Twitter Influence on Science

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The impact of Twitter on science

The number of scholars using Twitter is unknown. But in August, Rodrigo Costas Comesana and his colleagues from the Netherlands’ Leiden University published a data collection. They found 500,000 tweeting users, who are likely researchers. (Using software, the researchers tried to link information from Twitter profiles to authors’ names on academic articles.)

A comparable, more condensed analysis from 2020 found that at least 1% of Web of Science publication authors had Twitter profiles, with the percentage changing by nation. According to a 2014 Nature poll, 13% of scientists regularly utilized Twitter, albeit the majority of the participants were English speakers, so there could have been self-selection bias. And cyber safety was a major concern.

Engagement in tweeting

Still, all of this tweeting hasn’t always led to more engagement. Costas and his team looked at 1.1 million links to academic papers shared on Twitter up until September 2019. This was a “pre-pandemic analysis.”

They found that 22% of those posts only got one or two clicks, and 50% of those posts didn’t get any clicks to the research behind them. But for many scientists, Twitter has become an important way to communicate and do research. It’s a place where they can talk about academic papers, conference talks, and other hot topics in real-time.

Johann Unger, a linguist at Lancaster University in the UK, says that Twitter has made it faster for scientific communities to share papers. He also says that private conversations on the platform can be used to find out more information.

Tweet twists

Also, he says, the fact that tweets can only be 280 characters long has forced academics to say what they think in a short way. And to avoid libel. Due to its prominence as a platform for public discourse and the relative openness of its data, Twitter has emerged as a hub for academics researching how society responds to current events, particularly how information spreads on the network. For this article’s Nature analysis, more than 41,000 journal publications and conference papers with references to Twitter in the title, abstract, or keywords were located in the Scopus database of scientific literature. By 2022, there will be more than 4,800, up from just one in 2006. 

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