Science and Technology Innovation Program


Did You Feel It? Social Media for Earthquake Science and Response

September 27, 2011 // 3:00pm4:30pm

Commons Lab of the Science and Technology Innovation Program, Woodrow Wilson Center.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s “Did You Feel It?” (DYFI) system allows people who experience an earthquake to go online and share information about its effects, thus helping to create a map of shaking intensities and damage. These citizen-generated maps contribute greatly to the rapid assessment of an earthquake’s scope and impact, and provide valuable data for earthquake research. Since 1999, DYFI has collected more than 2 million entries from across the United States. The vivid and often frightening nature of an individual’s earthquake experience offers an opportunity to gather information about risk perception, while simultaneously engaging citizens in the scientific process and educating them about preparedness and safe response. Scientifically, DYFI data make up in quantity what they may lack in quality, and help resolve long-standing issues in earthquake science. Yet web-based contributions also pose considerable challenges. After a decade of operational experience with the DYFI system for citizen-based science, we document lessons learned, including how they apply to other social media (e.g., Twitter) and volunteer-based methods for earthquake detection. For more info, visit the DYFI Website.

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For more information about this event, please contact Lea Shanley, Director, The Commons Lab, Science and Technology Innovation Program, Wilson Center: CommonsLab [at] wilsoncenter [dot] org 

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About David Wald, Ph.D., USGS National Earthquake Information Center: Dr. Wald is a Seismologist with the U. S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado and is on the Geophysics Faculty at the Colorado School of Mines. Wald is involved in management, operations, and developments at the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden and the USGS Advanced National Seismic System. He developed and manages “ShakeMap” and “Did You Feel it?” and is responsible for developing other systems for post-earthquake response, information, and pre-earthquake mitigation, including ShakeCast, PAGER, the Earthquake Notification Service, and rapid finite-faulting modeling. David earned his B.S. in Physics & Geology at St. Lawrence University in New York, an M.S. in Geophysics at the University of Arizona, and his Ph.D. in Geophysics from the California Institute of Technology.

Wald has been the Seismological Society of America’s (SSA) Distinguished Lecturer, Associate Editor, and serves on the Society’s Board of Directors. He is an Associate Editor for Earthquake Spectra. Most recently, Wald was awarded SSA’s 2009 Frank Press Public Service Award and a Department of the Interior Superior Service Award in 2010.


The Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) focuses on emerging technologies and the critical choices innovation presents to public policy.  Our work ranges from nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and geoengineering to serious games, technology assessment, social media, sensing technologies, and citizen-based science.

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