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Funded as part of Phase 3 of the Big Data Network funding totalling £1.4 million has been awarded to the RCUK Digital Economy (DE) Hubs, dot.rural (University of Aberdeen), SiDE (University of Newcastle) and Horizon (University of Nottingham) to build on and/or enhance work they have been carrying out which is closely aligned with the ESRC’s new forms of data agenda, as well as to conduct complementary activities which will contribute to the development of infrastructure for research using social media data.

Work undertaken by dot.rural will involve analysis of social media data in a number of contexts, including transport disruption around the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, news stories about Scottish independence and UK-EU relations and island communities in the Western Isles. The team plans to develop a suite of software tools to support various aspects of data analysis and curation, as well as providing guidance on ethics and delivering training workshops for social science researchers.

SiDE will build on the successful ‘Tweet My Street’ project which has been exploring the extent to which data derived from Twitter can reveal more about spatial and temporal behaviours, and the meanings attached to these locally. This is being done with the longer-term vision to support the co-production and delivery of local services, effective complaint mechanisms and horizontal community support networks. The team intends to extend the current ‘Tweet My Street’ software tool to include connection analysis, to explore the use of modern statistical techniques to extract understanding from Twitter data, develop new case studies demonstrating the uses of the tool and bring their work together with a dissemination and training event. All tools generated by the project will be made freely available as open-source software.

The Horizon Hub project Citizen-centric approaches to Social Media analysis (CaSMa) will build on work developing a set of services and facilities for the social sciences that will allow researchers to draw upon social media and associated human data to gain insights into human behaviour. The resulting tools and facilities will be disseminated to the broader social science community through a series of ‘Masterclass’ events, complemented by a series of ethical and policy debates to elaborate the handling of human data. In addition, the University of Nottingham will host an open, collaborative workshop, bringing together the DE Hubs as well as other interested parties to network and discuss current and possible future work in this area.

The Digital Economy programme brings together researchers from diverse disciplines (including social science, engineering and computer science) to realise the transformational impact of digital technologies on aspects of community life, cultural experiences, future society and the economy. The Digital Economy Research Hubs are focussed on carrying out research and training in order to address these challenges.