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Social media as a scientific research tool

Social media as a scientific research tool | Research Capacity-Building in Africa | Scoop.it

At the 2014 ScienceOnlineTogether conference, I will be moderating a session focusing on how to use social media as a scientific research tool (2:30 P.M. on Friday, February 28th in room 3).  The hashtag is #ScioResearch , so be sure to follow along, and I’ll make a Storify afterwards. This post is primarily intended to be a source of background information for participants in my session, though feel free to read, share and ask questions in the comments if you are not planning on participating in my session.

ScienceOnline community members understand the value of social media for collaborating with colleagues and communicating science to the public, but few think of the incredible resource that these tools are for scientific research. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world are constantly sharing their experiences and opinions in a format that is public, archived, searchable, and accessible, giving researchers access to this enormous dataset without the expense or logisitical difficulties involved in organizing a large-scale survey or series of focus groups. To use a technical term, for many types of scientific research, social media and “big data” is what is called “a freakin’ gold mine.”

Below are a few examples of how social media can be used for scientific research.

Public health: Social media can be used to track the spread of diseases, as well as public attitudes towards available treatments.  People use social media to share their personal experiences related to a disease (i.e. I was diagnosed with H1N1/ “swine flu”), which can allow researchers to track it’s spread. People also use social media to express their opinion towards treatments, valuable data which can allow us to refine public health policy. Bonus: this paper includes a flu-related joke that was popular on twitter during the time of H1n1.

Figure 4 from Chew and Eysenbach 2010, showing a correlation between the number of people tweeting about their experiences with H1N1 and the best available data on how common H1N1 was at the time

Public policy: Social media can monitor public attitudes towards government policies, and how they are shaped by breaking news events. For example, by analyzing the content of tweets about nuclear power made by U.S. residents in the days following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, researchers were able to determine how current events influence people’s perceptions of the risk associated with nuclear energy. They also studied what types of information spread most rapidly about this disaster.

Figure 1 from Binder et al. 2012., showing the number of tweets about nuclear power mentioning the associated risks over time.

Geology:  Social media can be used to track events such as earthquakes. When people experience a natural disaster like an earthquake, they are likely to tweet about it. An algorithm was developed to estimate the origin of the earthquake based on the frequency of tweets in different geographic areas, and it was remarkably similar to data generated by geologists.

Figure 9 from Sakaki et al. 2010, showing how close the actual earthquake center (red X) is to what was estimated by tweets (green crosses)

Economics: Social media can be used to predict economic trends. Studying the mood of twitter users on a given day can provide insight into the national mood, which is known to affect stock market trends.

Fisheries science (no paper yet, unpublished data from my own work). Many ocean stakeholders are active online communicators, including fishers and fisher advocacy organizations, scientists, conservation activists and NGOs. Comparing how they discuss conservation threats and proposed policy solutions can provide valuable insight into how we can effectively resolve these problems. For example, fisheries scientists and technical experts have proposed a series of 10 basic fisheries management policies to conserve and manage shark populations (outlined here). However, a content analysis of tweets by conservation activists shows a much higher focus on other policy solutions, differences which can have a major impact on what policies actually get enacted.

The right-most column is “any of the 10 solutions for sustainable fisheries management outlined in the International Plan of Action for Sharks”

In the session I’m moderating, we’ll discuss examples of social media being used for scientific research, as well as advantages and disadvantages of this tool and strategies for success. I hope to see many of you there!



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Is a Lot of Scientific Research Just… Crap?

Is a Lot of Scientific Research Just… Crap? | Research Capacity-Building in Africa | Scoop.it

To be fair, I suppose the use of “crap” in the title might be a bit strong, but if you’re interested in seeing society get the most it can out of scientific research it’s an important question. What set me off on this particular jag this weekend was a very long and well assembled piece by Dr. James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. In it, he analyzes some of the findings in a recent Economist article which looked into the number of published scientific papers which apparently weren’t worth the virtual paper they weren’t printed on.


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EU Opens Up Access to Scientific Research | Wall Street Journal

EU Opens Up Access to Scientific Research | Wall Street Journal | Research Capacity-Building in Africa | Scoop.it

New scientific research must be published for free online, the vice-president of the European Commission said, in a move designed to increase the knowledge pool open to small business and lead to more innovative products.

 

All scientists receiving European Union funding will have to publish their results in an open-access format, Neelie Kroes, the commissioner responsible for Europe’s digital agenda, said Monday in Stockholm.  Ms. Kroes also  launched the global Research Data Alliance — a group committed to pooling and co-ordinating scientific data so it can be shared better.

 

Opening up scientific research is good for small business, said Victor Henning, CEO of British startup Mendeley, which aims to make academic research more connected. He has noticed the demand for access to academic research from small businesses.

 

Where universities and big companies subscribe to paid-for journals, the costs of subscriptions could be prohibitive for small business, Mr. Henning said, so the commission’s move opens up knowledge not previously available.

 

About 90% of academic research is still published in the subscription model, Mr. Henning said.

 

“Mendeley was founded to help us as academics but access is a problem that you don’t only get in academia. We have NGOs, research labs, pharma companies using Mendeley to co-ordinate research.”

 

Click headline to read more--


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Alois Clemens's curator insight, March 22, 2013 8:52 AM

Open access science is a fundamental need for pluralistic innovation and good use and building of all kind of capacities. Especially for SME and non university research. Good EU initiative.

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Results of scientific research must reach farmers: Modi - Hindustan Times

Results of scientific research must reach farmers: Modi - Hindustan Times | Research Capacity-Building in Africa | Scoop.it
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said India needs to increase its per hectare productivity of crops to meet the growing demand for food.
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How to present your research - five tips to boost your career

At The EMBO Meeting 2012 in Nice France Jon Copley, PhD, gives five tips on how to do effective scientific presentations. Jon is a Trainer with SciConnect an...
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How to Write a Scientific Research Paper- part 2 of 3

This is a (sometimes) tongue-in-cheek look at how to write a scientific research paper that is given as part of a graduate student seminar at Oklahoma State ...
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'Scientific censorship' hamstringing psychoactive drug research

'Scientific censorship' hamstringing psychoactive drug research | Research Capacity-Building in Africa | Scoop.it
New treatments for psychological disorders are being held back by government controls on recreational drugs

 

And Nichols et al. original paper here : http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nrn3530.html

 


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China's Scientific Research Developments: On The Forefront Of Invisibility ... - International Business Times

China's Scientific Research Developments: On The Forefront Of Invisibility ... - International Business Times | Research Capacity-Building in Africa | Scoop.it
International Business Times
China's Scientific Research Developments: On The Forefront Of Invisibility ...
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Indian scientists applaud research budget | Chemistry World

Indian scientists applaud research budget | Chemistry World | Research Capacity-Building in Africa | Scoop.it
The newly-elected Indian government laid out its plans for the country in its 2014–15 budget last week and research has fared reasonably well. Indian scientists had feared that there would be cuts to the country's science and ...
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