Stevens Institute of Technology Professor Yasu Sakamoto Receives National Science Foundation Grant

10/13/2011

Hoboken, NJ – A National Science Foundation grant awarded to Dr. Yasu Sakamoto, assistant professor in the Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology, may have broad impacts on disaster response efforts.  The research, titled “RAPID: Minimizing the spread of false rumors in social media during a disaster,” examines how rumors spread through social media during responses to natural disasters and evaluates new techniques to prevent the spread of false information.
 
The research team will look particularly at the dissemination of false information on Twitter during the days immediately following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this past March.  Some Twitter users communicated rumors about radiation and supplies, which caused unnecessary panic.
 
“Social media has affected our lives in countless ways, many of which for the better,” Dr. C. Timothy Koeller, Professor and Interim Dean of the Howe School of Technology Management.  “But with each new innovation, there are unintended consequences.  Dr. Sakamoto’s research will provide invaluable insight into how false rumors spread through social media during times of crisis, and the study’s insights will help us better respond in a disaster.”
 
Dr. Sakamoto’s research, which is expected to last for one year, centers on the behavior of false tweets and counteracting tweets that question the accuracy of false tweets.  The investigative team will build a visualization tool to track the spread of tweets and conduct experiments with Japanese and American students to measure how humans respond to different types of false tweets and counteracting tweets.  The research project will provide a recommendation for reducing the spread of false rumors in social media.  
 
The investigators are hoping that the insights from the project will help improve the quality of post-event risk communication and emergency preparedness during future responses to natural disasters.
 
“We already know that social media can help us communicate with one another during an emergency, but it can also hurt us in broadcasting false information, which may cause panic,” said Dr. Sakamoto.  “Our project will help emergency responders detect when rumors are being spread and intervene before negative societal effects occur, and more generally, help people become more critical about information they see in social media.”
 
Dr. Sakamoto is collaborating on this research with Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Yuko Tanaka, Dr. Yasushi Michita at University of the Ryukyus in Japan, and Drs Toshihiko Matsuka and Hidehito Honda at Chiba University in Japan.
 
About Stevens Institute of Technology
Founded in 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University™, lives at the intersection of industry, academics and research.  The University's students, faculty and partners leverage their collective real-world experience and culture of innovation, research and entrepreneurship to confront global challenges in engineering, science, systems and technology management. 
 
Based in Hoboken, N.J. and with a location in Washington, D.C., Stevens offers accredited baccalaureate, masters, certificates and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences and management, in addition to baccalaureate degrees in business and liberal arts.  Stevens has been recognized by both the US Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Excellence in the areas of systems engineering and port security research. The University has a total enrollment of more than 2,350 undergraduate, 3,600 graduate students and almost 450 faculty members. Stevens’ graduate programs have attracted international participation from China, India, Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America as well as strategic partnerships with industry leaders, governments and other universities around the world.  Additional information may be obtained at www.stevens.edu and www.stevens.edu/news.
 
About the National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" The NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities.  
 
The NSF funds research and education in science and engineering, through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. The Foundation accounts for about 20 percent of federal support to academic institutions for basic research.