IEERG Research Projects

Tackling the Social and Behavioural Dimensions of Emergence and Spread of Infectious Disease (Influenza)

Grant Years: 2018-2020
Awarder: Centre of Research Excellence in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID)
Investigator/s: Professor Tania Sorrell, Professor Deborah Bunker and Dr Christian Ehnis

A collaboration with colleagues at the Marie Bashir Institute (MBI) and the Centre of Research Excellence in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID) - this project is funded by CREID.

The emergence and spread of infectious disease is a serious public health problem that is facilitated by a combination of complex biological, social, behavioural and environmental factors. While much of the current research is focussed on developing a better understanding of biological and environmental factors, less emphasis has been placed on researching the social and behavioural dimensions of the problem. This transformational research in public health, will bring together representatives of key stakeholder groups i.e. NSW Health, health practitioners, impacted agencies (transport, education etc.) and community leaders and members to collaboratively: 1) identify and understand the scope of influenza impact to the community; 2) work on effective social and behavioural strategies and solutions to combat influenza transmission; and 3) use these strategies to enable more effective and better managed health crisis communication approaches surrounding influenza outbreaks (with a focus on social media).

Supporting Aboriginal Families’ Resilience During a Public Health Emergency: Developing Trusted Relationships Through Social Media Adoption (2018)

Investigator/s: Deborah Bunker; Tony Sleigh; Abdul Babar; Christian Ehnis

This project explores how Aboriginal families use social media to develop and maintain trusted relationships and engage with public health and emergency agencies in times of crisis. This will provide a unique opportunity to listen to and understand the experiences of Aboriginal people, and how they view and develop trusted relationships, allowing public health and emergency agencies to work with Aboriginal people to develop a public health trust strengthening model to enhance two-way social media communication during future public health emergencies.

Social Media Use in Extreme Events: Evaluating the Trustworthiness of the Source of User-Generated Content (2017 - 2018)

Investigator/s: Deborah Bunker; Christian Ehnis; Abdul Babar

A collaboration with colleagues at the University of Duisburg-Essen (Porfessor Stefan Stieglitz, Milad Mirabaie & Anna-Katharina Jung) - this project is funded by a GO8 DAAD Research Grant.

The availability of light mobile platforms, such as smartphones, and the widespread popular use of social media platforms provide valuable user-generated content during an extreme event. For example, a “google person finder” application was used to obtain information about and search for, missing individuals after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Media organisations also utilise information from social media sources in addition to their own news coverage. Rumours and false information is problematic, due to the potentially negative impacts on the course of an event and lives of individuals. While there is ongoing research about how to identify rumours in social media communication, there is still no appropriate approach for organisations to measure trust and credibility of information generated on social media platforms.

To close this gap, our project investigates how to measure trustworthiness and credibility of an information source, rather than the information itself and then develop a software prototype to automate this process. Our project will utilise a mixed research methods approach. By giving public safety agencies and the media, a better understanding of how to identify trustworthy and credible sources of information on social media platforms during extreme events, community and organisational resilience can be positively impacted.

Social Media and Crisis Response: An Analytical Framework and Tool to aid Emergency Service Agencies (2014 - 2015)

Investigator/s: Deborah Bunker; Kai Riemer; Christian Ehnis

This project is concerned with public safety, looking closely at how social media communication patterns can be analyzed to support Emergency Service Agencies (ESA) during a crisis response.

It seeks to develop:

  1. A better understanding and more effective use of social media by ESA and the general public during a crisis;
  2. Effective use of social media real time communication during crisis events by ESA to better ensure public safety;
  3. Utilization of social media communications by ESA for better resource allocation; and
  4. Identification and fast mitigation of rumors by ESA to de-escalate crisis situations and influence and facilitate public safety in the field.

Social Media in Disaster Management - Emergency Services Agency and Community Interaction

Investigators: Mr Christian Ehnis, Professor Deborah Bunker and Sebastian Boell (University of Sydney Business School)

Since social media is an established part in many people's everyday life, it is not a surprise that these services have a growing importance in disaster management communications. In a disaster context people seek information from trusted sources and emergency services agencies attempt to use these channels to improve their emergency response. In this exploratory study, the utilisation and integration of social media for the purpose of communication and interaction with the general public during a disaster, is investigated from an agency perspective.

Social media micro blogging data from Facebook and Twitter, has been collected, integrated and analysed in the context of community interaction with agencies before, during and after an emergency event. This study also seeks to view this information from the agency perspective by looking at their processes of eliciting, analysing and using such data in their management of a disaster.

This project attempts to provide a better understanding of the integration and utilisation of social media services in emergency services agencies. More importantly, the project will create valuable insights which can help to create new and improve existing, social media communication processes for emergency services agencies and the general public during a disaster event.

Sydney Siege, December 2014: A Semantic Social Media Sentiment Analysis

Investigators: Jan Wendland (Meunster), Mr Christian Ehnis (University of Sydney Business School), Rodney Clarke (University of Wollongong) and Professor Deborah Bunker (University of Sydney Business School)

Sentiment Analyses are widely used approaches to understand and identify emotions, feelings, and opinion on social media platforms. However, most sentiment analysis systems are not based on any specific theories of communicated sentiment and usually just measure the presumed emotional polarity of texts. While this is sufficient for some applications, these approaches are very limiting when it comes to understand how social media users actually use language resources to make sense of extreme events. In this paper, the authors develop and apply a new approach of Sentiment Analysis based on the Appraisal System from the theory of communication called Systemic Functional Linguistics to understand the sentiment of event driven social media communication. A prototype was developed to code and visualise Twitter data using the Appraisal System. This prototype was applied to tweets collected during and after the Sydney Siege, a hostage situation in a busy café in Sydney’s inner city at the 15th of December 2014. Because the Appraisal System is a theorised functional communication method, the results of this analysis are more nuanced than is possible with traditional polarity based sentiment analysis.

Blending High Control Models & Self Organising Systems in Disaster Recovery: Solutions for Coordinated Response & Situated Awareness

Investigators: Professor Deborah Bunker , Linda Levine, Tony Sleigh and Christian Ehnis (University of Sydney Business School)

Our research aims to examine how to best harness self-organising systems to augment traditional Common Operating Pictures (COPs) of disaster recovery. In doing so, we hope to more effectively develop an integrated approach to: situational awareness, resource utilization and recovery outcome optimization. Our aim is to employ and blend the best of command and control approaches with the potential arising from self-organising systems that utilize open innovation platforms and tools such as social media. We ask: what fledgling efforts are being currently undertaken to address this need? What are the state of the art and the state of practice? What composite or alternate model/s can be developed to represent the situation at point-in-time during disaster recovery¿¿¿whether fully coordinated, separated, blended or hybrid models? How will this model (or models) meet the requirements of, and serve as a tool for, all government services, NGOs and the community?

Emergency Evacuation of Expatriates: A Cross-Sectoral Evaluation of Multinational Policy, Practice and Human Resources

Investigators: Susan McGrath-Champ (University of Sydney Business School) and Anthony Fee (UTS)

This study examines the policies and practices of multinational organisations for managing the emergency evacuation of international staff. The research explores current policies and practices, and using a 'human resource management' perspective, develops a framework that describes key issues and 'best practice' approaches relating to pre-crisis, crisis, and post-crisis phases of evacuation. The study includes corporate multinational organisations, as well as non-government multinational organisations that have substantial experience managing staff in high-risk settings. The proposed study enhances scholarship identifying emergency evacuation best practice to strengthen organisations' current provisions in this area.