Professor Receives Grant from National Science Foundation

HIGH POINT, N.C., April 19, 2016 – High Point University instructor of English Allison Walker recently received a $56,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. She is working with a team of five colleagues from Michigan State University, Spelman College and North Carolina A&T State University on a project titled, “Tracking Evolution on Social Media.”

These colleagues are using genetic algorithms to track the conversation surrounding the science of evolution on social media platforms. Walker is working to develop a computer program that will identify positive language cues that make a science story go viral on social media.

“We’re trying to develop a computer algorithm that can trace key words and phrases associated with this conversation about evolution on social media platforms like Twitter,” said Walker. “We want to figure out how to share valid scientific information with a popular audience without triggering bias and negative perceptions.”

Once the group figures out what words or phrases work best, they then want to work with scientists to use this language on social media to educate people about evolution.

“This is an exciting project with real potential to communicate science more effectively and raise collective scientific literacy,” says Walker. “By tapping into the power of social media, we hope to spread accurate scientific information in an accessible way.”

In the future, the colleagues want to use this program for public health by tracking different language cues to help prevent violence and bullying online.

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