Twitter offers historical data to select researchers

Only a few recipients will be selected in the initial stage

Twitter will give researchers access to its public and historical data to help them get insights on a wide variety of issues.

The microblogging service is partnering with one of its data resellers, Gnip, to give selected institutions free and easy access to Twitter datasets, it said Wednesday in a blog post. The institutions will also get to collaborate with Twitter's researchers and engineers.

Twitter is accepting proposals under the new "Twitter Data Grants" program until March 15.

A number of researchers are using Twitter data to help them identify key developments and their patterns as they unfold. "Researchers have used social data from Twitter to publish groundbreaking work in such diverse fields as epidemiology, natural disaster response, international relations, financial markets, journalism and politics," Gnip in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. Over 500 million Twitter messages a day are sent on the network.

At Johns Hopkins University, computer scientists and researchers in the School of Medicine developed a method for screening Twitter messages to deliver real-time data on flu cases, while also filtering out online chatter that is not linked to actual flu infections.

While tracking social media messages was found to be a good way to track the occurrence of flu cases, the researchers at the university found they needed a method to distinguish between messages from people who had the flu and those who were just talking about the illness, the university said last year.

"To date, it has been challenging for researchers outside the company who are tackling big questions to collaborate with us to access our public, historical data," Raffi Krikorian, Twitter's vice president for platform engineering, wrote in the post. "Our Data Grants program aims to change that by connecting research institutions and academics with the data they need."

As the company is starting with a pilot program, a small number of proposals will be initially selected, with plans to expand the program in the future. Twitter will select a small number of number of recipients by April 15, Gnip said.

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John Ribeiro

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