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Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Eidos Institute and the Department of Community Safety will partner on new research seeking to analyse how social media were used during natural disasters in Queensland in 2011.
Following the unprecedented use and role of social media during the devastating floods occurring in South-East Queensland, the three-year research project will seek to inform the development of improved public communication strategies which could save lives in future disasters.
The project was one of the 1000 research projects funded nation-wide as part of the Australian Research Council's recent 2012 Major Grants Announcement.
Led by a team of academic experts from QUT and the University of New South Wales, the project is supported by funding partners including independent think-tank the Eidos Institute and the Department of Community Safety.
"The experience of the floods showed clearly that social media have an important role to play in helping to disseminate emergency advice and information, and in sourcing first-hand reports from affected locals," project leader Associate Professor Axel Bruns from QUT's ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation said.
"The challenge for emergency services now is to find appropriate communication strategies which include social media in the overall mix."
The project's key objectives include investigating the uses of social media such as Twitter by public organisations including government and emergency services, as well as by the general public, during natural disasters, and working closely with the Department of Community Safety to develop and evaluate its social media strategies.
CEO of national think-tank Eidos Institute Professor Bruce Muirhead stated that the project was an important opportunity for governments to consider the implications of 'Government 2.0'.
"Social media have developed into an important form of communication used by a vast majority of citizens - it makes sense that governments learn how to better utilise such an effective form of mass communication, especially when it comes to issues of public safety," he said.
Department of Community Safety, All Hazards Information Management Program Director, Chris Fisher agreed that social media is now as important as traditional media channels for distributing information to the community.
"In terms of disaster preparedness and response messaging, the public demand and consumption of information has shifted social media from a public engagement tool to a critical communications channel," he said.
The research project builds from an Eidos Institute National Conference held at the State Library of Queensland earlier this year, which saw leading academics, journalists, social commentators and governments with an interest in the use of social media join forces in the wake of a natural disaster which destroyed lives, homes and property.
EIDOS media contact: Samantha Dean 07 3009 7900QUT media contact: Michaela Ryan 07 3138 4494
Project leader Axel Bruns from QUT