With approximately 2.5 million new scientific articles published every year, researchers need to find the right ways to ensure their work gets noticed. Among other platforms for sharing research, such as ResearchGate or Mendeley, scientists are particularly active and collaborative on Twitter: asking for advice, discussing relevant research topics, forming new scientific collaborations, and finding new mentors and jobs.
Tweeting about your research can help you develop your professional circle, especially if you are in the early stages of your scientific career. It can also assist in launching new research projects and getting support and advice from the scientific community. Here we want to highlight how tweeting your next paper or preprint can benefit your publication and your research in general.
1. It will increase the visibility of your research and expand your paper’s reach
Today, Twitter has become a platform where scientists engage in research-related discussions. A 2014 Nature survey, questioning 3,500 researchers around the world, revealed that 13% of scientists and engineers use Twitter regularly.
Although a higher number of researchers visit ResearchGate, LinkedIn, or Facebook systematically, Twitter is much more interactive (see Figure 1). Over 50% of regular Facebook users do not use it professionally. Scientists predominantly use LinkedIn to discover jobs (40%) and find or contact peers (more than 30% each). In contrast, 50% of regular Twitter users use it to follow discussions on research-related topics, and 40% use it as a platform for commenting on research relevant to their field (compared with 20% and 15% on ResearchGate, respectively). Scientists also actively engage on Twitter to post work content (up to 50%), discover recommended papers and peers (40% each), and share links to authored content (35%).
If you want to increase the visibility of your research and achieve maximum exposure and engagement, you should consider posting your next paper or preprint on Twitter.
2. It can boost citations of your publication
Many researchers don’t actively engage in spreading the results after the publication of their paper. Circulating newly published papers on Twitter not only allows for more exposure but can lead to an increased number of citations of your paper over time.
The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) conducted a three-year study of the relative success of JMIR articles in both Twitter and academic worlds. They found that highly tweeted articles were 11 times more likely to be highly cited than less tweeted articles. The study also showed that tweets could predict highly cited articles within the first 3 days of article publication. The results of this study suggest a correlation between Twitter activity and a subsequent number of citations. However, the study does not prove that tweeting itself increases the citation number.
To investigate the latter question, another study in cardiothoracic surgery publications was conducted. The authors randomly chose half of 112 papers to be shared on TSSMN twitter, while another half was not tweeted. Over one year, tweeted papers accumulated 4 times more citations, compared to non-tweeted papers. These results confirm that tweeting your article results in significantly more citations over time, suggesting the durable impact of Twitter activity on citations.
Twitter mentions have become an important alternative metric, or altmetric, a way of tracking the non-academic attention a paper receives. Furthermore, there have been attempts to establish “Twitter impact factor” to measure a journal’s academic influence in the realm of social media. All the studies and initiatives, discussed above, indicate that as a scientist you can’t ignore the value of sharing your publications and research on Twitter.
3. You get fast, valuable feedback from your colleagues
When you tweet your publication or preprint, you share it with colleagues with similar research interests, who are likely to provide you with valuable feedback on your work and eventually cite you.
We have already discussed how posting a preprint can benefit you. Why not increase the positive impact further by tweeting your preprint? While journals usually send manuscripts to 2–3 researchers for peer review, tweeting a preprint creates an opportunity for a virtually unlimited number of researchers to comment on your research. Receiving constructive feedback on your preprint will give you a chance to improve your study before publishing it. Therefore, you can even end up publishing a paper of higher quality than your original preprint.
Keep in mind that not all feedback you get on Twitter will be constructive. You may need to find the right balance between being open to constructive criticism and ignoring unhelpful comments.
4. You’ll gain recognition for your work
When looking up articles on PubMed or Google Scholar, many scientists pay attention only to the last author of the article (usually group leader or professor), and they often don’t know PhD students or postdocs who performed the work. If you tweet about your freshly published paper or preprint, you make your network of highly relevant academics aware of your work. Those academics will now associate this publication with your name. In this way, Twitter can help you build your reputation in your research field. Also, it will be gratifying to see the attention your paper is getting in real-time.
If your supervisor is active on Twitter, you can ask them to tweet your paper, highlighting your input in the project. This will further benefit your reputation among peers and more established scientists. Also, it’s a good idea to ask your institute or university twitter account to tweet your article; this will allow your paper to reach their broad audience.
5. You can reach a non-scientific audience
If you are passionate about science communication, consider using Twitter to extend your reach beyond the scientific audience. A recent study highlighted the fact that tweeting academics had the potential to disseminate scientific information to non-scientific audiences. The results showed that scientists who have fewer than 1,000 followers are primarily followed by other scientists; however, beyond this threshold, the tweets of academics can reach a more varied audience, composed primarily of non-scientists.
Twitter, therefore, offers an opportunity for scientists to reach a wide popular audience. However, science outreach to the public on Twitter will require sustained online engagement and a certain threshold number of followers.
Now you know the reasons to share your next paper or preprint on Twitter. To tweet or not to tweet is, of course, your personal choice. We would love to hear about your personal experience in tweeting your research. Please send your stories on firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out our practical tips on how to write a tweet about your paper or preprint.
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