Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Do more tweets mean higher citations?


more tweets mean higher citations? If so, Twitter can lead us to the
‘personalised journal’; pinpointing more research that is relevant to
your interests.

The time-lag associated with citations and journal publishing
means that such strategies are almost useless as a means of identifying
relevant papers from current literature. Martin Fenner
writes that social media, and Twitter in particular, stands to change
all that providing almost instant, relevant recommendations: your own
‘personalised’ journal.

‘Can Tweets predict citations?’ asked Gunther Eysenbach in a recent
paper that analyzed tweets about academic papers published in the
Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR). He analyzed a total of 4208
tweets citing 286 distinct JMIR articles. The main conclusion of the
paper is reflected in the title: Can
Tweets Predict Citations? Metrics of Social Impact Based on Twitter and
Correlation with Traditional Metrics of Scientific Impact

For this analysis a subset of 1573 tweets about 55 articles
(published between March 2009 and February 2010) was classified into 12
highly tweeted papers (in the top 25th percentile of each issue) and 43
less tweeted papers. Eysenbach correlated the number of tweets with the
number of citations in Google Scholar or Scopus analyzed 17-29 months
later. Nine out of 12 of the highly tweeted articles were also highly
cited, compared to 3 out of 43 of less-tweeted articles that were highly
cited for a rate ratio of 0.75/0.07 = 10.75 (95% confidence interval,
3.4–33.6). The paper itself has already been tweeted 878 times, and,
according to its research, will most likely become highly cited.

There are some limitations to the study – a small sample size, the
possible bias by automated tweets from JMIR or the analysis of a journal
with a very internet-savvy readership and therefore not representative
for scholarly journals in general – but that does not mean that we
should not take another look at the effectiveness of citations as a
measure of academic work. Citations have a serious limitation as a
metric of scholarly impact: they simply take too long. We can identify
highly cited papers after two – five years, but after this time the
original paper probably no longer is the most relevant text on its
topic. This makes citations almost useless as a strategy to help
researchers identify relevant papers from the current literature.

The traditional strategy for scanning newly published papers until now has been:

a) to pick papers based on the journal they were published in,

b) search strategies based on keywords, or

c) personal recommendations.

Journals continue to be an important filter for relevant literature,
but they are obviously not targeted to your personal interests. Search
strategies can be targeted to topics or people relevant to your work,
but keyword-based searches can’t really distinguish between a good and
bad paper about the same topic. Until email and social media became
commonplace, personal recommendations were limited to a fairly small
group of people (your colleagues at work and your peers you met at

Twitter – and to a lesser extend other social media – is changing all
that. Tweets are immediate, 60 per cent of the tweets about JMIR papers
were sent the day the paper was published, or the day afterwards.
Tweets are personalized, as you see only the tweets of the people you
follow in your Twitter stream (unless of course you do a keyword
search). Tweets linking to scholarly papers have become popular, the 286
papers in the JMIR dataset were tweeted 14 times on average (for most
other journals the numbers are obviously lower). Tweets can contain more
than the paper title and link, or own recent qualitative analysis of
467 tweets about scholarly papers in the CrowdoMeter
project showed that 10 per cent of tweets included a positive statement
about the paper (while 1 per cent were negative), and 27 per cent of
tweets highlighted conclusions from the paper.

Tracking social media citations of scholarly papers is part of the altmetrics
movement. What is still missing are better tools that integrate social
media with scholarly content, in particular personalized recommendations
based on the content you are interested in (your Mendeley or CiteULike
library are a good approximation) and the people you follow on Twitter
and other social media.

These tools will come in many shapes and forms, but should also
integrate into the activity stream of your favorite social media, and
should include “personalized journals” targeted to your very specific
interests and academic connections. We also need more research like the
Eysenbach paper about what it means if someone is linking to a scholarly
paper via social media. But I’m positive about one thing: a few years
from now the “personalized journal” will have replaced the traditional
journal as the primary means to discover new scholarly papers with
impact to our work.

Impact of Social Sciences – Do more tweets mean higher citations? If so, Twitter can lead us to the ‘personalised journal’; pinpointing more research that is relevant to your interests.

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