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Analysis of the Capacity of Google Trends to Measure Interest in Conservation Topics and the Role of Online News.

Nghiem le TP, Papworth SK, Lim FK, Carrasco LR - PLoS ONE (2016)

Bottom Line: With the continuous growth of internet usage, Google Trends has emerged as a source of information to investigate how social trends evolve over time.Although trends were sensitive to the term used as benchmark, we did not find that public interest towards conservation topics such as climate change, ecosystem services, deforestation, orangutan, invasive species and habitat loss was declining.We found, however, a robust downward trend for endangered species and an upward trend for ecosystem services.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117543, Republic of Singapore.

ABSTRACT
With the continuous growth of internet usage, Google Trends has emerged as a source of information to investigate how social trends evolve over time. Knowing how the level of interest in conservation topics--approximated using Google search volume--varies over time can help support targeted conservation science communication. However, the evolution of search volume over time and the mechanisms that drive peaks in searches are poorly understood. We conducted time series analyses on Google search data from 2004 to 2013 to investigate: (i) whether interests in selected conservation topics have declined and (ii) the effect of news reporting and academic publishing on search volume. Although trends were sensitive to the term used as benchmark, we did not find that public interest towards conservation topics such as climate change, ecosystem services, deforestation, orangutan, invasive species and habitat loss was declining. We found, however, a robust downward trend for endangered species and an upward trend for ecosystem services. The quantity of news articles was related to patterns in Google search volume, whereas the number of research articles was not a good predictor but lagged behind Google search volume, indicating the role of news in the transfer of conservation science to the public.

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Transformed Google search data for the seven topics studied in 2004–2013 compared to four benchmarks.
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pone.0152802.g001: Transformed Google search data for the seven topics studied in 2004–2013 compared to four benchmarks.

Mentions: Using different benchmark keywords resulted in varying trends for each topic. When love was the benchmark, we found significant trends for all topics except for orangutan and deforestation, of which only ecosystem services exhibited an upward trend (Table 1, Fig 1). When life was the benchmark, we also found significant trends for five topics: orangutan, ecosystem services, and deforestation exhibited an upward trend while endangered species and habitat loss exhibited downward trends. When the benchmark was software, significant trends were found for all topics, of which only endangered species exhibited a downwards trend. When computer was the benchmark, we found significant trends for six topics (except for habitat loss), of which only endangered species exhibited a downward trend. Ecosystem services and endangered species consistently exhibited a robust upward and downward trend respectively across all four benchmarks. The benchmarks computer, software, and life exhibited downward trends when considered singly (tau = -0.998; -0.997; and -0.405 respectively), while love exhibited an upward trend (tau = 0.754) (all p-values<0.001). Consequently, stronger upwards trends in the benchmarks led to increased downward trends in conservation keywords, indicating the analyses presented for most of the keywords are sensitive to the choice of benchmark.


Analysis of the Capacity of Google Trends to Measure Interest in Conservation Topics and the Role of Online News.

Nghiem le TP, Papworth SK, Lim FK, Carrasco LR - PLoS ONE (2016)

Transformed Google search data for the seven topics studied in 2004–2013 compared to four benchmarks.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4814066&req=5

pone.0152802.g001: Transformed Google search data for the seven topics studied in 2004–2013 compared to four benchmarks.
Mentions: Using different benchmark keywords resulted in varying trends for each topic. When love was the benchmark, we found significant trends for all topics except for orangutan and deforestation, of which only ecosystem services exhibited an upward trend (Table 1, Fig 1). When life was the benchmark, we also found significant trends for five topics: orangutan, ecosystem services, and deforestation exhibited an upward trend while endangered species and habitat loss exhibited downward trends. When the benchmark was software, significant trends were found for all topics, of which only endangered species exhibited a downwards trend. When computer was the benchmark, we found significant trends for six topics (except for habitat loss), of which only endangered species exhibited a downward trend. Ecosystem services and endangered species consistently exhibited a robust upward and downward trend respectively across all four benchmarks. The benchmarks computer, software, and life exhibited downward trends when considered singly (tau = -0.998; -0.997; and -0.405 respectively), while love exhibited an upward trend (tau = 0.754) (all p-values<0.001). Consequently, stronger upwards trends in the benchmarks led to increased downward trends in conservation keywords, indicating the analyses presented for most of the keywords are sensitive to the choice of benchmark.

Bottom Line: With the continuous growth of internet usage, Google Trends has emerged as a source of information to investigate how social trends evolve over time.Although trends were sensitive to the term used as benchmark, we did not find that public interest towards conservation topics such as climate change, ecosystem services, deforestation, orangutan, invasive species and habitat loss was declining.We found, however, a robust downward trend for endangered species and an upward trend for ecosystem services.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117543, Republic of Singapore.

ABSTRACT
With the continuous growth of internet usage, Google Trends has emerged as a source of information to investigate how social trends evolve over time. Knowing how the level of interest in conservation topics--approximated using Google search volume--varies over time can help support targeted conservation science communication. However, the evolution of search volume over time and the mechanisms that drive peaks in searches are poorly understood. We conducted time series analyses on Google search data from 2004 to 2013 to investigate: (i) whether interests in selected conservation topics have declined and (ii) the effect of news reporting and academic publishing on search volume. Although trends were sensitive to the term used as benchmark, we did not find that public interest towards conservation topics such as climate change, ecosystem services, deforestation, orangutan, invasive species and habitat loss was declining. We found, however, a robust downward trend for endangered species and an upward trend for ecosystem services. The quantity of news articles was related to patterns in Google search volume, whereas the number of research articles was not a good predictor but lagged behind Google search volume, indicating the role of news in the transfer of conservation science to the public.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus