Social media most effective in helping scientists get higher citations

A group of emerging ecologists and conservation scientists from the University of Alberta found good papers that get pushed on social media are what end up on people's minds.

Published: 15th April 2018 07:22 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2018 07:22 PM   |  A+A-

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TORONTO: A good research pushed through social media -- primarily Twitter -- gets more citations, a team of researchers has found.

Analysing the famous academic aphorism "publish or perish" through a modern digital lens, a group of emerging ecologists and conservation scientists from the University of Alberta found good papers that get pushed on social media are what end up on people's minds.

"There's a compelling signal that citation rates are positively associated with science communication through social media. Certainly, Twitter provides an accessible and efficient platform for scientists to do a majority of that communication," said Clayton Lamb, lead researcher and a University of Alberta student.

Lamb and his team explored the phenomenon of science communication in the social media age, measuring the association of altmetrics -- alternative impact factors, which consider, amongst other avenues, the social media attention surrounding science discoveries -- with eventual citation of 8,300 ecology and conservation papers published between 2005 and 2015.

The team found a positive correlation between social media engagement and traditional measures of scholarly activity.

"There's a big hype when a paper comes out, but then there is this underwhelming lull for a year or two as you wait for citations to accumulate, so you don't really know whether your science is reaching people," Lamb said.

"We quantified whether science communication may correlate with more citations. In the case of ecology and conservation science, it looks like it does," added Lamb.

Lamb said though much of scientists' communication on social media is directed at other scientists, by virtue of the medium, information is making its way to the broader community.

He noted statistics show that nearly half of ecologists' followers on Twitter are non-scientists, environmental groups and the media.

"Ecologists and conservation scientists are dealing with applied problems that the public cares a lot about. So when science gets stuck in the circles of academia and doesn't make it out to the public, it's doing that publicly funded research and its potential applications, a disservice," said Lamb.

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