Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Analysing social media for better public policy

One day symposium - CSU Bathurst, 14 November, 2019  ILWS

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.


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.


  • Cases from different sectors: Health; Environmental management; Transport; Marine
  • Information needs of policy makers
  • Issues of access and analysis


Associate Professor Peter Simmons
School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt University Associate Professor Peter Simmons

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 Dodd
School of Public Health, University of Sydney Dr Rachael Dodd

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 Kelsey Chalmers
Menzies Centre for Health Policy Dr Kelsey Chalmers

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 Mehmet
School of Management and Marketing, Charles Sturt UniversityDr Michael Mehmet

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.

Kane Callaghan
PhD student, Charles Sturt University

Kane Kane CallaghanCallaghan’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.

Professor Carlo Prato
School of Civil Engineering, University of Queensland

Professor Carlo PratoCarlo Prato is Professor in Transport Engineering. His natural curiosity and passion for behavioural modelling drives his research into understanding what makes people behave the way they do as pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users, and car drivers. In 2017 Carlo was the recipient of the Partners in Research Excellence Award from The University of Queensland for his work in the partnership with the Port of Brisbane that aims at developing port growth.

Dr Lucy Farrell
Division of Academic and Student Engagement, University of Adelaide

Dr Lucy Farrell

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 Jackie Street
Australian Centre for Health Engagement and Values, University of Wollongong

Dr Jackie Street

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 Cameron
School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt University

David Cameron

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

Further information 

Associate Professor Peter Simmons
Kane Callaghan