“When I speak & others tweet, I learn a LOT about my own ideas.” – Alexis Lothian, University of Maryland
Many academics view Twitter with serious skepticism. At best, it seems difficult to communicate anything of complexity within 140 characters. However, university professors in many disciplines are increasingly using Twitter to share links to articles and ideas, to reach out to colleagues in other parts of the world, and to reflect on papers presented at conferences. Twitter helps researchers to foster interdisciplinary connections, to spread the word about research fellowships and opportunities, and to share information quickly (and at scale).
As the use of Twitter amongst academics has become more widespread, researchers have become interested in considering academic patterns of use and perspectives on its professional and research utility. Articles published over the past five years have covered the following topics 1) General statistics and observations about academics on Twitter; 2) How Twitter is used as a mechanism for both discussing and publicizing research; 3) Differences between Twitter scholarly communication amongst disciplines; 4) How Twitter is used within academic conferences; and 5) Perspectives on Twitter’s utility for making professional connections and for networking. We’ve compiled some of the key findings below:
General statistics and observations about academics on Twitter:
1. Approximately 2,000 journal articles and 3,000 conference papers have been written about Twitter (Fry, 2014)
2. Nearly 90% of academics on Twitter use it for their work (Lupton, 2014).
3. Academic tweets are approximately 9 times more likely to be retweeted than other tweets (Holmberg and Thewall, 2014).
4. In 2012, only one in 40 scholars was active on Twitter (Priem et. al 2012).
5. There are no significant differences in how much time is spent on Twitter by amongst academics from different age groups (Holmberg and Thewall, 2014).
6. The largest proportion of academics on Twitter are early career academics (Lupton, 2014).
7. Over 80% of academics on Twitter find it useful for academic work, while only 25% found Academia.edu useful (Lupton, 2014).
How Twitter is used as a mechanism for both discussing and publicizing research:
8. Approximately 30% tweets sent by academics contain a hyperlink to a peer-reviewed resource (usually a pdf file of a research paper) (Priem and Costello, 2010).
9. Papers mentioned on Twitter are more downloaded and cited than papers which are not (Shuai & al. 2012).
10. One digital humanities scholar at LSE found that blogging/tweeting about papers she’s written resulted in nearly 11 times the downloads (as opposed to papers she did not publicize on social media) (Terras, 2012).
11. The same scholar found that by tweeting and blogging, her papers received nearly 70 downloads within the first 24 hours (Terras, 2012).
12. 40% of references to new publications on Twitter (Twitter citations) occur within the first week after release (Priem and Costello, 2010).
Differences between Twitter scholarly communication amongst disciplines:
13. Natural scientists are more likely to be on Twitter than researchers from the humanities or the social sciences (Holmberg and Thelwall, 2014)
14. Researchers within the social sciences and humanities tweet more often than researchers within the natural sciences (Holmberg and Thelwall, 2014).
15. Amongst economics professors, 51.5% of tweets are related to their discipline; whilst amongst historians of science, only 16% of tweets involve scholarly communication or are discipline relevant (Holmberg and Thelwall, 2014).
16. Digital humanities scholars are on average 65% more active than scholars within astrophysics, economics, biochemistry, and history of science (Holmberg and Thelwall, 2014).
17. Digital humanities scholars use Twitter more for conversations than other scholars; however, only 3% of their conversations are related to their discipline (Holmberg and Thelwall, 2014).
How Twitter is used within academic conferences:
18. Conference participants are much more likely to use hashtags (between 10-28% more) than the average Twitter user (Letierce et al., 2010).
19. Conference-related Twitter conversations are usually only two tweets long; an initial tweet and a response (Letierce et al., 2010).
20. Within conferences, organizers are likely to send and receive the most tweets (Letierce et al., 2010).
21. Eminent figures within a particular field tend to attract the most significant number of retweets (Letierce et al., 2010).
Perspectives on Twitter’s utility for finding information, making professional connections and for networking:
22. It enables near instantaneous answers to questions (Lupton, 2014).
23. It facilitates intergenerational collaborations/connections (Lupton, 2014).
24. It helps researchers to reach a wider audience outside the university (Lupton, 2014).
25. It fosters academic support outside of immediate networks (Lupton, 2014).
Charpentier, A. (2014, February 18). Academic blogging, a personal experience. Retrieved from http://freakonometrics.hypotheses.org/12660.
Fry, E. (2014, August 22). CONTAGION—From Justin Bieber to data scientists, how Twitter got hot in the academy. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2014/08/22/contagion-justin-bieber-data-scientists-twitter/
Holmberg, K. & Thelwall, M. (2014). Disciplinary differences in Twitter scholarly communication. Scientometrics, 101(2), 1027-1042.
Kolowich, S. (2012, October 2). The Academic Twitterazi. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/10/02/scholars-debate-etiquette-live-tweeting-academic-conferences
Letierce, J., Passant, A., Breslin, J. & Decker, S. (2010). Understanding how twitter is used to spread scientific messages. Proceedings of the WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line.
Lupton, D. (2014). “Feeling better connected”: Academics’ use of social media. Canberra: News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra.
Priem, J. and Costello, K.L. (2010) How and why scholars cite on Twitter. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 47(1), 104.
Priem, J., Piwowar, H., & Hemminger, B. (2012, March 20). Altmetrics in the wild: Using social media to explore scholarly impact. arXiv:1203.4745.
Shuai, X., Pepe, A. and Bollen, J. (2012). How the scientific community reacts to newly submitted preprints: article downloads, Twitter mentions, and citations. PLoS ONE (11). (A large study of over 4600 scientific papers)
Terras, M. (2012), April 3. Is blogging and tweeting about research? Retrieved from http://melissaterras.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/is-blogging-and-tweeting-about-research.html
UPDATE: 1/6/2014- Many thanks to Arthur Charpentier for the reference to this article in his post, Quand les chercheurs cherchent leur voie (voix) sur Twitter, retrieved from http://freakonometrics.hypotheses.org/17957.