My guiding principles
People are the center of my research.
Technologies are created, designed, adopted, distributed, and used by people.
People are affected and effected, shaped, and constructed by technologies.
Technologies have politics.
I identify the structures and barriers that exist in technical crisis coordination in the disaster relief sector. My findings have led to the creation of principles and best practices for over 300 Humanitarian Information Managers worldwide. The United Nations Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) adopted these best practices in their Information Management policies.
I have contributed to the scientific understanding of social media usage patterns during a crisis including communication among citizens, communication from authorities to citizens and vice versa, and communication among authorities (including inter-organizational social networks). With my team, I have shown promising results in using natural language processing, sentiment analysis, data mining, and machine learning interventions in automating the process of identifying useful, relevant, and trustworthy information in social media crisis data.
Why is my research important?
Disasters, Climate Change, and Pandemics
The world is experiencing more natural disasters. These disasters are occurring more frequently and are more severe than in the past. This increase in number, frequency, and severity also increases the impact these disasters have on human lives as we see growth in casualties, property damage, and displaced people.
This increase in number, frequency, and severity of natural disasters is partially explained by climate change. Climate change is directly caused by the impact of human activity on the environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest, but certainly not the last pandemic the globe will face. The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating changes to the traditional work environment, and society as a whole. The form, location, and remuneration of works are changing. Broadband internet access is essential to modern work, yet large portions of the United States cannot access broadband creating a digital divide.
Using real-time social media allows crisis responders to go where the need is greatest. As the numbers of crises increases, being able to effectively and efficiently respond will become more and more important.
My work develops and deploys a reusable information technology infrastructure to classify and aggregate social media postings so that they can easily be used by responding organizations. I develop techniques to automatically detect truth and deception within streams of social media data. The data is used by responders and the public in real time, resulting in people and property being better protected. This enhances the ability of crisis responders to confidently make use of crowdsourced data.
Disaster response (today)
I have already successfully used citizen-created data to assist large-scale citizen-science endeavors; together with Los Alamos National Labs and NASA, I created Aurorasaurus, a citizen science project, which led to strategies for using crowdsourcing techniques to improve early warning systems in disaster response. Aurorasaurus encouraged public participation in improving space weather – enabling crowdsourced aurora sightings to enhance scientific prediction of the effects of solar particles and energy on the magnetosphere.