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Cheap Research Is of Little Value

Research is hard; cheap research is just that — cheap and worthless.

Research on any subject matter takes time and effort. Evidently, some researchers are falling prey to "cheap research" in quoting what is said on social media. Easily obtainable — but then, of questionable value. Toss in a bit of misinformation and disinformation, you likely can't trust what is being written on social media.

I'm quoting from an email I received today that addresses this topic from a university professor:

"Again, thank you for helping so much with this curation effort.

I just want to let you know that a quick analysis shows that 33.73 percent of the newly added DIRL [Disaster Information Reference Library] references represent COVID-related research, half of which have used social media/twitter etc. as data collection sources.

If we look at the bigger picture, now more than a fourth of all academic research represented in the DIRL is social media-based, that is, 1,083 out of 4,099 references. Out of the 1,083 social media research-based references a total of 116 is COVID-related (10.7 percent).

[Another professor] and I have talked about our growing reservation regarding 'research' based on cheap and quick data grabbing from Twitter, and then presenting all kinds of “conclusions” in that kind of studies.

Thanks to our joint curation effort, we can now let the academic community know what tremendous volume this cheap stuff has now grown into, and it is definitely not what we need. This stuff should not really count towards tenure and promotion because we do not learn much if anything from 'sentiment analysis during a disaster' (like, 'oh yes, we feel bad and depressed' etc., actually, very good that we finally get that from Twitter how people 'feel' during a disaster, we wouldn’t have known otherwise, right?). And there is much more cheap stuff like that.

The upcoming ISCRAM [Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management] conference as well as the ITDRR conference should send out an alert: We do not want that kind of 'research' anymore … It simply does not help."

It heartens me that there are those in the academic community who continue to do research into emergency management and the different aspects of what we do. What we need to do as practitioners is to avail ourselves of that research and use in constructing our work plans and programs. Not always easily done, I know.
Eric Holdeman is a nationally known emergency manager. He has worked in emergency management at the federal, state and local government levels. Today he serves as the Director, Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), which is part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER). The focus for his work there is engaging the public and private sectors to work collaboratively on issues of common interest, regionally and cross jurisdictionally.