Growing pains for global monitoring of societal events

W. Wang, R. Kennedy, D. Lazer, N. Ramakrishnan.
Vol. 353, Issue 6307, pp. 1502-1503
September 30, 2016


There have been  serious efforts over the past 40 years to use newspaper articles to create  global-scale databases of events occurring in every corner of the world, to  help understand and shape responses to global problems. Although most have  been limited by the technology of the time (1) [see supplementary materials  (SM)], two recent groundbreaking projects to provide global, real-time  event data that take advantage of automated coding from news media have  gained widespread recognition: International Crisis Early Warning System  (ICEWS), maintained by Lockheed Martin, and Global Data on Events Language  and Tone (GDELT), developed and maintained by Kalev Leetaru at Georgetown  University (2, 3). The scale of these programs is unprecedented, and their  promise has been reflected in the attention they have received from scholars,  media, and governments. However, they suffer from major issues with respect  to reliability and validity. Opportunities exist to use new methods and to  develop an infrastructure that will yield robust and reliable big data to study global events ”from conflict to ecological change (3).

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