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Virtual attendance at an international physical activity meeting using Twitter: how can data visualisation provide a presence?
  1. Graham Mackenzie1,
  2. Andrew D Murray2,3,
  3. Christopher W Oliver2
  1. 1 Public Health and Health Policy, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2 Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3 Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Christopher W Oliver, Room 2.33, Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, Institute for Sport, Physical Education & Health Sciences, St Leonard’s Land, Holyrood Road, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ, UK; c.w.oliver{at}

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Attendance at international sports and physical activity conferences is extremely useful for networking but can be expensive in terms of professional time, conference fees, accommodation and travel. The use of social media, especially Twitter,1 has increased in many global meetings. It is now possible to map, virtually attend, influence and interact with a meeting, remotely making savings in terms of time and travel, as well as opening up opportunities for sharing research and facilitating global networking. Data science has progressed rapidly to create complex forms of visualisation to help us understand interactions between humans. The speed and rate at which data are produced can be phenomenal. ‘Big Data’ is now an acknowledged specialist area of science. Processing, analysing and relaying data present challenges. The main goal of visualisation is to present data clearly by graphical means without distortion.2 Twitter hashtags and handles (eg, @BJSM_BMJ) are a useful way of grouping data, studying and ultimately building networks.3

For example, the 6th ISPAH International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health4 ran between 16 and 19 November 2016 in Thailand. For the @ISPAH2016 meeting, the …

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  • Twitter Follow Graham MacKenzie at @gmacscotland, Andrew Murray at @docandrewmurray, Christopher Oliver at @CyclingSurgeon

  • Contributors CWO and GM evolved the concept for the paper. ADM, CWO and GM furiously tweeted during the meeting. GM made the data analysis on the NodeXL graphs. CWO wrote the paper with the support from GM and ADM.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.