Forum to explore social media’s potential uses in public policy

17 OCTOBER 2019

Forum to explore social media’s potential uses in public policy

The one-day ‘Analysing social media for better public policy’ symposium will be held at Charles Sturt in Bathurst on Thursday 14 November.

  • Charles Sturt to host free symposium exploring how analysis of social media can influence decision making and public policy
  • Event to link researchers with people working in public policy, strategy and communications
  • One-day forum to be held at Charles Sturt in Bathurst on Thursday 14 November

Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) will host a free public forum exploring ways authorities can improve their decision-making and public policy by closely analysing social media.

The one-day ‘Analysing social media for better public policy’ symposium will be held at Charles Sturt in Bathurst on Thursday 14 November.

Symposium organiser Associate Professor Peter Simmons in the Charles Sturt School of Communication and Creative Industries said the event will address some often-overlooked aspects of social media’s influence.

“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,” he said.

The symposium will bring together pioneering researchers from five universities, as well as people working in public policy, strategy and communication.

Presenters will share cases where social media has been used to inform or guide public policy and decisions, as well as research highlighting the application of social media to important policy matters in health, environmental management, transport and communication.

Charles Sturt PhD student Mr Kane Callaghan will present current research examining the information needs of public policy makers and the ways in which social media can help meet these needs.

“Social media can be loud and polarising, but we can also hear from voices that are seldom heard, voices that public authorities have an obligation to listen to,” Mr Callaghan said.

According to Professor Simmons the symposium will also explore the challenges of social media data use, including ethics, geolocation, sample representativeness and access, as well as considering the systems and processes for gathering and analysing social media for public policy and decisions.

“In particular it will focus on qualitative approaches to analysis and interpretation, as distinct from more automated analysis,” he said.

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

The symposium’s morning sessions will look at cases, benefits and opportunities for better public policy, while the afternoon sessions will explore adapting and applying methods to meet policy needs.

Guest speakers will include:

  • Associate Professor Peter Simmons, School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt: research fellow with a special focus on the use of social media in public policy, especially in matters of coexistence and conflict.
  • Dr Rachael Dodd, School of Public Health, University of Sydney: researcher focussed on communication in healthcare in combination with assessing psychosocial impacts of Human Papillomavirus-related cancers.
  • Professor Carlo Prato, School of Civil Engineering, University of Queensland: professor in transport engineering with a passion for behavioural modelling which drives research into what makes people behave the way they do as pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users, and car drivers.
  • Dr Lucy Farrell, Division of Academic and Student Engagement, University of Adelaide: mixed-methods social researcher currently working on evaluation in higher education.
  • Dr Kelsey Chalmers, Menzies Centre for Health Policy: her current work focusses on value and financing in health care, including out-of-pocket costs.
  • Dr Michael Mehmet, School of Management and Marketing, Charles Sturt: specialises in social media social listening, and has pioneered a multimodal method that can extract meanings and sentiment from a range of social media sites.
  • Dr Belinda Curley, NSW Department of Primary Industries: her career has focussed on applying strategic social and ecological research to policy and communication in coastal environments.
  • Mr Kane Callaghan, PhD student, Charles Sturt: research focusses on ways that online citizen commentary can be collected and analysed for use in public policy decision making.
  • Dr Jackie Street, Australian Centre for Health Engagement and Values, University of Wollongong: internationally recognised for her research on the inclusion of patient and citizen voices in decision-making for health technology assessment.
  • Dr David Cameron, School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt: a Senior Lecturer with a professional background that includes broadcast and online media production.

The free event is open to the public, with public policy and decision-making researchers, policy, strategy and communication advisers and analysts, and students especially encouraged to attend.

The symposium will be held from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Thursday 14 November at the Honeycomb of Learning, School of Engineering, building 1305, Village Drive at Charles Sturt in Bathurst.

Registrations are available at the Eventbrite website.

For further information email Professor Simmons (, Mr Callaghan ( or Charles Sturt PhD student Rizwan Sharif (

Support for the symposium is provided by Charles Sturt’s Faculty of Arts and Education and the Institute for Land, Water and Society research centre.

Media Note:

Photo caption: Symposium organisers Associate Professor Peter Simmons and PhD students Mr Kane Callaghan and Mr Rizwan Sharif.

To arrange interviews contact Charles Sturt Media’s Dave Neil on 0407 332 718 or at

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Bathurst Charles Sturt University Communication and Creative Industries Research Society and Community