Thursday, 6 August 2015

Editorial: Selling Science in the 21st Century (Or, Trying to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks): Molecular Endocrinology: Vol 29, No 8


In my previous editorial, I discussed the importance of selling one's science (,
primarily from the perspective of writing either grants or papers. We
talked about the importance of writing style, organization, and figure
presentation when submitting a manuscript or grant proposal. We also
discussed how we must now take extra time to point out the significance
and innovation of our work, something that is not so easy to do when
trying to sound exciting and relevant while avoiding hyperbole. Finally,
we made it clear that all of this has to be done without compromising
the quality of the science. The scientific community is busy and harried
enough, and they cannot afford to be distracted by false claims that
are not backed up by scientific rigor.

old school literature search is no longer up to snuff. There are simply
too many articles out there right now - a typical literature search
cannot pick out quality, innovation, or significance.”
brings us to the editorial this month. Once that paper is accepted and
in press, is simple publication enough anymore? Are the right people
going to see your work? Or are the search engines that we have been
using for that past 10–15 years already outmoded? Having crossed over
the frightening 50-year-old barrier a while back (how far back is not
relevant…), I find myself a bit of an old-fashioned curmudgeon who still
prefers a face to face conversation, or even phone calls, to social
media. I am still afraid of, and therefore not participating in,
Facebook, nor have I ever followed anybody on Twitter. I am bewildered
by Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, and Reddit. In other words, I am a 20th
century person living in a 21st century world. Having said that, my kids
are trying hard to drag me into the future, despite my kicking and
screaming. Furthermore, the Endocrine Society is now working on me as
well and may have actually pushed me over the edge and into tomorrow.

am I finally giving in? I am doing so not for personal reasons but
instead because I am beginning to realize that selling your science no
longer stops with the publication. We are all busy, and the time that we
have to scour through the ever-increasing load of published literature
is limited. Imagine this: the number of researchers and funding has not
increased (in fact it might be decreasing), and no journals have
disappeared recently; however, PLoS One is now publishing over 25 000
papers per year. Add to this the dozens if not hundreds of new journals
that now exist, and the number of additional manuscripts coming to press
(beyond what it was only 5–6 years ago) almost certainly exceeds 50 000
papers per year. How are we going to determine which articles are worth
our limited time? How can we judge which articles are truly important,
well vetted, and provide significant contributions to our respective
fields? I submit that the old school literature search is no longer up
to snuff. There are simply too many articles out there right now, a
typical literature search cannot pick out quality, innovation, or

what additional resources can we use to direct us toward the important
and relevant papers for our particular fields of study? In fact, we can
turn to our friends and professional colleagues on appropriate social
media sites to help guide us. How many readers can honestly claim that
they have not used Yelp when it comes time to find a place for lunch or
dinner in an unfamiliar city? And when planning a trip, I would imagine
that most readers have used TripAdvisor or other similar sites to find
high-quality hotels or restaurants. With this in mind, it makes sense
that, if used appropriately, social media might serve as an important
guide as we trudge through the myriad of publications that now face us.

As one example, I propose Twitter. Interestingly, a study in the Journal of Medical International Research looked at 3 years of tweets containing links to articles in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
Results showed that the number of tweets that an article received
within 3 days of publication predicted its ultimate number of citations (
In part, this is likely because the best science is recognized and
tweeted by readers and journal Editors; however, the converse is also
true: articles that are most often mentioned in Twitter are then more
frequently read. This positive feedback loop allows the “news cycle” for
an interesting and important article to rapidly spread. As a more
specific example that hits closer to home, a small “experiment” with our
sister journal Endocrinology compared two articles from the same journal that were not mentioned via Twitter versus one that Dr Gore (Editor-in-Chief of Endocrinology),
the University of Texas at Austin, and the Endocrine Society staff
jointly promoted on Twitter. Interestingly, the latter received 10 times
more traffic within a week of the article's publication (2).

do these examples tell us? First, they suggest that announcing your
work to the world can have a positive impact, at least on the number of
readers. Unfortunately, we cannot necessarily correlate this with
eventual citations in every instance. In fact, in contrast to the
aforementioned results, a study from 2014 that looked at 1.4 million
documents published between 2010 and 2012 found that the correlation
between tweets and ultimate citations was low (3).
However, Twitter is much bigger in 2015, and part of the problem may be
who is doing the reviews. For example, a recommendation via Twitter is
especially meaningful if the tweet comes to you from somebody that you
know and respect (eg, a colleague or journal editor). Odds are that you
will click on that link and, if indeed the article is interesting and
meaningful to you, then you will use this information. Furthermore, it
is important to remember that, at the end of the day, citations are
nice, but most of all, you want your work recognized and read by your
peers. Of course, there is always the concern that too much tweeting can
lead to massive self-promotion and “the boy who cried wolf” syndrome.
Nonetheless, if used appropriately, social media can be a powerful way
to spread the word about new and exciting research. The Endocrine
Society is currently looking into how social media can positively impact
our authors who publish in the Society journals. In fact, they just
convinced me to join the world of Twitter, and I will do my best to use
it to keep you updated on exciting and new research being published in Molecular Endocrinology.

closing, I encourage those who have moved into the 21st century to let
your followers know if you read a cool and interesting article. There is
a lot of great science out there, and we should do our best to let our
friends and followers know about it. And, if you really have a lot of
time on your hands, please check me out @StephenHammes. I promise that
there will be no cats, but possibly there will be an occasional bulldog.

Stephen Hammes, MD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief
Acknowledgments Disclosure Summary: The author has nothing to disclose.

1. Eysenbach G. Can
tweets predict citations? Metrics of social impact based on Twitter and
correlation with traditional metrics of scientific impact
. J Med Internet Res. 2011;13:e123. CrossRef, Medline
2. Yin W, Maguire SM, Pham B, et al. Testing
the critical window hypothesis of timing and duration of estradiol
treatment on hypothalamic gene networks in reproductively mature and
aging female rats
. Endocrinology. 2015;156:29182933. Abstract, Medline
3. Haustein S, Peter I, Sugimoto C, Thelwall M, Lariviere V. Tweeting biomedicine: an analysis of tweet and citations in the biomedical literature. J Assoc Inf Sci Technol. 2014;65:656669. CrossRef, ISI

Editorial: Selling Science in the 21st Century (Or, Trying to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks): Molecular Endocrinology: Vol 29, No 8

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