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Nov 07, 2014 07:09 PM EST

More Researchers, Scientists Are Using Social Media

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More academic researchers are turning to social media to get their work noticed, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found a connection between   "h-index" -- a measure of the quality of a researcher's work and influence -- and whether the scientists interact with reporters and get mentioned on Twitter. Attention from reporters is good news for h-index, but couple that with attention on Twitter and they will see a more pronounced spike in reputation.

If you talk to reporters and you tweet about your research, your work is more likely to be cited than people who do one or the other," Dominique Brossard, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of life sciences communication, said in a statement. "I've been in science communication for a while now, and I am really seeing a change -- especially among the younger scientists -- in their willingness to share their work."

As many as 30 percent of the members of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are using social media at least three times per week to find news and insights about science, according to a survey researchers cited.

That sort of activity hasn't always been encouraged. Research can be time-intensive work, and any distraction from scholarship can draw criticism as a waste of a precious resource. Brossard hopes a new understanding of the relationship between research and communicating with the public can change that.

"What this shows us is that sharing your science with the public is not hurting the science by stealing time," she said. "If the goal is to encourage people, ultimately to be productive scientists, and if directors of labs are discouraging people from engaging in this activity, they're actually hurting the science itself. Because people who do this are cited more often in scientific journals, they're making science accessible to broader audiences at the same time."

Social media use is rising in other professional circles as well, according to researcher Michael Xenos.

"As in other areas, such as politics for example, social media was once met with skepticism but is increasingly part of the culture," he said. "Just like it became the norm there, our research shows it may one day become the norm in science."

The findings are detailed in the journal Journalism & Mass Communications Quarterly.

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