National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA)

Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute retains, incorporates and builds on the success of a number of existing research institutes and centres anchored in the Faculty of Social Sciences, including the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA).
NIRSA has a reputation as the leading social and spatial sciences research institute in Ireland with a strong fundamental and applied research profile, an excellent record in knowledge transfer, and a long and successful history in graduate education.  The Institute is very well known across the HEI sector and by social and economic stakeholders, both North and South.  This is reflected in the large amount of contract research that it is asked to undertake for public and third sector agencies. Moreover, NIRSA has undoubtedly helped to place Maynooth University on the world stage and is regularly asked to partner international organisations and other HEIs as part of trans-national research bids.
NIRSA: Background
Established as a University Institute in January 2001, NIRSA, centred in Maynooth University, is a collaborative partnership between scholars from a number of social science disciplines, located in four partner institutions: Maynooth University; Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick; Institute of Technology, Sligo and Queen’s University Belfast. NIRSA’s remit is to undertake fundamental, applied and comparative research on spatial processes and their effects on social and economic development in Ireland, and provide high quality graduate education to the next generation of Irish social scientists. To date, over 300 researchers have been affiliated to NIRSA, with over 150 of them receiving competitive funding from the Institute itself, and many others receiving smaller funds for travel and research expenses from supportive third parties.  The research is organised into three main research clusters; Sustaining Communities; Building Knowledge Economies; and Planning Environments.  Over 250 projects have received external funding since 2001, totalling over €55m of which over €25m has come directly to NIRSA partners.   These awards have investigated projects in: 

  • Smart Cities
  • Migration and Diaspora Strategies
  • Evidence Based Planning
  • Data Visualisations (Visualisation Partner for Census 2011 Ireland)
  • Political Economy, Work & Working Lives
  • Urban/Suburban Studies
  • Urban and Regional Development
  • Economic & Regional Geographies
  • Spaces of Activism, Human Rights
  • Community & Spatial Planning in the Irish Border Region
  • Spatial Planning and Territorial Cohesion Policies at Transnational Levels in Europe. 

The Institute has received Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) 2, 4 and 5 funding, is the recipient of two European Research Council (ERC) Investigator Awards, and has secured awards from virtually every significant national and European funding source, including the Irish Research Council (IRC), the Horizon 2020 programme, ESPON, Interreg, and URBACT.  The Institute has also built-up numerous national research platforms (for example, the Irish Social Sciences Platform (ISSP), the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD), and the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) and spawned the SFI-funded National Centre for Geocomputation (NCG). The Institute has also established two significant national research resources: the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) that produces all-island spatial datasets and specialist tools to aid their analyses and undertakes academic and applied mapping research; and the Irish Qualitative Data Archive (IQDA) that archives social science data in media other than machine readable datasets.
The Institute has received extensive media coverage, generating over 1000 citations in newspapers. Its members are regular contributors to radio and television broadcasts. NIRSA research has been cited in local, national and international media, including the New York Times, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Wired (USA), The Guardian and BBC (UK), RTE, Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Examiner (Ireland), Der Spiegel and Deutsche Welle (Germany), Vancouver Sun and Montreal Gazette (Canada), La Vanguardia (Spain), Le Figaro and Liberation (France), La Libre (Belgium), Bloomberg Associated Press and Reuters.  To-date researchers have been invited to speak at over 400 national/international conferences including most recently the Dublin Web Summit, one of the world’s most influential and international tech events.

Since its founding NIRSA has taken a proactive approach to knowledge transfer and has hosted over 350 seminars with external speakers and organised 92 workshops/conferences.  NIRSA members have published in excess of 62 books, 310 refereed articles, 220 book chapters, and 420 other publications such as reports. Members sit on a number of government advisory boards and NIRSA is the Irish contact point, on behalf of the Irish government, for the ESPON and URBACT European networks. 

The Institute has actively encouraged international scholars to visit Ireland for an extended period and to interact with NIRSA members and Irish academia more generally.  To date 42 researchers from 24 countries have visited NIRSA for periods varying between 1 week and 6 months, a number have been repeat visitors. 
NIRSA has excelled at developing links with the public and third sectors in Ireland and Northern Ireland through its various projects and is represented on advisory panels at EU, transnational, national and regional levels.  As such it has a high profile amongst policy makers and has contributed to many policy initiatives at different scales from the local to the national and inter-jurisdictional. 
For further information on NIRSA contact Director of NIRSA Professor Mark Boyle (