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Submitted by Laura Costello on Thu, 2012-02-09 17:29

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Eysenbach, G. (2011). Can Tweets Predict Citations? Metrics of Social Impact Based on Twitter and Correlation with Traditional Metrics of Scientific Impact. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13(4).

This article sought to correlate Twitter mentions of journal articles (tweetations) with traditional published citations. The author explores the idea of altmetrics and issues with a traditional citation method that is slow, private, and often opaque. In charting the life cycles of JMIR articles on Twitter he found that mentions followed a 60-day life cycle, with many tweetations in the first week and a gradual decline. Older articles were unlikely to be featured in tweetations but much likelier to be traditionally cited.

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There is a strong association between tweetations and citations though the author cautions that these are complimentary rather than alternative metrics. The notion of the viral idea rests on the assumption that social media attention is rather independent of creative intentions. Traditional citations are almost always indications of legitimate professional approval, but have never presented a complete picture of the influence of a publication. This topic should be investigated further, JMIR is a journal with high traditional citation impact but it also attracts an audience very likely to use the internet and social media professionally.

EdLab Relevance:
Online communication has changed many aspects of academic publishing, in opening up channels of communication between creators and consumers it has given us the potential to explore the real impact of publications through a combination of old and altmetrics. An accessible, free citation index like Google Scholar will certainly remain important even as alternative citation methods continue to gain traction.

The article also has fascinating implications for the marketing of academic publications. The results found a weekend “drop off” time for tweetations and the author suspects that there may be an ideal day of the week for maximum social publishing impact. This could be important for publishers and providers that have begun to feel long tail demand and have pushed to make articles available à la carte to unaffiliated scholars.