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Jun 18, 2019 · First Comes Publication, Then Comes Dissemination: The Use of Social Media to Spread the Word!

By: Amy S. Oxentenko, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF | @AmyOxentenkoMD

After an investigator comes up with a novel research idea,
completes the necessary data collection, then successfully gets the work
published, there is a natural sense of accomplishment.  However, the real impact of one’s research
lies in the ability to disseminate it so that others can read and further cite
the work.  To date, people have relied on
news media, email blasts and recognition at national meetings to have the
fruits of their labor shared widely. 
With the evolution of social media, an entirely new way to disseminate
research has become apparent. 

How can social media be used to disseminate one’s research?  See how this group did it!

A recent study by KA Cawcutt, et al, was published in the Journal of Women’s Health, entitled “Use of a Coordinated Social Media Strategy
to Improve Dissemination of Research and Collect Solutions Related to Workforce
Gender Equity
.”  The investigators
used a 1-hour Twitter chat that was sponsored by Physician’s Weekly (#PWCHat) and
hosted by one of the authors (JK Silver) to present eight journal
articles.  The articles were each
selected based on their focus on gender equity issues.  Data on each (e.g., Altmetric
, Altmetric Rank, shares, downloads, impressions) was collected
baseline before the Twitter chat was advertised, and then again right before
and in subsequent days after the chat. 
In the advertisement for the chat, the articles to be discussed were
listed, with links provided.  During the
hour-long chat, one question was posed for each article, asking participants to
come up with proposed solutions for the gender equity issue raised by the

What did the study find?

  • In the 16-hour period that followed the start of
    the chat, there were 1500 tweets from 294 participants, more than 8.6 million
    impressions, with a reach to >500,000 Twitter users.
  • The Altmetric Attention Score increased for each
    of the articles presented by an average of 126.5 points.
  • Within each journal from which the individual
    articles had been published, the Altmetric Rank of 7 of the 8 articles improved
    (range of 3 to >19), while the 8th article remained at number 1.
  • For one article,
    share and download data were available. 
    There was an increase by 729% in shares from posts before the chat, and
    another 113% after the chat, with an overall 1667% increase in shares.  For downloads there was an increase by 712%
    in downloads before the chat, with 47% more after the chat, with an overall
    increase in downloads by 1093%.
  • In addition to the demonstration of increased
    dissemination, there were 181 potential solutions proposed to help address the
    gender equity issues raised in the articles and through the chat.

What does all of this mean? 

  • Many individuals view social media as being used
    for social purposes.  However, this study
    shows the true scholarly and academic potential that lies in social media.   The ability to track metrics from social
    media use adds to its power.  Some
    institutions have begun to use social media as criteria for academic promotion,
    with Mayo
    being a leader in this regard. 
  • This study demonstrates the rapid nature that
    information can be spread on social media, given the spider web-like effect
    that happens when something is liked, retweeted, and then spread among
    followers, and then followers of followers, and so on.  The reach is global and the dissemination is swift. 
  • Social media represents a novel way to reinvent
    journal club, where traditionally groups rely on finding a time to meet (often
    early in the morning or after hours) to vet one to two articles.  Using a social media chat, it allows a
    journal club style format with the ability to present any number of articles. Rather
    than spending time reviewing the evidence-based medicine validity criteria, it
    allows a richer experience where participants can simultaneously share ideas
    for how to integrate the concepts into practice or come up with creative

What are my take-home points?

  • Consider social media as another tool in your
    academic armamentarium.
  • Social media allows rapid and global research dissemination,
    faster than traditional means.
  • By reading this post and clicking on the
    referenced article, it helped to further disseminate it to more readers (see
    how incredible that is!).

How are you using social media to spread the word of your
academic portfolio???