Applied Research Lab

Applied research at OpenNorth means social science methods that provide insight into problems public institutions face. Our work at Open North’s Applied Research Lab includes the synthesis and mobilisation of knowledge and theory through research based in practical data and governance issues.

What is Applied Research?

At OpenNorth our work requires that we that we investigate how governments from local-to-global scales structure public data and allow for the creation of data ecosystems. Applied research means taking existing theories and methods and testing them with public institutions to deliver practical guidance and outcomes.

The creation of the Applied Research Lab reflected OpenNorth’s research-based mindset that emphasizes the development of evidence to support and inform organizational work at all governmental scales. The practical situations faced by governments and citizens around the world ground the research we do.

OpenNorth’s Applied Research Lab

Integration of research objectives into OpenNorth’s projects makes our work about building the right skills in governmental and public institutions that improve their ability to collect, manage, and analyse data. The Applied Research Lab uses empirical mixed methods research to build the capacity of governments, nonprofits, and other institutions to work with new forms of geospatial open data.

Our team possesses an interdisciplinary background in urban planning, international development, economics, and human geography. This enables the application of diverse analytical lenses to develop concrete deliverables important to public institutions. We partner with international organizations to make our local experience and expertise relevant and bring back knowledge to our community. In so doing, we contribute to the creation of research-based knowledge networks at a variety of scales.

As the core pillar of OpenNorth’s future work, applied research places emphasis on creating practical outcomes for problems institutions and communities face in facilitating data collection, bridging organisational silos, and structuring multi-stakeholder data collaboration. The Applied Research Lab helps the organization to work in different international contexts by building tailored capacity programs that engage national and local stakeholders undergoing organizational change.

To achieve all of its goals, the lab uses quantitative and qualitative methods to further data management, governance, interoperability, and engagement. The Applied Research Lab offers a wide variety of services and products that improve governance and civic participation. Partners throughout the world at local, regional, and national scales benefit from our ability to use empirical findings to improve governmental capacity to adopt innovation, data, and connected technology.

Applied Research Lab Team

Sarah Gagnon-Turcotte


Applied Research Lab

Sarah has always worked at the intersection of research, public policy and technology and has dedicated her career to generating the knowledge our public institutions need to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Over the past 12 years, she has held several high-level political positions in the City of Montreal's municipal administration as well as various positions as research manager or analyst in academia and international organizations (CEC, Network for Business Sustainability, Great Lakes Commission, The GovLab). She holds a bachelor's degree in international relations from the Université de Montréal and a master's degree in international law from the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Miranda Sculthorp

Senior Research Analyst

Applied Research Lab

As an Urban Research Analyst at the Applied Research Lab, Miranda works closely with municipal government to increase transparency and civic engagement through the creation of open data policy and the planning of geospatial tools. She also works with local community networks to understand urban issues, and support these actors through data literacy and data sharing initiatives. Her research interests include food security, housing access and affordability, and gender-inclusion in city spaces. Miranda received her Master's of Urban Planning Degree from McGill University, and her Bachelor of Social Science degree in Economics and French from the University of Ottawa.

Steven Coutts

Geographic Research Analyst

Applied Research Lab

As a Geographic Research Analyst at the Applied Research Lab, Steve works to align policy and practice around the treatment and use of data. He has researched and published academically on urban transportation and ‘smart cities’, and participated in the development of public policy around autonomous vehicles. He is interested in building data governance capacity in civil society and governments with the goal of shaping just and equitable digital futures for communities. Steve received his Master of Planning in Urban Development degree from Ryerson University (Toronto), and his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Geography degree from the University of Winnipeg.

Megan Wylie

Geographic Research Analyst

Applied Research Lab

As a Geographic Research Analyst with the Applied Research Lab, Megan works with government to increase their capacity for open and transparent governance, with a focus on spatial data, data accessibility, and citizen engagement. She has an interdisciplinary background in social and environmental science, and has conducted research assessing practical applications of open data, the distribution of pollutants, and long-term neighborhood income change using micro-level census data. She completed a Bachelor of Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo and studied economic and health geography while completing her Master of Arts at McGill University.

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