Twitter in academia: Does Tweeting Improve Citations? One-Year Results from the TSSMN Prospective Randomized Trial

I am not a “tremendous fan” of Twitter for its platform where a majority of “users” are bots. It is relatively simple to create one and then push out whatever content has to be done.

This study joins the rank of another statistical mumbo jumbo about the impact of Twitter on “research”. Tweeting about it only “fleetingly” increases the mind share; unless you are part of the group that “re-tweets” your “threads”. I find it amusing (and distressing) to pull out the cherry picked points that often distorts the context in which the authors have presented it. It is also dangerous for the trainees to “skim” through Twitter feeds for information whereas it requires a deeper construct for knowledge building. Reading papers doesn’t contribute to the knowledge- being curious has more dividends to pay off.

When compared to control articles, tweeted articles achieved significantly greater increase in Altmetric scores (Tweeted 9.4±5.8 vs. Non-Tweeted 1.0±1.8, p<0.001), Altmetric score percentiles relative to articles of similar age from each respective journal (Tweeted 76.0±9.1%ile vs. Non-Tweeted 13.8±22.7%ile, p<0.001), with greater change in citations at 1 year (Tweeted +3.1±2.4 vs. Non-Tweeted +0.7±1.3, p<0.001). Multivariable analysis showed that independent predictors of citations were randomization to tweeting (OR 9.50; 95%CI 3.30-27.35, p<0.001), Altmetric score (OR 1.32; 95%CI 1.15-1.50, p<0.001), open-access status (OR 1.56; 95%CI 1.21-1.78, p<0.001), and exposure to a larger number of Twitter followers as quantified by impressions (OR 1.30, 95%CI 1.10-1.49, p<0.001).

Does Tweeting Improve Citations? One-Year Results from the TSSMN Prospective Randomized Trial – The Annals of Thoracic Surgery

It is also ironic that the article about “social media” is behind paywall. I came across and interesting instance on Hacker News discussion (I quote here:

This reminds me of a story from Steven Levitt.He published Freakonomics together with Stephen Dubner then went back into academia while Dubner went down the podcaster route.

15 years later, Dubner has reached millions of people with his work and Levitt recently started a podcast and soft quit academia after realizing that one of his best papers after years of research and hard work got 3 citations. He assumes fewer than 20 people will ever read that work.

While this is an outlier but it still merits consideration- we need a better outreach for science. Oh well, not Twitter. There are other ways.