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Watching online behaviours to improve government services

February 26th, 2015
12:30pm - 1:30pm
Conference Room, Urban Big Data Centre, 7 Lilybank Gardens, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK G12 8RZ get directions

Abstract: Watching online behaviours to improve government services

Online behaviours such as web use, social media posts, and the use of online forums provide evidence of citizens' interactions with government services and also evidence of citizens' interactions with each other.  Patterns in this behaviour can tell us new things about the way people experience government policies and services, and how this could be improved.

This talk looks on two projects which illustrate the idea.  In one we use trace data from clients interacting with a large Australian government website to automatically detect where people struggle to find information: that data is then used to incrementally improve web-based communication and get the right information out faster.

In the other we use data from social media including Twitter, Facebook, forums and news sites to help understand what Australians are saying about services when they talk to each other.  This lets us understand people's sentiment and priorities, but it also lets us answer questions, recognise where there are problems, and fine-tune communications to get information where it's needed.

About Dr. Paul Thomas – Visiting SISCA Industry Fellow

Paul Thomas is a research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).  The CSIRO is Australia's national science agency and is charged with carrying out research for Australian government, industry, and communities.  He also holds an adjunct Professorship at the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

Dr Thomas's research considers how people interact with information, in particular information retrieval systems such as web search or digital libraries.  His expertise covers federated search systems, models of user behaviour, and evaluating search systems with explicit or implicit user feedback.  Applications have included web-based systems for general use, personal and workplace search systems, digital libraries for professional groups, and search on mobile devices.

Dr Thomas's work has been published in top-ranked journals and conferences including the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), the Information Retrieval Journal (IR), and the SIGIR and CIKM conferences. He has served on programme committees for all major conferences and journals in information retrieval; and amongst other service roles he has been invited to coordinate or be a mentor for the SIGIR Doctoral Consortium across three years.

Dr Thomas has significant expertise in industrial research, and experience in translating research into practise in industry and government.  For example, he has led or worked on projects which analyse web usage and suggest improvements for some of Australia's largest sites, and which monitor social media to improve government communications and policy-making.  He has also designed and implemented digital libraries and novel information systems to support industry in Australia and internationally.

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