Money & Business

The American Geophysical Union is Using Data to Dig Up Industry Experts

By / Jul 30, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

To identify and locate scientific experts among its database of earth and space scientists, AGU is turning to data for help.

Last year, during the Ebola outbreak, more than a handful of associations spoke out about how their members were either affected by the situation or were playing a role in helping to get it under control.

It was a perfect (if somber) example of how an event can create what PR pro Adele Cehrs termed a “SPIKE,” or a Sudden Point of Interest that Kick-starts Exposure, for an association.

A SPIKE is an opportunity for a big win in demonstrating relevance for both the organization and its members, said Cehrs, president and founder of Epic PR Group. And one of the keys to making this type of moment work is the ability to respond quickly when an event happens.

To prepare for such events, the American Geophysical Union is turning to data to more swiftly identify experts within its database of roughly 300,000 earth and space scientists who could readily talk with reporters should a disaster strike.

The effort is a two-pronged process. First, AGU is using data from its publications and meetings programs to identify what types of science and where around the world those 300,000 scientists are studying. Then, it’s translating index terms found in publications specific to its field into more typical English vocabulary (for example, “seismic event” in science publications would be translated to “earthquake”).

“We’re translating into plain English those scientific terms so that we can then find the data,” Frank Krause, AGU COO, said of the project, which is still in the pilot stage but has potential benefits for both the association and its members.

“From an organizational perspective, this will allow AGU to more quickly identify scientists, experts for any given natural disaster or phenomenon, and to connect them to the appropriate media outlets needing assistance,” said Krause. “And from a scientist’s perspective, it gives them an opportunity to gain more exposure for their science and for them individually.”

It may also allow AGU to better engage with members. By analyzing meetings data, for instance, AGU can identify members who are participating in meetings but aren’t publishing with the association. And, on the flip side, it can identify potential meeting presenters and speakers by looking at publications data and identifying those scientists who are high-volume publishers on a certain topic.

“We can push people who are only on the publishing side into more engagement on meetings, or on the meetings side, we can push them to more engagement with publications,” Krause said.

It’s an example of a strategic use of analytics, something Krause advises other associations consider to get the most out of their data.

“The number-one thing is don’t collect data and create data marts or data warehouses just for the sake of finding something interesting about your members,” Krause said. “You need to have defined use cases that will help have an impact for your members and for the organization.”

To hear more about how AGU is digging into data, be sure to check out Krause’s Learning Lab “Data to the People,” with Debbie King, CEO of DSK Solutions, Inc., at the 2015 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition in Detroit.

Is your association using data analytics to better engage with or promote members? Please share in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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