Shawn Campbell

Twitter has a 200-million-strong and ever-growing user base that broadcasts 500 million updates daily. It has been lauded for its ability to unsettle repressive political regimes, bring much-needed accountability to corporations that mistreat their customers, and combat other societal ills (whether such characterizations are, in fact, accurate). Now, the company has taken aim at disrupting another important sphere of human society: the scientific research community.
Back in February, the site announced its plan—in collaboration with Gnip—to provide a handful of research institutions with free access to its data sets from 2006 to the present. It’s a pilot program called “Twitter Data Grants,” with the hashtag #DataGrants. At the time, Twitter’s engineering blog explained the plan to enlist grant applications to access its treasure trove of user data:
Twitter has an expansive set of data from which we can glean insights and learn about a variety of topics, from health-related information such as when and where the flu may hit to global events like ringing in the new 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. Our Data Grants program aims to change that by connecting research institutions and academics with the data they need.
In April, Twitter announced that, after reviewing the more than 1,300 proposals submitted from more than 60 different countries, it had selected six institutions to provide with data access. Projects approved included a study of foodborne gastrointestinal illnesses, a study measuring happiness levels in cities based on images shared on Twitter, and a study using geosocial intelligence to model urban flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia. There’s even a project exploring the relationship between tweets and sports team performance.
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