Dr Ali Abbas

Research Associate

Email: aa797@medschl.cam.ac.uk
Telephone: 01223 746887

UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR)
MRC Epidemiology Unit
University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine
Box 285 Institute of Metabolic Science
Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Cambridge, CB2 0QQ


  • PhD (Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • MSc Media Informatics (Aachen University of Technology, RWTH-Aachen, Aachen, Germany)
  • BS Computer Science (Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, Karachi, Pakistan)

Background and experience:
Ali studied for his PhD at Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University. In his PhD he has worked on Social Network Systems (SNS). His PhD work can be divided into three strands, which are:

  • Ethnic Classification of Facebook users – Based on the names of Facebook users, he managed to do name-based ethnic classification, in collaboration with Dr. Pablo Mateos of UCL, on large data-sets, and has analyzed how different ethnicities are inter-connected with each other.
  • Complex networks evolution using Agent-Based Models – To fill a huge knowledge gap to understand how social networks evolve over a period of time, he used a combination of data and Agent-Based Models to develop an understanding of social processes involved.
  • Fitness of synthetic with real datasets – Combined techniques of Computer Science, Social Science and Social Simulation by suggesting important set of features to move towards a standard set of fitness methods

Previously he was part of the Tribler team at Delft University of Technology, as a Research Assistant. His main theme of work was around distributed social networking. He was also part of the P2P-Fusion project whose goal was to design a cheap and secure decentralized system for sharing audio/visual content. During his stint there, he designed and deployed a completely decentralized SNS in Tribler.

During his masters at Aachen, he worked with Fraunhofer Institute of Technology for more than two years as a Research Assistant on SwapIt project. His main tasks involved software development in Java.

Current work and interests:

At CEDAR, Ali is a public-health modeller (part of the  public health modelling group). He is interested in active travel, specifically cycling research.

He is one of two leading developers/data scientists for the National Propensity to Cycle Tool (NPCT) project, which is funded by the Department for Transport (DfT).  Also, he has been a key translator to bring about the improvements and modifications suggested by non-developers of the team, to the tool.

He has also been involved with an impact acceleration project funded by the EPSRC. This project integrates with the NPCT project and involves collaboration with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), where we have developed a cycling tool spatially tailored for the Greater Manchester area. This involved generating and displaying all types of trips in PCT for Greater-Manchester.

Ali has also been leading development of the the Impacts of Cycling Tool (ICT). It is an R-based tool, which allows to visualize travel patterns of the population in England, and also looks at the impacts of various scenarios with increased cycling probability. A further extension of this project is to apply ICT scenario generation and then subsequent data generation for nine different regions of England, which resulted in ICT-Regional.

He has also developed an interactive web-application to display a relationship of physical activity with type 2 diabetes.

Previously Ali was the lead agent-based modeller in the Changing Commute project, where he brought together social science, transport studies, public health and mathematical modelling together.

He has extensive modelling experience which spans over Complexity Science, Computer Science and Sociology in general. Also he is well-versed in Social Network Analysis (SNA) of both small and large networks. He also holds a diverse programming experience.

He is interested in developing good understandings for an environment friendly and sustainable transport system with a positive impact on public health. He is an advocate of open and reproducible research. His work can be seen on GitHub.


Full list of publications available at Google Scholar.
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Selected Publications:

  • Woodcock, J., Abbas, A., Ullrich, A., Tainio, M., Lovelace, R.,  Sa, T., Westgate, K., Goodman, A. (2018). Development of the Impacts of Cycling Tool (ICT): A modelling study and web tool for evaluating health and environmental impacts of cycling uptake. PLoS Med. 2018;15(7):e1002622, DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002622.
  • Lovelace, R., Goodman, A., Aldred, R., Berkoff, N., Abbas, A., Woodcock, J., (2017). The Propensity to Cycle Tool: An open source online system for sustainable transport planning. Journal of Transport and Land Use. 10:1, 505–528, DOI: 10.5198/jtlu.2016.862.
  • Woodcock, J., Brage, S., Abbas, A., de Sa, T., and Namara, E. (2017). Leisure-Time Physical Activity and Risk of Cancer, CVD, Dementia and All-Cause Mortality in Adults: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Journal of Transport & Health. S21.
  • Abbas, SMA., Alam, S. J., & Edmonds, B. (2014). Towards validating social network simulations. In Advances in Social Simulation (pp. 1-12). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  • Abbas, SMA (2013) An Agent-Based Model of the Development of Friendship links within Facebook, Journal of Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, June 2013, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 232-252.

Conferences and Workshops:

  • SMA Abbas, Rachel Aldred, Zaid Chalabi and James Woodcock (2014) Use of an agent-based model to explore urban transitions in commuter cycling, Social Simulation Conference, Barcelona, Spain, 1-5th September, 2014.
  • SMA Abbas (2013) Homophily, Popularity and Randomness: Modelling Growth of Online Social Network, Twelfth International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS 2013), Saint Paul, USA, 6-7th May, 2013.
  • SMA Abbas, SJ Alam and Bruce Edmonds (2013) Validating Social Network Simulations, The 14th International Workshop on Multi-Agent-Based Simulation (MABS), Saint Paul, USA, 6-7th May, 2013.
  • SMA Abbas (2011) An Agent-Based Model of the Development of Friendship links within Facebook, 7th European Social Simulation Association Conference (ESSA), Montpellier, France, 19-23, September, 2011.
  • SMA Abbas (2010) A Segregation Model of Facebook, 6th UK Social Networks Conference (UK-SNA), Manchester, 2010.
  • SMA Abbas, Johan Pouwelse, Dick Epema and Henk Sips (2009) A Gossip-Based Distributed Social Networking System, Proceedings Wetice 2009, pp. 93-98, IEEE CS Press.

Technical Reports:

  • SMA Abbas (2011) Ethnic Diversity in Facebook, Centre for Policy Modelling (CPM) technical report CPM-11-213.
  • SMA Abbas (2011) An Agent-Based Model of the Development of Friendship links within Facebook, Centre for Policy Modelling (CPM) technical report CPM-11-212.
  • SMA Abbas, David Hales, Johan Pouwelse, and Dick Epema (2009) A gossip-based distributed social networking system, PDS technical report PDS-2009-001.
  • SMA Abbas (2009) Social Networking in the Virtual World. TU-Delft, PDS Technical report.


  • SMA Abbas, Rachel Aldred, Zaid Chalabi and James Woodcock (2014) Cycle commuting in England: an Agent Based Model of stuff and danger, Public Health England Annual Conference 2014, 16-17th September, 2014.
  • SMA Abbas (2012) Popularity and similarity among friends: An agent-based model for friendship development, European Conference on Complex Systems (ECCS), Brussels, Belgium, 3-7th, September, 2012.