Enhancing Outreach using Social Networks at the National Seismological Network of Costa Rica

Friday, 19 December 2014
Lepolt Linkimer and Oscar H. Lücke, University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a very high seismicity rate and geological processes are part of everyday life. Traditionally, information about these processes has been provided by conventional mass media (television and radio). However, due to the new trends in information flow a new approach towards Science Education is necessary for transmitting knowledge from scientific research for the general public in Costa Rica. Since 1973, the National Seismological Network of Costa Rica (RSN: UCR-ICE) studies the seismicity and volcanic activity in the country. In this study, we describe the different channels to report earthquake information that the RSN is currently using: email, social networks, and a website, as well as the development of a smartphone application. Since the RSN started actively participating in Social Networks, an increase in awareness in the general public has been noticed particularly regarding felt earthquakes. Based on this trend, we have focused on enhancing public outreach through Social Media. We analyze the demographics and geographic distribution of the RSN Facebook Page, the growth of followers, and the significance of their feedback for reporting intensity data. We observe that certain regions of the country have more Facebook activity, although those regions are not the most populated nor have a high Internet connectivity index. We interpret this pattern as the result of a higher awareness to geological hazards in those specific areas. We noticed that the growth of RSN users on Facebook has a strong correlation with the seismic events as opposed to Twitter that displays a steady growth with no clear correlations with specific seismic events. We see the Social Networks as opportunities to engage non-science audiences and encourage the population to participate in reporting seismic observations, thus providing intensity data. With the increasing access to Internet from mobile phones in Costa Rica, we see this approach to science education as an opportunity to transform the view of earthquake hazards in Costa Rica.