Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Media bias; research impact via Twitter; researcher open practices; fake news on Facebook #ISI2021

I'm liveblogging from an Information Behaviour and Information Literacy session, which has a social media theme, at the International Symposium on Information Science (ISI 2021) today. There is more information on all 4 presentations in the full text conference proceedings (starting page 79) here:

The first presentation was Omission of information: Identifying political slant via an analysis of co-occurring entities (Jonas Ehrhardt, Timo Spinde, Ali Vardasbi, & Felix Hamborg) Their project site is here: They focused on the issue of media bias by omission, identifying that this had not been a major focus in quantitive research so far. The created a data set of articles from a range of North American media, which had been previously categorised as left, right or centre leaning. They then performed a sequence of analyses, including a manual stage to examine the co-occurrences that had emerged from the quantiative analysis, and as the research was still in progress (including creating a much bigger data set of news articles), the focus of the paper were the methods used. 

The second paper was Does the General Public Share Research on Twitter? A Case Study on the Online Conversation about the Search for a Nuclear Repository in Germany (Steffen Lemke, Paula Bräuer, Isabella Peters). This involved two research projects TRANSENS (concerning issues to do with nuclear waste) and MeWiko which is concerned with the impact of scholarly publications. While there is a lot of research on social media and academia, there is not so much which examines the engagement of non-academics. There was also existing research with evidence that references to academic research on Twitter tended to link to intermediate sources (e.g. media reports of research), not the original research.
They collected tweets based on German words concerned with nuclear waste, identified the 50 most frequent participants (the conversation was dominated by comparatively few people), and examined their profiles so they could categorise them in various ways (e.g., did they appear to be academics). The most frequent participants were non-academic activists and the most influential (in terms of follwers) were journalists. As an automatic approach (looking for dois) didn't work well, they selected a subset of tweets and examined them manually. They found very few direct links to research papers, but more links to news or journalism, and also paraphrased reports or summaries, or "popular science" videos etc. One conclusion is that you can't measure impact of research just by counting direct links to articles, as the majority of impact comes through other types of publications. They also observed how the conversation about nuclear energy is very different in different countries (e.g. USA vs. Germany) so you can't neccessarily transfer results to other countries.

The third paper was Open practices of early career researchers A qualitative study on research and teaching behavior (Tamara Heck, Ina Blümel). Practice here mean practices in daily life concerned with research or teaching, and the "open" can refer to open science and open educational practices (both with principles of transparency, re-use, participation etc.) The research emerged from the observation that, whilst attitudes towards attitudes are very positive, still there is less actual implementation of these practices. The participants were 10 early career researchers from the educational field. There was a multistage qualitative study, involving interviews, focus groups and diarying. From the analysis the main motivations were: to be more independent with open tools; allow for better outreach/transparency; improve students' communication/collaboration; improve collaboration with colleagues. Barriers included lack of motivation because tools were not easy to use, or not more (or as) useful as non-open alternatives, also other people (e.g. colleagues) are using and used to non-open tools and do not see the benefits of the open tools/working. An observation was that there needed to be "value alignment" so that all involved needed to see the benefits, have some buy-in to the underlying values and be motivated to collaborate.

The final paper in the Information Behaviour and Information Literacy session at the International Symposium on Information Science (ISI 2021) was Information Behavior towards False Information and “Fake News” on Facebook The Influence of Gender, User Type and Trust in Social Media (Thomas Schmidt, Elisabeth Salomon, David Elsweiler, Christian Wolff). They focused on Facebook, as this is the most popular social media in Germany. As variables, they examined gender, trust in social media, and frequency of social media use. In terms of engaging with fake information, they were interested in asking about how it was identified, verified, shared etc., and the survey instrument was a 42 item German-language questionnaire, completed by 119 people. In terms of gender - they did not find any significant results. They used two existing scales to measure Facebook use, and trust in social media. Respondents said that they frequently encountered false information, but never or rarely engaged with it. Verification strategies varied, but the most frequent were looking at the source, and checking comments. As a reaction, mostly people would not do anything about false information, and said they would more often unsubscribe/mute the poster, rather than report the post. Other findings were that: the more participants used social media, the more they were likely to trust social media, and more likely to engage with false information (e.g. like, comment).

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