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Professor Luke Sloan

Professor Luke Sloan

Professor

School of Social Sciences

Email
sloanls@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44(0) 29 208 70262
Campuses
1.12, Glamorgan Building
Comment
Media commentator
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

As Director of Recruitment I sit on the School of Social Sciences Senior Management Team and have oversight of all undergraduate and postgraduate taught admissions, marketing and recruitment activity.

I am Deputy Director of the Social Data Science Lab (http://socialdatalab.net/) and my work on understanding who uses Twitter through the development of demographic proxies and data linkage is internationally recognised. My background is in Political Science but my interests are primarily methodological and span the Social Sciences, hence my focus on representation, geography, quantitative analysis and modelling, exploring data linkage and social surveys. I work closely with external agencies and government as an expert member of the Social Media Analytics Review and Information Group (SMARIG) and my work has been used in GSR guidance on how Twitter data can be used to augment social research.

I lead the recently funded ESRC project 'Understanding [Online/Offline] Society: Linking Surveys with Twitter Data' (£906,021, ES/S015175/1).

I believe in research-informed teaching, so through my role as Co-Director of the Cardiff Q-Step Centre of Excellence in Quantitative Methods Teaching (www.cardiff.ac.uk/qstep) I am leading the development of a new degree programme (BSc Social Analytics - UCAS code J3G5) in collaboration with external agencies such as the Office for National Statistics to give graduates the skills they need to thrive in a data-centric world.

Biography

Education & Qualifications

  • 2007-2010: PhD (Political Science) University of Plymouth, UK*
  • 2006-2007: MSc (Social Research) University of Plymouth, UK*
  • 2003-2006: BSc Hons (Politics) University of Plymouth, UK

* awarded a 1+3 ESRC Studentship with the Elections Centre, University of Plymouth

Career Overview

  • Aug 2020 - present: Professor, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, UK
  • Nov 2017 - Jul 2020: Reader, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, UK
  • Apr 2014 - Oct 2017: Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, UK
  • Jan 2011 - Mar 2014: Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, UK
  • Oct 2010 - Dec 2010: Research Fellow in Leadership & Governance, Plymouth Business School, University of Plymouth, UK

Honours and awards

  • Awarded the Dillwyn Medal for Social Sciences, Economics and Business 2019 by the Learned Society of Wales 
  • Winner of the "Most Effective Teacher Award" at the Cardiff University Enriching Student Life Awards for innovation in research methods teaching in 2013
  • "Knowing the Tweeters" shortlisted for Sociological Research Online Best Paper Award in 2013

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Speaking engagements

  • July 2018: What Can Twitter Tell Us About the Social World? Research Youth and Inequality in the Digital Age, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Feb 2018: Linking Twitter and Survey Data. International Symposium on Integrating Survey and Social Media Data, GESIS/CAIS, Germany
  • Jan 2018: Social Science Foo Camp, Facebook HQ Menlo Park, California, USA
  • Nov 2017: Exploring Consent to Data Linkage on the Understanding Society Innovation Panel. 1st European Symposium on Societal Challenges in Computational Social Science, Alan Turing Institute, London, UK
  • Nov 2016: Panel member for SAGE ESRC Festival of Social Science event on ‘Big Data and the Social Sciences’, British Academy, Wednesday 9th November with Mark Kennedy (Imperial) Sharon Witherspoon MBE FAcSS (Campaign for Social Science)
  • Oct 2016: (Key note) First Steps Towards Understanfing Demographic Representation on Twitter, Twitter for Academics, Cardiff University
  • Sept 2016: The Fly in the Ointment? Investigating Demographic Representation on Twitter. UK Data Service Webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-Y0zsLTCEA
  • June 2016: SAGE Big Data Roundtable – Using Big Data to Solve Social Science Problems, SAGE Publishing
  • April 2016: International High profile webinar for SAGE on using Twitter for social research with Joshua Tucker (New York University): http://www.methodspace.com/methods-in-action-tackling-the-tweet/
  • April 2016: Growing Your Skills in Social Sciences, workshop delivered for the Higher Education Academy, York
  • Nov 2015: Gaining insights from social media data: collection, analysis and interpretation. Presented at: Supporting Human Rights Organisations to Deliver Insights from Social Media, UK Data Service, University of Essex, UK
  • July 2015: 140 Characters to Victory? Using Twitter to Predict the UK 2015 General Election, Social Media Seminar Series, University of Manchester, Manchester
  • June 2015: Crime-Sensing through Social Media – exploring the relationship between tweets about disorder and recorded crime, Association of Chief Police Officers National Open Source Investigation Conference, Manchester.
  • April 2015: Teaching with Data – State of the Campus, workshop delivered for the Higher Education Academy, Teesside University
  • March 2015: 140 Characters to Victory? Using Twitter to Predict the UK 2015 General Election, Forecasting the British General Election, London School of Economics, London
  • Feb 2015: Applying Demographic Proxies to Twitter Data: a Case Study of Ebola, Social Media in Low and Middle-Income Countries – Interdisciplinary Perspectives (#SoMeKCL), King’s International Development Institute & KISS DTC, London
  • July 2014: Crime-Sensing through Social Media and Demographic Representation, Research Centre for Technological Risk Management (CIGTR), Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URLC) Madrid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glQKsleefQU
  • June 2014: Crime-Sensing through Social Media, ACPO Open Source Conference, Manchester
  • May 2014: Embedding Quantitative Methods, NatCen Social Research London (http://www.natcenweb.co.uk/mrr/)
  • Jan 2013: Learning to Share - Collaboration & QM Teaching Resources Online, Royal Statistical Society London
  • Sept 2012: Space Time as a Sampling Condition for New Social Media Research, Oxford Internet Institute (http://webcast.oii.ox.ac.uk/?view=Webcast&ID=20120926_467)

Committees and reviewing

Internal Committees/Groups

  • Chair of School of Social Sciences Admissions and Recruitment Committee
  • Member of School of Social Sciences Senior Management Team
  • Member of University First Choice Recruitment and Conversion Project Board
  • Member of School of Social Sciences Teaching and Learning Committee
  • Member of AHSS College Admissions and Recruitment Group
  • Member of University Student Survey Group
  • Member of the steering group for a medium/large project funded under the Cardiff University Education Innovation Fund (“Grand Challenges through Project Based Learning”)

External Committees/Groups

  • Member of the Cathy Marsh Institue for Social Research Advisory Board (University of Manchester)
  • Member of the HEFCE Postgraduate Information Steering Group (PISG)
  • Grant reviewer for ESRC, Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), European Research Council (ERC)
  • Expert member of the Social Media Analytics Review and Innovation Group (SMARIG), set up to provide strategic guidance to government departments and agencies on how social media data can be used for social research

Publications

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Teaching

Summary

I have two key roles in the University that are directly related to teaching and learning.

As Director of Recruitment I oversee all admissions, recruitment and marketing activities in the School.

As Co-Director of the Cardiff Q-Step Centre of Excellence in Quantitative Methods Teaching (and Teaching Group Coordinator) I am responsible for overseeing the successful implementation and quality control of all our new programme content on BSc Social Analytics. The Q-Step Centre award was given after an international peer-review process and we are 3 years (halfway) into the project.

Teaching/Scholarship Grants (awarded)

  • Q-STEP Transition Funding, funded by the Nuffield Foundation (Director, approx £120k)
  • Q-STEP Centre for Excellence in Quantitative Methods Teaching, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, HEFCE and ESRC (Co-Director, approx. £1.3m)
  • Changing the Learning Landscape, A national Student-Led Survey: creating a cross-institutional survey project through student collected data for better quantitative methods teaching 2013, HEA (Principle Investigator, £750)
  • Innovation in the Assessment of Social Science Research Methods in UK HEIs 2013, HEA (Principle Investigator, £7,900).
  • ESRC Research Development Initiative 2011 (Co-Investigator, approx £90K): a project to develop an international pedagogic network in which good practice can be shared in teaching quantitative methods (QM), ES/J011851/1
  • ESRC Curriculum Innovation 2011 (Co-Investigator, approx £90k): a project to develop new modules in the social science curriculum in which quantitative methods are embedded, ES/J011843/1

Summary

I am Deputy Director of the Social Data Science Lab (www.http://socialdatalab.net/). My principle research interests are understanding representation on Twitter and augmenting social media data through data linkage. I have worked on a range of projects investigating the use of Twitter data for understanding social phenomena covering topics such as election prediction, tracking (mis)information propagation during food scares and ‘crime-sensing’. My published work focuses on the development of demographic proxies for Twitter data to further understand who uses the platform and increase the utility of such data for the social sciences. I sit as an expert member on the Social Media Analytics Review and Information Group (SMARIG) which brings together academics and government agencies and work closely with the Office for National Statistics and Food Standards Agency. I am currently involved in three large UK-based social survey studies that are exploring potential linkage between Twitter and survey data – British Social Attitudes 2015, the Welsh Election Study 2016 and the Understanding Society Innovation Panel 2017.

Research Grants (awarded)

  • Understanding [Online/Offline] Society: Linking Surveys with Twitter Data, ESRC (Principle Investigator, £906,021), ES/S015175/1*
  • Hate Crime After Brexit: Linking Terrestrial and New Forms of Data to Inform Governance, ESRC (Co-Investigator, £249,995), ES/S006168/1
  • Social Data Science Lab: Methods and Infrastructure Development for Open Data Analytics in Social Research 2017-2020, ESRC (Co-Investigator, £705,050) ES/P008755/1
  • Welsh Election Study 2016, ESRC (Co-Investigator, £226k) ES/M011127/1
  • Public perceptions of the UK food system: public understanding and engagement, and the impact of crises and scares 2014, ESRC/FSA (Co-Investigator, £291,200), ES/M003329/1
  • NCRM Methodological Innovation Project 2013 (Co-Investigator, approx. £180k): COSMOS 2.0 Social Media Data Mashing, Tension Analysis and Predictive Analytics
  • Nuffield Children, Young People and Families using Social Work Service in Four UK Cohort Studies 2013(Co-Investigator, approx. £150k): a project investigating social worker contact with respondent the Millennium Cohort Study, ALPAC, BHPS and LSYPE
  • European Social Fund (ESF) Women Adding Value to the Economy 2012 – WAVE (Co-Investigator, approx. £1m): A project investigating the gender pay gap in Wales, particular responsibility for quantitative strand involving supervision of a research associate

*Understanding [Online/Offline] Society: Linking Surveys with Twitter Data (ES/S015175/1)

Understanding behaviours, attitudes and identities in online space is a key challenge for 21st Century Social Science. The opportunities provided by social media platforms such as Twitter are significant, with between 300 and 500 million tweets generated a day representing interactions, networks, opinions and reactions at a highly granular temporal (and sometimes spatial) level. On average 4,500 tweets are authored every second and this velocity of data offers us a real-time insight into the social world. However, the fly in the ointment for researchers is that we have a limited understanding of who (or what in the case of 'bots') is present in the online space and to what extent the online representation of social actors can be taken to represent the social world. The fundamental concerns of what can be known and how we can know it need to be addressed before social science can embrace, albeit with a healthy dose of caution, Twitter as a source of knowledge on the social world.

In light of this, this project sets out to establish what insights Twitter can offer us into social phenomenon through the linkage of the content and metadata of tweets with survey data from three major UK surveys - British Social Attitudes 2015, Understanding Society Innovation Panel 2017 and the NatCen Panel. In essence, this project is an exercise in method, calibration and verification, through taking what we know about a respondent and exploring to what extent a given known characteristic may manifest (or not) in the online setting, and vice versa. There is clear methodological value in this - gaining consent to link additional sources of data to survey responses is increasingly used to enhance the value of survey data, validate survey measures, and address issues with nonresponse. However, most previous research on consent has focused on administrative records, and understanding consent relating to other new forms of data is needed.

With novel methods there are limitations to working theoretically - unpredicted limitations may become apparent, and the value of the design not be evident without a real research context. We therefore propose further data collection as part of substantive case study concerning attitudes and behaviours toward ethnic minorities that will aim to uncover 'hidden' challenges and demonstrate how this methodology can be employed, as well as contributing to the substantive literature. To maximise the value of the research for the wider academic community, this work will in turn inform a work package focusing solely on archiving, sharing and re-use of the linked dataset and/or a derivative of it. Whilst Twitter is only one of many social media platforms, it is the most open and accessible and provides a proving ground on which issues of consent, linkage, archiving and sharing can be tested and evaluated. We anticipate that many of the lessons and protocols developed as part of this research will be operationally applicable to other social media platforms.

In summary, the research project seeks to answer the following research questions:

RQ1) How can Twitter data be used to enhance survey data?

RQ2) How can survey data be used to evaluate existing demographic proxy measures and develop new ones?

RQ3) How can we encourage informed consent to social media data linkage?

RQ4) Demonstrator Study: How can linked data (direct reported and observed indirect) help us to understand public attitudes towards minority ethnic groups?

RQ5) How can social media data be collected, linked to survey data, analysed, archived, and shared in a legal and ethical manner that maintains utility?