The following article was published today (May 17, 2018) by PLoS ONE.
Although counts of tweets citing academic papers are used as an informal indicator of interest, little is known about who tweets academic papers and who uses Twitter to find scholarly information. Without knowing this, it is difficult to draw useful conclusions from a publication being frequently tweeted. This study surveyed 1,912 users that have tweeted journal articles to ask about their scholarly-related Twitter uses. Almost half of the respondents (45%) did not work in academia, despite the sample probably being biased towards academics. Twitter was used most by people with a social science or humanities background. People tend to leverage social ties on Twitter to find information rather than searching for relevant tweets. Twitter is used in academia to acquire and share real-time information and to develop connections with others. Motivations for using Twitter vary by discipline, occupation, and employment sector, but not much by gender. These factors also influence the sharing of different types of academic information. This study provides evidence that Twitter plays a significant role in the discovery of scholarly information and cross-disciplinary knowledge spreading. Most importantly, the large numbers of non-academic users support the claims of those using tweet counts as evidence for the non-academic impacts of scholarly research.
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