Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scientist uses Twitter to Study Vaccinations

Yes, you read that right. With millions of people expressing themselves via Twitter, one scientist found the social media site to be the best way to track people's thoughts about new vaccines.

In order to study opinions of a new H1N1 vaccine, Marcel Salathé of Penn State was able to gather nearly 500,000 tweets with keywords relating to vaccinations. A team of students sorted the first 10% of tweets into positive, negative, and irrelevant reactions to the H1N1 vaccine. Salathé then was able to use the results to develop a computer algorithm to sort the rest. With this sorting process complete, he could easily determine people's reactions to the new H1N1 vaccine just by reading their tweets and looking at patterns in the data.

Since many tweeters identify their location, Salathé could also determine relationships between people's opinions and their location, in addition to the time of their post. Next, he plans to use his new research method to study hypertension, obesity, and heart disease. Visit Science Daily for more information.

Don't forget- Wisconsin's Water Library is on Twitter, too! Click here to follow and see what we're up to!