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Documents as data: A content analysis and topic modeling approach for analyzing responses to ecological disturbances

Altaweel, M; Bone, C; Abrams, J; (2019) Documents as data: A content analysis and topic modeling approach for analyzing responses to ecological disturbances. Ecological Informatics , 51 pp. 82-95. 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2019.02.014. Green open access

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Abstract

We apply content analysis on government documents containing ecological information relevant to a significant ecological disturbance - mountain pine beetle (MPB) outbreaks in the United States. The intent is to demonstrate a semi-automated approach that applies topic modeling to investigate policy responses to ecological disturbances, using latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) and hierarchical Dirichlet process (HDP), and term frequency–inverse document frequency (tf-idf) analysis. Results demonstrate how analysts and researchers are better able to understand what topics and focus areas government officials consider in relation to MPB disturbances. In the case study demonstrating the method’s utility, documents found from before 1960 and until recent years demonstrate focus on outbreak area, tree mortality, research and services, management, infestation, outbreak control, fire, insect control, outbreak factors, and tree population. Terms such as fire, mortality, treatment, and outbreak reflect more recent U.S. government focus on MPB, while disease and infestation have become less of a focus in recent years. There are also varying differences and interests between how different parts (i.e., federal agencies versus congress) of the U.S. government focus on MPB, where mostly interests and focus are not aligned or do not match temporally. As a term, temperature has become a greater recent government focus, but there is general avoidance of the term climate change. The methods applied demonstrate the utility of topic modeling and tf-idf for understanding discourse and content in policy related to ecological disturbances. The tool created in this effort is provided freely as a way for scientists and researchers to extend its utility in ecological policy research.

Type: Article
Title: Documents as data: A content analysis and topic modeling approach for analyzing responses to ecological disturbances
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2019.02.014
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2019.02.014
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Mountain pine beetle, Topic modeling, Hierarchical Dirichlet process, Latent Dirichlet allocation, Term frequency–inverse document frequency, Content analysis, Natural language processing
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10069533
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