Understanding trends in public attitudes to science and technology issues is important for effective science communication. Gaining that understanding is difficult.

Approaches such as surveys, focus groups and media monitoring are expensive, difficult and time consuming. There is often a long delay between gathering the data and results being available. Apart from media monitoring, they are based on some form of active sampling of the public’s viewpoint. This may result in people giving answers that they think the surveyor wants to hear, or in responding on issues that are not really of interest to them.

The increase in people participating in various forms of social media on the internet offers a new resource for monitoring. People self publish their views on subjects that interest them using a variety of social media tools. This introduces the possibility of using passive monitoring of this public discussion to look for trends in the importance of different issues. This has been called “Open Source Intelligence”: finding, selecting and acquiring information from publicly available sources in order to produce actionable intelligence.

Some analysis tools are already available (Google Trends, Twitter Search) but these are mainly focused on marketing and brand monitoring.

This presentation reports on progress on research into using a social media source (Twitter) to gain an understanding of public discussion of science and technology. Data has been being collected from Twitter using a range of science and technology keywords since November 2009. This session reports on the initial analysis of that data.

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PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Scanning the science-society horizon
Using social media to monitor public discussion of science

Brenda Moon   Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU

Understanding trends in public attitudes to science and technology issues is important for effective science communication. Gaining that understanding is difficult.

Approaches such as surveys, focus groups and media monitoring are expensive, difficult and time consuming. There is often a long delay between gathering the data and results being available. Apart from media monitoring, they are based on some form of active sampling of the public’s viewpoint. This may result in people giving answers that they think the surveyor wants to hear, or in responding on issues that are not really of interest to them.

The increase in people participating in various forms of social media on the internet offers a new resource for monitoring. People self publish their views on subjects that interest them using a variety of social media tools. This introduces the possibility of using passive monitoring of this public discussion to look for trends in the importance of different issues. This has been called “Open Source Intelligence”: finding, selecting and acquiring information from publicly available sources in order to produce actionable intelligence.

Some analysis tools are already available (Google Trends, Twitter Search) but these are mainly focused on marketing and brand monitoring.

This presentation reports on progress on research into using a social media source (Twitter) to gain an understanding of public discussion of science and technology. Data has been being collected from Twitter using a range of science and technology keywords since November 2009. This session reports on the initial analysis of that data.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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