System-science in Public Health and Health Economic Research

UKPRP award £5 million for 5 years, with an additional £1.2 million investment from the consortium’s partners

SIPHER aims to develop systems-based economic evaluation methods and tools to provide a common basis on which to appraise the effectiveness and costs and benefits of policy measures implemented in different sectors.

Our research

SIPHER aims to develop systems-based economic evaluation methods and tools to provide a common basis on which to appraise the effectiveness and costs and benefits of policy measures implemented in different sectors. Partnering with Sheffield City Council, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Scottish Government, this consortium will focus on four policy priorities – housing, the promotion of mental wellbeing, inclusive economic growth and adverse childhood experiences – and differences between these partners’ implementation systems for these policy areas. The research will address a critical area of need on providing economic evidence for policy decision-making by end users, and will provide tools for iterative, evidence-led refinements of policies by considering the emergent properties of complex systems, including interactions between policy measures, when assessing policy impacts.

Drawing on expertise from systems science and engineering, geocomputation, machine learning and multi-criterion optimisation, SIPHER will use complex systems modelling to allow users to understand the nature and timing of policy effects across all relevant outcomes, to forecast what may occur within complex systems under different assumptions about future developments and to assess the distributional impacts of policy scenarios. Economic decision models will make transparent the costs, benefits and any necessary trade-offs.

SIPHER’s co-production approach blends workstreams (WS) that develop a thorough understanding of the four policy systems (WS1 – understanding policy actors, decision processes, and policymaker knowledge and beliefs about cause-and-effect relationships in the systems, WS2 evidence synthesis, WS6 eliciting societal values and preferences regarding competing policy outcomes) with complex systems methods (WS3 building a system monitoring and intelligence function, WS4 microsimulation, WS5 system dynamic modelling, and WS7 whole-system economic evaluation).

On 25 September 2019 the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) held a kick off meeting with the award holders from the first funding round.  Download the slides presented by SIPHER (PPT, 5MB).

Consortium members

The consortium’s membership includes:

  • Research academics who provide expertise in disciplines including public health, system dynamics modelling and microsimulation, economics and health economics, urban studies and planning, and social policy.
  • Key policy partners – Sheffield’s Director of Public Health, GMCA’s Head of Research and the Co-lead of the Scottish Government’s Public Health Reform Programme – are embedded as co-investigators in the membership.
  • The Alan Turing Institute for expertise in IT infrastructures and spatial microsimulation.
  • Practice partners such as Public Health England (PHE), Public Health Wales, NHS Health Scotland, the Local Government Association (LGA), and the National Institute for Health (NICE), Edinburgh City Deal, Learn Sheffield, Sheffield City Partnership and Northern Health Sciences Alliance amongst others.

For further details see the SIPHER website.


Marion Bain

Co-Director of the Executive Delivery Group for Public Health Reform

Scottish Government

Clare Bambra

Professor of Public Health

Newcastle University

Richard Bentall

Professor of Clinical Psychology

University of Sheffield

Mark Birkin

Professor of Geography and Co-Director of Leeds Institute for Data Analytics

University of Leeds

John Brazier

Professor of Health Economics and Dean of the School of Health and Related Research

University of Sheffield

Alan Brennan

Professor of Health Economics and Decision Modelling

University of Sheffield

Mark Bryan

Reader in Economics

University of Sheffield

Greg Fell

Director of Public Health

Sheffield City Council

Liddy Goyder

Professor of Public Health

University of Sheffield

Alison Heppenstall

Professor in Geocomputation, Leeds Institute for Data Analytics

University of Leeds

John Holmes

Reader in Alcohol Policy

University of Sheffield

Visakan Kadirkamanathan

Professor in Signal and Information Processing

University of Sheffield

Nik Lomax

Associate Professor in Data Analytics for Population Research

Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, University of Leeds

Ruth Lupton

Professor of Education, Director of the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit

University of Manchester

Suzy Paisley

Information Specialist and Director of Innovation and Knowledge Transfer (IKT)

University of Sheffield

Robin Purhouse

Professor of Decision Sciences

University of Sheffield

Kat Smith

Professor of Public Health Policy

University of Strathclyde

Ellen Stewart

Chancellor’s Fellow, Usher Institute

University of Edinburgh

Mark Strong

Professor of Public Health and Deputy Dean of ScHARR

University of Sheffield

Liz Such

NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellow

University of Sheffield

Aki Tsuchiya

Aki Tsuchiya, Professor of Health Economics

University of Sheffield

Craig Watkins

Professor of Town and Regional Planning

University of Sheffield

Knowledge transfer partners