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Researchers Will Tap Social Media to Support Citizens in Emergency Response

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University of Colorado at Boulder Assistant Professor Leysia Palen

People are turning to online sources during emergencies "to collate information from many places to try to make the best decisions possible," says Assistant Professor Leysia Palen of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Credit: University of Colorado at Boulder

University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) researchers have received more than $2 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation to investigate the public's use of social media during crisis situations. The researchers, led by CU-Boulder professor Leysia Palen and University of California, Irvine professor Gloria Mark, are developing a suite of specialized mobile and Web applications to help citizens and officials during disasters and large-scale emergencies.

The project will augment citizen-generated information and combine that information with authoritative sources. The researchers will determine the best way to integrate information from numerous social media sources to help users access the context, validity, source, credibility and timeliness of the information for use in an emergency.

Palen and colleagues have found that information on social media Web sites can be used to create an accurate situational awareness of an event. "It is important that we provide automated ways to check the vast amount of information generated during crises against multiple sources, and align citizen-generated information with official information, so that all responders — lay responders, professional responders and victims — are working from a cooperative and shared point of view," Palen says. "This is critical to the future of emergency response."

From CU-Boulder News Center
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