ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University
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Analysing social media for better public policy

Social and online media where citizens articulate their thinking and attitudes have been shown to yield valuable insights for policymakers and communicators in health, environmental management, education and other domains.

This symposium aims to advance understanding of ways that public authorities can improve their decision-making and policy by closely analysing social media.

University researchers have a role to play in working with public authorities to develop effective and efficient approaches to gathering and analysing insights from social media that are useful in policy development.

Qualitative use of social media in policy

While much attention has focused on using social media to communicate to communities, this symposium will focus on ways social media helps policymakers to listen to communities. In particular, it will focus on qualitative approaches to analysis and interpretation, as distinct from more automated analysis.

Insights from social media have some distinct advantages and limitations when compared with other research methods such as surveys, focus groups or interviews.

This one day event will bring together academic researchers focused on uses and analysis of social media in public decision-making, and people working in public policy, strategy, and communication.

Register for the Symposium


The aims of the symposium are to:

  • Share cases where social media has been used to inform or guide public policy and decisions
  • Share research highlighting the application of social media to important policy matters
  • Bring together people working and researching in this developing field
  • Explore challenges of social media data use such as ethics, geolocation, sample representativeness, access to data
  • Consider systems and processes for gathering and analysing social media for public policy and decisions.

Who should attend?

People working with or researching public policy and decision-making who seek to engage or understand community thinking:

  • Policy, strategy and communication advisers and analysts
  • Researchers and students.

Program 9.30am - 4.30pm

Introduction/Opening to the day Sharynne McLeod - CSU
Morning - Cases, benefits and opportunities for better public policy
Why this is important Peter Simmons - CSU
Case 1 – Reacting to changes in public policy: the case of cervical screening Rachael Dodd – Uni Syd
Case 2 – Public attitudes to government roles in obesity prevention Lucy Farrell – Uni Adelaide
Jackie Street – Uni Wollongong
Case 3 – Why manual, qualitative analysis over automated? The carp release program Michael Mehmet – CSU
Morning tea - provided
Case 4 -  Public responses to media articles about the health effects of e-cigarettesKylie Morphett - Uni QLD
Case 5 – What to do about sharks? Peter Simmons – CSU,
Belinda Curley NSW Department of Primary Industries
Applications and opportunities across the public sector? Panel and open discussion
Lunch - provided
Afternoon – Adapting and applying methods to meet policy needs
What information aids policymakers and what’s available in SM? Kane Callaghan - CSU
Publicly available! Ethics of use of SM data and permissions Kelsey Chalmers -Menzies Centre for Health Policy
Workshopping the wicked: Facilitated discussions – 3 trends and questions David Cameron - CSU
Afternoon tea - provided
Workshopping the wicked continued David Cameron - CSU
Wrap up Peter Simmons - CSU
Close Donald Alexander - CSU
Evening - Social!
Bathurst Kangaroo Walk (sneaker-friendly symposium)  
Dinner – to be advised

Register for the symposium


Associate Professor Peter SimmonsAssociate Professor Peter Simmons

School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt University

Peter Simmons is a Charles Sturt University Research Fellow. His special focus is the use of social media in public policy, especially in matters of coexistence and conflict. He has used attitudes expressed in social media to explore several cases of human/human and human/non-human conflict. Peter’s recent research has examined local government communication, sport referee communication, and influences on attitudes to managing sharks.

Dr Rachael DoddDr Rachael Dodd

School of Public Health, University of Sydney

Her research to date has focussed around communication in healthcare in combination with assessing psychosocial impacts of HPV-related cancers. Rachael’s current research is looking into communicating key concepts of HPV and cervical cancer in the context of providing reassurance and information about the renewed National Cervical Screening Program in Australia. Rachael completed a Masters in Health Psychology and a PhD in Psychology in London, UK.

Dr Lucy FarrellDr Lucy Farrell

Division of Academic and Student Engagement, University of Adelaide

Lucy Farrell is a mixed-methods social researcher, currently working on evaluation in higher education. Her background is in large-scale program evaluation and deliberative approaches to policy-making across a range of sectors and organisational settings. She received her PhD in public health from the University of Adelaide, investigating public attitudes about obesity prevention policy. Lucy also holds a Masters in Journalism and a Bachelor of Psychology.

Dr Kylie Morphett 

School of Public Health, University of Queensland

Kylie Morphett completed her PhD in 2016, investigating how smokers understand the neuroscience of nicotine addiction. Prior to this, she worked in a number of health promotion roles in non-profit organisations. Her current research uses mixed-methods research to understand how best to communicate health information about tobacco and nicotine products, as well as emerging environmental contaminants such as PFAS and glyphosate.

Dr Kelsey ChalmersDr Kelsey Chalmers

Menzies Centre for Health Policy

Kelsey Chalmers received her PhD in public health from the University of Sydney, and investigated the measurement of low-value procedures using Australian private health insurance claims. During her PhD, she worked with government and industry stakeholders, and was a visiting Queen Elizabeth Scholar at McMaster University in improving health systems. Her current work at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy focuses on value and financing in health care, including out-of-pocket costs.

Dr Michael MehmetDr Michael Mehmet

School of Management and Marketing, Charles Sturt University

Dr Michael Mehmet specialises in social media social listening. He has pioneered a multimodal method that can extract meanings and sentiment from a range of social media sites. His background in marketing and communication has allowed him to apply his skillset across a range of policy, business and community contexts.

Dr Belinda CurleyDr Belinda Curley

NSW Department  of Primary Industries

Belinda’s career has focused on applying strategic social and ecological research to policy and communication in coastal environments. She currently works on the development of the Marine Integrated Monitoring Program for the NSW marine estate, with a particular focus on the social and cultural components of the initiative. Previously, she led the social research program for the NSW Shark Management Strategy and conducted ecological research on Marine Protected Areas.

Kane CallaghanKane Callaghan

PhD student, Charles Sturt University

Kane Callaghan’s research focus is on ways that online citizen commentary can be collected and analysed for use in public policy decision making. Kane's PhD uses the policy space of human-shark coexistence to explore systematic approaches to capturing and making sense of citizen thinking expressed online. Kane's PhD research is funded by both the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the CSU Institute for Land, Water and Society.

Dr Jackie StreetDr Jackie Street

Australian Centre for Health Engagement and Values, University of Wollongong

Dr Street is internationally recognised for her research on the inclusion of patient and citizen voices in decision-making for health technology assessment (HTA). She pioneered early work using social media to bring public voices into public funding decision-making for health technologies. Dr Street received her PhD in Biochemistry (University of London, 1985) but made a career change into public health in 2005. Dr Street is a founding member of the Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence and Values at the University of Wollongong. ACHEEV is a new Centre bringing together leading experts in deliberative practice and community engagement.

Dr David CameronDr David Cameron

School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt University

David Cameron is a Senior Lecturer in Communication at Charles Sturt University. His professional background includes broadcast and online media production. His PhD examined shared conventions between educational drama and game-based learning. David’s recent research and publication has examined ways in which live performance and media arts interact with digital cultures to create new forms of multimodal and transmedia storytelling.

Register for the symposium


0930-1630, 14 November 2019
Charles Sturt University
Honeycomb of Learning, School of Engineering
Building 1305, Village Drive
Bathurst, 2795

Support for the Symposium is provided by the Faculty of Arts and Education and the Institute for Land, Water and Society

Further information 

Associate Professor Peter Simmons
Kane Callaghan
Rizwan Sharif