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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland academics set up Twitter 'bot' aimed at getting accurate messages to public


Dr Ciara Keenan

Dr Ciara Keenan

Dr Damian Fogarty

Dr Damian Fogarty

Dr Ciara Keenan

A team of Northern Ireland academics have developed a social media 'bot' to track and deliver accurate information on the spread of coronavirus across the globe.

Dr Ciara Keenan and Dr Damian Fogarty have created the ‘Covid-19 and Coronavirus Evidence’ account, which tweets accurate updates and peer-reviewed research on the virus in a bid to get verified information to the public and other academics.

“Each piece of research that is tweeted by the bot using a series of hashtags to ensure it is seen by those searching for new information,” Dr Keenan told the Belfast Telegraph.

“Various influential medical professionals have indicated support for the blog, both through retweets, follows, and emails to the bot developers.

“The spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is a rapidly changing global pandemic with no targeted treatment and a high mortality. Public concern and panic have risen due to a number of factors.

“First, through rumours and conjecture, a global response to prepare health systems has not been standardised or consistent.

“Finally, scientific knowledge is incomplete and rapidly changing with respect to the virus biology, the disease, its outcomes and potential treatment.”

This Twitter account is currently the only one of its kind with a focus on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, producing a diverse range of real-time, peer-reviewed, and soon-to-be reviewed, research directly on a feed using the RSS sources from a range of science and medical databases.

Since going live a few days ago, the Twitter bot has secured almost 2,500 follows and up to 300,000 impressions. The pair are also now working on visually mapping the emerging evidence online.

Ciara Keenan is a research fellow at Queen’s University in Belfast with an established international reputation in evidence synthesis methodology, with a series of systematic review projects and expertise in the intersections of health, social welfare, disability, and education.

Dr Damian Fogarty is a senior physician and former researcher at Queen’s University and past chairman of the UK Renal Registry.

He is widely published and more recently been at the forefront of social media dissemination of medical and scientific information.

He set up the first major national renal medicine accounts on Twitter for both the UK Renal Registry and the Renal Association and established live tweeting at the national conferences, and has been internationally recognised for this patient-facing communication work and regularly features in the top 50 influencers in this field.

Belfast Telegraph