Lucinda Carpenter, Tweeter, and Abigail Forrester

Noteworthy Research: Does Twitter Make It So?

Preliminary results from a fascinating study has us wondering. How often is it that Twitter makes research noteworthy? Ricardo Ladeiras-Lopes and colleagues randomized 534 research papers in journals of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) to receive promotion on Twitter or not. In this analysis, Twitter produced a 43 percent bump in citations for articles in the Twitter group. Altimetric attention scores went up, too.

“Tweets matter,” says Allan Davies in a commentary on the study. Davies is Associate Editor of the European Heart Journal, which published this paper.

Preliminary Results

These are preliminary results. The full analysis, due next year, will include a total of 696 papers and two years of follow-up. This paper provides the results of a six-month interim analysis.

It’s worth noting that the randomization of Twitter activity was limited to activity by the publisher. Obviously, these researchers could not control what other Twitter users do. But they did control Twitter activity by the ESC journals. Thus, some of the articles in the control group might have received attention because of Twitter activity. Any of that activity would have been by tweeting independent of the journal, though.

So really, this particular study is a test of how important a journal’s Twitter strategy is.

A Step Up from Political Twitter

If you are thinking that Twitter is distasteful, you have good reason. Political discourse on Twitter can be revolting. But in his editorial, Davies points out that academic Twitter is different. The quality and tone is very collegial, he says.

Furthermore, drawing attention to important research is hardly the only benefit. Davies sees a discussion of new information with quality that “complements and often surpasses content that is presented at major meetings.”

But perhaps most important is the peer review that is happening on Twitter. Davies cites examples of issues with papers that Twitter discussions have flagged, leading to prompt corrections.

So if you think that Twitter is all about crazed politicians, outlandish ideas, and ad hominem attacks, think again. Academic Twitter has a growing role.

Click here for the study by Ladeiras-Lopes et al and here for the commentary by Davies. For more on Twitter, research, and researchers, click here, here, and here.

Lucinda Carpenter, Tweeter, and Abigail Forrester, silhouette by Auguste Edouart / WikiArt

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October 1, 2020