Experts in computer, social and health sciences to study how to use social media data to address public health, poverty and inequality.
A team of researchers led by UCLA professor Sean Young is among the first of five recipients of a new University of California research grant intended to spur discoveries with direct societal impacts.
Young, an assistant professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and co-director of the Center for Digital Behavior at UCLA, will lead a group of experts in computer, social and health sciences from four UC campuses to study how to use social media data to address public health, poverty and inequality. Young has studied, among other topics, how social media can track HIV incidence.
The $300,000 award will be used to help establish a UC Social Big Data Institute that unites the scholarship of researchers at UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego and UC Irvine who are studying Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.
In addition to providing other potential benefits to public health, all of those tweets and Facebook posts could help curb the spread of HIV.
Although public health researchers have focused early applications of social media on reliably monitoring the spread of diseases such as the flu, Sean Young of the Center for Digital Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, writes in an October 29th article in the Cell Press journal Trends in Microbiology of a future in which social media might predict and even change biomedical outcomes.
Our Executive Director, Dr. Sean Young, was a featured expert for Zócalo Public Square’s “Up for Discussion” panel on September 24th. Zócalo asked experts the following question: How can we best balance the corporate desire for big data and the need for individual privacy? You can read Dr. Young’s answer here.
Studying link between HIV, drug use could help prevention, detection efforts
Real-time social media like Twitter could be used to track HIV incidence and drug-related behaviors with the aim of detecting and potentially preventing outbreaks, a new UCLA-led study shows.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Preventive Medicine, suggests it may be possible to predict sexual risk and drug use behaviors by monitoring tweets, mapping where those messages come from and linking them with data on the geographical distribution of HIV cases. The use of various drugs had been associated in previous studies with HIV sexual risk behaviors and transmission of infectious disease.