Image Credit: Dr. Khan. SMART Lab being inaugurated by the graduate students in various PhD programs in the Scripps College of Communication

By Sydney Otto

ATHENS, Ohio (September 1, 2016)—The Social Media Analytics Research Team (SMART) Lab celebrated their official inauguration into the Ohio University Scripps College of Communication on Wednesday, August 31. The Director of the lab, Dr. Laeeq Khan, opened with a few remarks expressing his excitement and gratitude for the many contributors who were involved in the process of creating the SMART Lab.

“Social media analytics is the thing for today,” said Khan. “There is a lot of cutting-edge research that is going on dealing with social media analytics and big data, and this lab has been established for that very purpose.”

Dean Scott Titsworth followed with insight into the inception of the lab and its goals within the college and academic partnerships.

“Even though the SMART Lab has been in operation and doing work over the summer and also teaching courses last year, we really view this as being the kickoff of not just the facility, but also the philosophy of what we think the SMART Lab represents to Ohio University and the college,” said Titsworth.

The recent renovations of Scripps Hall, Schoonover Center and the Radio and Television building led to the eventual creation of the SMART Lab. The lab will focus on three overall goals: differentiating the lab from other labs with a focus on research, creating journalistic content and providing a consultancy operation. The involvement of students in each of these levels was a key component to the development of the lab and to its continued success.

Though the college has several courses, and a certificate, that focus on social media both strategically and creatively, this is the first time there has been a focus on the analytic aspect of the medium.

“Between the social media certificate and the analytics classes, our students are getting jobs, and we’re really happy about that,” said Karen Riggs, the coordinator of the Scripps College of Communication Social Media Certificate.

After thanking and awarding the students, faculty and staff involved in the process of building the lab, Khan delved into the projects that they hope to begin within the year. He explained that analytics is the next frontier of innovation and the SMART Lab will give students the ability to fill the shortage of professionals with analytics skills in communication fields.

To date, SMART Lab researchers have undertaken two very different projects using the techniques and technology available through the lab. The first project focused on the Zika virus and its effect on the Olympics. Researchers looked at thousands of tweets, analyzing the various reactions to the epidemic. A second project involved the tragic shooting in Orlando and the connection it had to debates involving gun control.

“I was part of the community affected by (the shooting), and a friend of mine told me, ‘Use your gifts to make the world better,’ ” said Elizabeth Tobin, a first year doctoral student in communication studies. “So, I came here to Dr. Khan and the SMART Lab and said, ‘Let’s do something.’ ” Tobin is currently working on coding 50,000 tweets that will reveal a few aspects of the gun control argument stemming from the Orlando shooting.

The SMART Lab will host many activities throughout the year, including a SMART Dialogue Series that will be held every Wednesday. For more information about the SMART Lab,

To view photos from the SMART Lab inauguration on Aug. 31, Click Here

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