'Highly Tweeted Articles Were 11 Times More Likely to Be Highly Cited'

We have a new study for those who argue that social media, whatever its virtues may be, doesn't correlate very well with the real world. It comes from the Journal of Medical Internet Research and is based on a three-year study of that journal's articles' relative success in the Twitter and academic worlds.

The bottom line is simple: articles that many people tweeted about were 11 times more likely to be highly cited than those who few people tweeted about. Its implications are even more interesting. It generally takes months and years for papers to be cited by other scientific publications. Thus, on the day an article comes out, it would seem to be difficult to tell whether it will have a real impact on a given field. However, because the majority of tweets about journal articles occur within the first two days of publication, we now have an early signal about which research is likely to be significant.

The authors of the article suggest a new metric for scientific publishing they call the twimpact factor, after the standard impact factor:

Tweets can predict highly cited articles within the first 3 days of article publication. Social media activity either increases citations or reflects the underlying qualities of the article that also predict citations, but the true use of these metrics is to measure the distinct concept of social impact. Social impact measures based on tweets are proposed to complement traditional citation metrics. The proposed twimpact factor may be a useful and timely metric to measure uptake of research findings and to filter research findings resonating with the public in real time.

Now, it's certainly possible that not all journals will be subject to these same rules. This journal, in particular, has 'Internet' in the title, so its authors, readers, and tweeters may be more Twitter-savvy than most. However, if anything like this kind of correlation is found in other fields, a hidden value of Twitter's network will be revealed. Want to peer a year or two into the future of a scientific field? Fire up Tweetie and start searching.

Presented by

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Technology

Just In