In a previous volume in this series papers were included that demonstrated the use of innovative research techniques in environmental studies (Halls, 2000). The aim of this volume is to include papers presented at GISRUK 2001 that illustrate the state-of-the-art in researching socio-economic applications with GIS. In so-doing, we recognise that the intertwined relationships between the physical and human world mean that such arbitrary divisions are not straightforward. There are clearly environmental aspects to the majority of papers that follow, but at the same time, given the quality of papers presented at the conference, we have taken this opportunity to demonstrate the dynamic nature of GIS research in what would traditionally be called ‘human geography’. A number of texts have been concerned with focusing on the use of GIS in socio-economic applications (e.g. Martin, 1996) and a number of others contain extensive overviews of the use of GIS in different policy sectors (e.g. Longley et al., 1999). There have also been texts that have examined the use of GIS in application areas such as crime (Goldsmith et al., 2000; Hirschfield and Bowers, 2001), health (Gatrell and Loytonen, 1998; Hay et al., 2000) and transport (Thill, 2000). Previous volumes in the Innovations in GIS series have variously contained papers related to such topics and readers are advised to consult these to get a flavour of the significant research developments that have taken place since the first GIS Research UK conference held in Keele in 1993. However, to date, no one volume has been given over to solely highlighting the use of up-to-date GIS-based techniques in a range of socio-economic applications. In this volume we redress this ‘gap’.