All papers at PLoS Medicine now reflect the public Twitter debate

Last week, I wrote how several scientific journals and publishers are opening their eyes to Twitter. The confirmation of the relevance on Twitter also in relation to peer-reviewed journals comes in many different forms. This weekend, I came across a tweet giving another example :

If you click on the link in the tweet (or here), you’ll come onto the webpage of PLoS Medicine and an article by McKee M, Stuckler D, Basu S (2012) entitled: Where There Is No Health Research: What Can Be Done to Fill the Global Gaps in Health Research?

In the righthand side column (under: “share this article” – which is BTW primarily through social media) you’ll see a box from Twitter, called “What the community is saying”. In this box a roll of all the tweets linking to the article are shown in chronological order with the newest first. The reasons for why people chose to include links to a particular article in their tweets may of course be many. It could be a simple wish to spread word of the article, but could also be comments and reactions to the article and additional links to for example blog posts discussing the article.

For the authors of the article this easy access to the Twitter activity concerning their article provides and opportunity to see what the segment, who are on Twitter, are saying about the article – and not least who they are. And for the readers it is a chance to check out who else have found this article relevant. Who knows, they might be people in your area of research you were not yet acquainted with.

The Twitter box is of course not unique to the article by Martin McKee & co. but applies to all PLoS Medicine articles.


Scientific journal publisher encourages the use of social media to reach your audience

So, your article has been accepted and is now published in a peer-reviewed journal. Great! Now the world gets to know of all your findings and hard work. Or will it? What if no one reads it? You can of course let your colleagues know that your article is out, have the communication department do a press release and things like that. But why not go wider than that? Why not share it with online social networks?

That sharing articles on social media can boost the number of downloads, Melissa Terras, whom I blogged about earlier, is a good example of. But also the publishers are becoming aware that social media can help boost the number of downloads, citations etc.

SAGE, the world’s 5th largest journals publisher, actually offers guidance on how to increase usage and citation of your article by using social media. This includes getting on Twitter (they even have guidelines for how to use Twitter), contributing to Wikipedia, joining academic networks and making use of Facebook and LinkedIn.

The offer of guidance to the world of social media comes out of an acknowledgement that as readers’ expectations change, it is important that articles are visible where the users start their search. Promotion of your articles through new channels will, as SAGE puts it “offer a direct way to reach your readership.”

And I guess that is the hope of every researcher whom has something published: that it will reach the relevant readers.


Crowdsourcing examples of how social media can benefit downloads and citations of peer-reviewed articles

How do you persuade good old fashion researchers that social media has something to offer them too? You know, the kind who prefers having their papers published in the Lancet, British Medical Journal and Nature. The ones who like giving key-note speeches at prestigious conferences or at least an oral presentation of an abstract. And who frowns or looks completely lost when you suggest that the get a Twitter profile.

This is a challenge. But a blog post by Melissa Terras from the Department of Information Studies, University College London made me think, that using a medium these traditional oriented researchers respect, as a tool, could be a way forward. Melissa Terras’ blog post describes how starting to do small blog posts of the stories behind the research published in 26 published articles, and tweet them afterwards, increased the number of downloads of the articles substantially. In the blog posts she wrote about all the stuff that doesn’t make it into the published paper, but then of course linking and referring to the papers too and there by drawing attention to them.

It’s really interesting to read her story of how some blogging and tweeting made her articles much more downloaded than her colleagues (which said nothing of the quality of her colleagues work but more of their efforts to spread the word of their research). The blogging/tweeting strategy really seemed to work!

The reason why the experience of Melissa Terras could be a good case story to use in convincing other researchers that social media is not totally irrelevant is:

  1. It doesn’t criticise traditional research communication platforms such as peer-reviewed journals
  2. It shows that traditional media and social media can work together and benefit each other (by being a marketing place but also a place to say all things you couldn’t include in the published paper)
  3. It focuses on how you can spread your research to more people, which must be the aim of any scientist: to have others read, learn from and use your findings!
  4. It uses numbers and graphs – researchers like that!
  5. It uses comparisons and control groups (her colleagues and time)
  6. Its written by a researcher herself

A call for for more examples

One ‘downside’ to the case of Melissa Terras could be that her research field is electronic communication and digital humanities. One can almost assume that many of the people in her field are first-movers when it comes to using social media, and therefore blogging and tweeting is effective because her audience is there waiting at the other end of the line. It would be great to find more examples like the one of Melissa Terras, but from non-communication oriented research. Do you know of some? I would love to make a list which could be used in different academic fields to persuade colleagues that there is something in social media for them too. If nothing else its a way to boost the visibility of their published articles, but hopefully it could also help open their eyes to all the other upsides of social media in science communication.

Please do share your examples!

I’d just like to end off with Melissa Terras’ own conclusion, where she again speaks to the scientist using the scientists own language of: If (x) then (y + z = w) :

“So that would be my conclusion, really. If you want people to find and read your research, build up a digital presence in your discipline, and use it to promote your work when you have something interesting to share. It’s pretty darn obvious, really:

If (social media interaction is often) then (Open access + social media = increased downloads).”


Two not so separate worlds: Peer-reviewed journals and social media

Social media and peer-reviewed journals. Some people would regard this as two separate worlds and perhaps they were once upon a time, but times change and more and more journals are embracing, exploring new uses and expanding their traditional journal universe with blogs, Twitter accounts etc.

An editorial retreat at The British Medical Journal focusing on social media shows that journals and social media are definitely not worlds apart. As I have been on a pre-Easter break I was unfortunately not able to follow the Twitter stream from the meeting, but in the spirit of social media a Storify (a collection of tweets #BMJseminar) from the meeting has been put together. It gives a small peak into the highlights of the meeting.

Blogging journals

I have previously blogged about the BMJ and PLoS blogs and recently the blog of the International Journal of Public Health. Lately, I have also been following Richard Horton, Editor of the Lancet, on Twitter (@richardhorton1) where he actively tweets about the numerous meetings he attends. At times very entertain and very opinion born.

In addition, I just discovered The Lancet student blog, which aims to give medical students from around the world a place to talk about their experiences of medical school life, and  their thoughts on the top health issues of the day. The use of blogs, like they are used at BMJ and PloS, is however, as far as I can tell, nothing the Lancet has engaged in. I wonder why that is….


The International Journal of Public Health blog

More and more public health related journals are expanding their online universes with blogs. Eg. BMJ and PLoS have blogs associated to their journals. Now one of the smaller journals of Public Health has also started a blog. The International Journal of Public Health’s blog is made as a joint venture with the Swiss School of Public Health +.

The blog aims to promote debate around current public health issues and articles published in IJPH and to bring together public health research and clinical practice. The idea behind it has been double:

  1. to provide a discussion platform for quick and direct exchange; and
  2. to put this discussion in an open space so that interested public health people from various fields can follow it and make contributions.

The blog seems to be populated with new posts quite regularly. Mostly the posts work as advertisement of newly published articles in International Journal of Public Health or events at the Swiss School of Public Health +. Almost all the posts end with a question, inviting the readers to comment, share ideas, thoughts and critic, such as:

“What do you think about this study? What could such results mean for Public Health policies?” or “We hope you find these articles useful! What other methodological articles would you like to see in IJPH?”

So far the comments section has not been used much. Whether this is due to lack of interest in commenting or inawareness of the blog is difficult to say as the blog is still quite new, and only was launched early in 2011.

Creating a open commenting culture is perhaps also just something that takes time…