Finding the science in social media

R
Research Publishing
By: Richard Barley , Sat Dec 23 2017
-

Author: Richard Barley

Senior Social Media Manager, Springer Nature

On this planet of nearly 8bn people, more than 3bn of us use social media each month [*]. This staggering growth, from the early days of social as a means to keep in touch with friends, to the essential “global town square” that it has now become, is both remarkable and yet unsurprising. As humans, we have a need to feel connected to something larger than ourselves; to be a part of a community and to share our thoughts, opinions and (let’s be honest) cat pictures with others. In the technology-driven society of the last 20 years, this desire to be connected has been largely satisfied by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but it could be argued that these tools have also driven society further apart.

Social Media © Pexels

Social media has been at the centre of revolutions, given a voice to those silenced by governments and traditional media, and has highlighted incredible stories from across the globe that would have otherwise been unheard. However, from the outside it may seem like a frivolous waste of time - a place for arguments and celebrity gossip. It has also given a platform to hatred, amplified the message of groups considered unwelcome in civilised society, and caused misery for some who have been subjected to online abuse. In recent years, even the definition of “truth” and “facts” are being brought into question every day by high-profile accounts.

So while social media is being used as a new tool for research and dissemination of research, some are skeptical of its wider usefulness and are choosing not to engage. However, as it provides access to a significant audience who are looking to read, share and understand scientific research, are these researchers missing a trick by not engaging, as social media could be equated to a giant, global research conference. There will be heated discussions, disagreements and differences of opinion, but, ultimately, there will be debate, interesting discoveries and new connections to be made.

Science is a hugely popular subject on social media, with some of the most popular science-based accounts boasting tens of millions of followers. But with most scholarly articles hosted elsewhere, how many of these followers are clicking through to read the actual articles?

Science is a hugely popular subject on social media, with some of the most popular science-based accounts boasting tens of millions of followers.

In her post on The Source, Penny Freedman examines a recent study from Scientometrics, and concluded that “article visits directed by social referrals account for about 12.10 % (final period) to 15.41 % (initial period) of total visits“. With 76.88% of the visits from social media being generated in the initial week after publication, there is clearly a hunger for new science.

But it’s not just about chasing clicks. The power of social media to bring together communities to encourage debate and discovery should not be ignored.

For example, a recent BMC ‘On Medicine’ blog post highlighted how the medical critical care community has organically developed a series of hashtags to share medical research and other resources via social media. The Free Open Access Medical (FOAM) education movement uses hashtags such as #FOAMcc and #FOAMped to discuss topics related to, in these cases, critical care and pediatrics. Search for content under the related #POCUS hashtag and you will find medical professionals sharing clips of ultrasound videos to promote discussion and learning. Across every field of science you will find similar communities, making the most of the unprecedented connectivity we now have at our fingertips in order to advance understanding, share discoveries and gain new insights.

One of the reasons often cited for people abandoning social media, is that they don’t feel that their follower numbers are significant enough, and that “nobody is listening”. This sense of insignificance can multiplied by the tendency to compare one’s own account with that of high-profile, “celebrity” users - a comparison that is not only unhealthy, but also unfair.

In his recent paper on Genome Biology, Neil Hall, from the Centre for Genomic Research at University of Liverpool, introduced the notion of a Kardashian Index to quantify the “discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers”.

While this “study” is, in the main, not altogether serious, there is a very important conclusion drawn. That is the importance of not just listening to the “loudest voice” on social media. There are many users of social media, across all industries and walks of life, who have managed to gain a large following. However, simply having huge numbers of people subscribed to receive updates from an individual should not in itself grant that individual any greater level of authority or trustworthiness on any particular subject. Often, the most knowledgeable input will come from those users with much smaller follower numbers, who would normally be drowned out in the crowd.

This is particularly clear when applying the “K-Index” to the scientific community, where the majority of “Kardashians”, those with a much larger discrepancy between their follower and citation numbers, were found to be men. A clear reminder, as if one were needed, to seek out diverse views and make judgements on expertise, not popularity.   

At Springer Nature we believe that social media is a vital tool for everyone involved in the academic research and publishing process, which can help advance discovery, learning and understanding.

At Springer Nature we believe that social media is a vital tool for everyone involved in the academic research and publishing process, which can help advance discovery, learning and understanding. We encourage everyone to make use of social to share knowledge and make ideas widely accessible. For example, our SharedIt tool allows for free and easy sharing of subscription articles in our journals across multiple platforms, including social.  And, as a part of this ever-growing community with nearly half the world’s population within our collective reach, perhaps we can ensure that the future of this globally-connected planet is founded in something that we should all be happy to share - sound science.

---------

You can follow Springer Nature on social media:

@springernature on Twitter

Springer Nature on Facebook

@springernature on Instagram

Springer Nature on LinkedIn

-

Author: Richard Barley

Senior Social Media Manager, Springer Nature

Richard Barley is the Senior Social Media Manager at Springer Nature, having joined the company in March 2018 to cover the maternity leave of our Head of Social Media. Richard’s career has followed the growth of social media, starting at TweetDeck, then Twitter UK, before going on to roles at the BBC and HSBC, while also running his own social consultancy company. Richard now leads our Social Media team, with responsibility for sharing the best content from across Springer Nature, while supporting the growth of social within the organisation.

Related Tags:

Previous posts

Celebrating the Chinese contribution to the world’s sustainable development research

With the fastest-growing scientific and scholarly research, China’s importance for sustainable development is increasingly clear.

R
Research Publishing
28 Aug 2019
Transformative deals substantially aid the transition to OA. Let’s give them the time they need to do so.

Last month, Springer Nature agreed a new transformative ‘read and publish’ deal with the Norwegian library consortium, Unit.  This, coupled with renewals of existing deals in the UK (Jisc), Sweden (Bibsam) and Qatar, takes the number of such deals we have into double figures, the most of any publisher.  These deals enable researchers in these ten countries to publish open access in over 1900 Springer journals as well as read the research of others across this portfolio.

O
Openaccess
02 Aug 2019
The future of open access books

Open access book publishing has been growing in recent years. The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) lists 2,099 open access books published in 2018, an increase of 38% from 2017. Funders are also starting to engage with open access for books: a small number of European funders now mandate open access for books and provide financial support for open access book publication. COAlition S has also indicated that they support transitioning monographs to open access, and will provide guidance by the end of 2021.

O
Openaccess
18 Jun 2019
Maximising the benefits of early sharing

At Springer Nature making great research available as quickly as possible is a central part of our commitment to the research community. 

Springer Nature Group
23 May 2019
A faster path to an open future

At Springer Nature we want to find the fastest and most effective route to immediate open access (OA) for all primary research.

Springer Nature Group
08 May 2019
Congratulations to Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck

It’s a great pleasure for us at Springer Nature to congratulate Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck for the award of this year’s Abel Prize.

Springer Nature Group
03 Mar 2019
Businesses must play a role in sustainable development

Today Springer Nature launches its Responsible Business report for 2018.

Springer Nature Group
27 Mar 2019
Setting targets at Springer Nature to help create a better balance

The theme of this year’s IWD couldn’t be more relevant to us. Last month, Springer Nature’s management board announced to our 13,000 colleagues that we will set a target to improve gender representation in our leadership group.

Springer Nature Group
07 Mar 2019
Without you, we are nothing: why community engagement is at the core of everything we do

Sometimes there is great value in stating the obvious; the scholarly publishing industry would not exist without a broad international community of researchers, students, librarians, funders, and commercial partners.

R
Research Publishing
06 Mar 2019
Need to focus on demand as well as supply: making Plan S work for all

Steven Inchcoombe discusses Springer Nature's submission to the cOAlition of participants to make Plan S work for all.

R
Research Publishing
11 Feb 2019
A postcard from Davos: what role for research at this gathering of global opinion leaders?

My first impressions of Davos? Dazzling, overwhelming, unexpected, thought-provoking, incredibly busy and much, much more…

R
Research Publishing
04 Apr 2019
How Can We Accelerate Data Sharing?

What steps can publishers, funders and institutions take to make data sharing worth a researcher’s time and energy, and accelerate progress? 

R
Research Publishing
10 Mar 2019
Connecting curious minds to advance learning and discovery

Science

Springer Nature will stay curious, connect ideas, question how things are done, explore new ways to deliver for our communities and then make the changes that matter.

R
Research Publishing
20 Feb 2019
The quest for more value – challenges of the scientific ecosystem in the absence of coordination: A Long Read

Research News

Daniel Ropers shares some of his early observations about the academic publishing industry.

R
Research Publishing
01 Nov 2018
Publication misconduct: changing the conversation

Suzanne Farley discusses how to increase prevention and detection of research and publication misconduct. 

R
Research Publishing
04 Nov 2018
Lessons learned from open peer review: a publisher’s perspective

Research News

Rachel Burley discusses BMC's history in openness and transparency and what has been learnt.

R
Research Publishing
23 Dec 2017
Accelerating open access: what is missing from Plan S

Research News

The transition to open access needs to be sustainable for the whole research community.

R
Research Publishing
23 Dec 2017
Finding the science in social media

Research News

At Springer Nature we believe that social media is a vital tool for everyone involved in the academic research and publishing process. 

R
Research Publishing
23 Dec 2017
Hybrid journals can advance the move towards full open access

Blogs

Hybrid journals play an important role in the transition to open access.

R
Research Publishing
01 Aug 2018
Science benefits from diversity – and as publishers we have a role to play

As a progressive publisher, we have a responsibility to support diversity and inclusion.

R
Research Publishing
17 Jul 2018
What next for Impact Factors?

Why we need to work together to create metrics that better meet the needs of the research community.

R
Research Publishing
02 Jul 2018
Can research change the world?

Springer Nature believes that great multidisciplinary research needs to be informing global discussions.  

R
Research Publishing
28 Jun 2018
We need to do more to celebrate and support women in engineering

Women’s achievements in STEM fields need to be harnessed to raise awareness, create role models and foster a more inclusive culture. 

R
Research Publishing
21 Jun 2018
Future of the book all down to definition

Advancing discovery

The speed of recent change in the publishing industry in the past 10 years poses the question, what will book publishing look like in the future?

R
Research Publishing