Urban dynamics and policy

“The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations.”

Jane Jacobs


June 26, 2024
Promoted to Full Professor of Cities and Networks at UCL

Nov 6, 2022
Awarded the 2022 Complex Systems Society Junior Award

February 19th 2020
Apply now for the 4th edition of the Oxford Summer School in Economic Networks 2020 (June 22-26).

Screenshot 2024 07 16 at 23.21.43

About me

I am Associate Professor at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London where I lead a research group focused on data-driven models for economic development, complex systems and cities. I also work alongside a wide variety of policy makers ranging from local and national government to global multilaterals such as the World Bank. 

In 2022, I won the annual Complex Systems Society Junior Award “for contributions using complex systems and complex networks methodologies, including machine learning approaches, to the field of economic geography, and for contributions to creating bridges between science and policy making.” 

I was previously a Senior Research Fellow at the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford. Before this I was a Fulbright Scholar and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School following my PhD (mathematics) at Imperial College. More …

PEAK Urban

PEAK Urban is a 4 year international multidisciplinary programme funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (RCUK GCRF) involving researchers at the University of Oxford, Peking University, University of Cape Town, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and EAFIT University (Colombia).

The team from the Oxford Mathematical Institute will focus on studying cities as complex social, spatial and economic systems, with particular themes including knowledge diffusion, skills and agglomeration economies, industrial complexity and urban form. We will use a broad range of analytical tools from network science to machine learning. 

The Bo-Kaap or Malay Quarter in Cape Town, a former township that has been rejuvenated due to government support.


Network modelling of the UK’s urban skill base

The UK Government is encouraging cities to prepare for the economy of the future through, amongst other things, investing in skills. Policy makers, however, face a ‘data deficit’ on skills, which impedes strategic planning and decision-making. Through a novel data modelling approach, a new project is aiming to shed light on the industrial diversification potential of UK cities from a skills-based perspective. This project received funding from the Turing-HSBC-ONS Economic Data Science Awards 2018.

The Oxford Martin Programme on Informal Cities

Globally, the informal sector is estimated to represent over 60 percent of cities, with the vast majority of jobs in many of the world’s emerging economies considered to be informal. Understanding informal cities, and the millions of lives lived within them, is fundamental to meeting the SDGs. Yet the diverse and dynamic nature of informal cities creates a huge challenge for large-scale data collection and analysis. Find out more.

Providencia shop keeper


My research lies at the intersection of a number of fields including urban systems, economic complexity and economic geography, development, and network science. 



Urban density and agglomeration


Mapping opportunity and innovation


The study of complex systems



  • Sukankana Chakraborty
  • Laura Sheppard
  • Laura Mazzarino

PhD students

  • Jishan Duan
  • Andrew Renninger
  • Sanna Ojanpera
  • Nils Rochowicz


  • Rafael Prieto Curiel (Postdoctoral researcher 2018-2021)
  • Samuel Heroy (Postdoctoral researcher 2018-2022)
  • Daniel Straulino (Postdoctoral researcher 2018-2022)
  • Samira Barzin (Postdoctoral researcher 2020-2022)
  • Philip Wilkinson (PhD student 2020-23)
  • John Fitzgerald (PhD student 2019-23)
  • Mattie Landman (PhD student 2018-23)


Straulino D, Diodato D & O’Clery N (2024) Economic crisis, urban structural change and inter-sectoral labour mobility. Structural Change and Economic Dynamics.
Straulino D, Froy F, Schwanen T & O’Clery N (2023) Connecting up embedded knowledge across Northern Powerhouse cities. Environment and Planning A.
Straulino D, Saldarriaga JC, Gómez JA, Duque JC & O’Clery N (2022) Uncovering commercial activity in informal cities. Journal of the Royal Society Society Open Science 9: 211841.
Landman M, Ojanpera S, Kinsella S & O’Clery N (2022) The role of relatedness and strategic linkages between domestic and MNE sectors in regional branching and resilience. Journal of Technological Transfer.
O’Clery N & Kinsella S (2022) Modular structure in labour networks reveals skill basins. Research Policy 51: 5, 104486.
Balland PA, Broekel T, Diodato D, Giuliani E, Hausmann R, O’Clery N & Rigby D (2022) The new paradigm of economic complexity. Research Policy 51: 3, 104450.
O’Clery N, Heroy S, Hulot F & Beguerisse-Diaz M (2021) Unravelling the forces underlying urban industrial agglomeration. Handbook of Cities and Networks, Edward Elgar Publishing
O’Clery N, Yildirim M & Hausmann R (2021) Productive Ecosystems and the Arrow of Development. Nature Communications 12: 1479.
Landman M & O’Clery N (2020) The impact of the Employment Equity Act on female inter-industry labour mobility and the gender wage gap in South Africa. United Nations WIDER Working Paper 2020/52
O’Clery N, Prieto Curiel R & Lora E (2019) Commuting times and the mobilisation of skills in emergent cities. Applied Network Science 4: 118.
Diodato D, Neffke F & O’Clery N (2018) Why do industries coagglomerate? How Marshallian externalities differ by industry and have evolved over time. Journal of Urban Economics 106 (1-26).
O’Clery N, JC Chaparro, Gomez A & Lora E (2018) Skill diversity as the foundation of formal employment creation in cities. Harvard Center for International Development working paper.
O’Clery N (2015) A Tale of Two Clusters: The Evolution of Ireland’s Economic Complexity since 1995. Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, One Hundred and Sixty-Eight Session
Heroy S, Loaiza I, Pentland A & O’Clery N (2022) Are neighbourhood amenities associated with more walking and less driving? Yes, but predominantly for the wealthy. Environment and Planning B. 
Barzin S, Avner P, Rentschler J & O’Clery N (2022) Where Are All the Jobs A Machine Learning Approach for High Resolution Urban Employment Prediction in Developing Countries. World Bank Working Paper.
Prieto Curiel R, Quinones Dominguez M, Lora E & O’Clery N (2022) Mobility between Colombian cities is predominantly repeat and return migration. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 94: 101774.
Fitzgerald J, Ojanpera S & O’Clery N (2021) Is academia becoming more localised? The growth of regional knowledge networks within international research collaboration. Applied Network Science 6: 38.
Ying F & O’Clery N (2021) Modelling COVID-19 transmission in supermarkets using an agent-based model. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0249821
Heroy S, Loaiza I, Pentland A & O’Clery N (2021) Covid-19 policy analysis: Labour structure dictates lockdown mobility behaviour. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 18: 20201035.
Prieto Curiel R, Patino JE, Duque JC & O’Clery N (2021) The heartbeat of the city. PLoS ONE 16(2): e0246714.
Keith M, O’Clery N, Parnell S & Revi A (2020) The future of the future city? The new urban sciences and a PEAK Urban interdisciplinary disposition. Cities 105:102820.
Prieto Curiel R, Walther O & O’Clery N (2020) Uncovering the internal structure of Boko Haram through its mobility patterns. Applied Network Science 5: 28.
Straulino D, Landman M & O’Clery N (2021) A bi-directional approach to comparing the modular structure of networks. EPJ Data Science 10: 13
O’Clery N, Yuan Y, Stan G-B, Barahona M (2018) Global Network Prediction from Local Node Dynamics. ArXiv:1809.00409.
Schaub M, O’Clery N, Billeh Y, Delvenne J-C, Lambiotte R & Barahona M (2016) Graph partitions and cluster synchronization in networks of oscillators. Chaos 2016;26 (9).
O’Clery N, Yuan Y, Stan G-B & Barahona M (2013) Observability and coarse graining of consensus dynamics through the external equitable partition. Physical Review E. 2013;88 (4).
O’Clery N (2013) Node Dynamics on Graphs Dynamical Heterogeneity in Consensus, Synchronisation and Final Value Approximation for Complex Networks. PhD Thesis, Imperial College London. 
Heroy S, Loaiza Saa I, Pentland A & O’Clery N (2020) Commute and mobility patterns evidenced from telecommunications data can inform reopening strategies after COVID-19 lockdowns. PEAK Urban Scoping Brief.
Prieto Curiel R, Walther O & O’Clery N (2020) Uncovering the structure and mobility patterns of the Boko Haram terrorist group. PEAK Urban Scoping Brief
Ojanpera S, O’Clery N & Graham M (2018) Data science, artificial intelligence and the futures of work. Alan Turing Institute.


Tackling global challenges, one issue at a time. From energy and the environment to economics, development and global health, Angle focuses on the intersection of science, policy and politics in an evolving and complex world.

Fragile states – Caitlin Werrell & Francesco Femia
Anthropocene – Owen Gaffney
Coping with air pollution – Marguerite Nyhan
Mapping warfare – Roudabeh Kishi & Ciara Aucoin & Clionadh Raleigh