feedback and concluding comments

How would you rate your experience today?

How can we contact you?

What could we do better?

   Change Code