The National Cancer Institute invited Jiang Bian, Ph.D., to hold a workshop for its program officers, students and researchers on methods for mining and analyzing data from social media sources to further health research. The presentation, “Untangling the Social Web: Conceptual and Methodical Approaches to Analyzing Social Web Data,” held on April 13-14 at the NCI Shady Grove Campus in Rockville, Maryland , gave NCI staff a look into the process of gathering, processing and analyzing data from social media and other web platforms to address issues in health research, health policy, health disparities, and health outcomes.
“Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram offer researchers and clinicians an abundance of untapped opportunities to reach patients, providers and even health policy makers in novel ways,” said Bian, assistant professor in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy. “Today’s researchers are mining these big datasets for patterns and trends that can lead to new hypotheses, discoveries, and interventions.”
During the two-day course, Bian demonstrated how participants could tap into the wealth of social web data to understand the intersections of individual behaviors, social-environmental factors, and social interactions, and then use that data to gain insight into public and consumer health issues. For instance, Bian has mined Twitter data to help with early detection of drug-related adverse events and to increase understanding of weekly trends involving stress and emotions in the American workplace.
Bian has developed a set of open-source tools such as tweetf0rm (https://github.com/bianjiang/tweetf0rm), twitter-user-geocoder (https://github.com/bianjiang/twitter-user-geocoder), and rcna (https://github.com/bianjiang/rcna) that help researchers with the collection, analysis, and visualization of social web and network data.