Linking Social Media Data in the UK CLOSER Birth Cohorts


Authors: Oliver Davis, Andrew Boyd, Alastair Tanner, Nina Di Cara, Luke Sloan, Tarek Al Baghal, Lisa Calderwood, Claire Haworth

Abstract: The UK’s population-based birth cohorts have each followed thousands of participants for their whole lives, collecting diverse social, behavioural, biological and health measurements spanning decades. New types of data collection such as social media linkage have the potential to enrich these datasets with high-resolution time course data on real human behaviour. At the same time, these richly characterised cohorts with gold-standard survey and other measurements collected at regular intervals could be ideal platforms for the validation of information derived from social media. Our project, supported by CLOSER, the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Alan Turing Institute, is working in partnership with cohort participants and leaders to develop a software framework to facilitate social media linkage in the eight cohorts that make up the CLOSER consortium, starting with a proof-of-principle implementation in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). To work out the best way to do this, we are engaging with two generations of ALSPAC participants to find out what is acceptable to them in terms of collecting and using their interactions on social media. This has informed the development of software that collects, codes and shares social media data while protecting the anonymity of participants.