In “Understanding How Twitter Is Used to Spread Scientific Messages,” Julie Letierce, Alexandre Passant, John Breslin, and Stefan Decker aim to understand how Twitter is used for spreading academic knowledge, especially at conferences. To do so, they harvested and studied tweets from three different conferences, as well conducted interviews with colleagues who are active on social media. Although Letierce et al. state that “Twitter has this potential to help the erosion of boundaries between researchers and broader audiences” (1), their focus on conference-specific tweets is perhaps not the best way to gauge public engagement, as there is a delineated community engaged in the topic already: those who are at the conference. Indeed, the findings of the authors’ study tend in the direction of academic-only engagement with academic messaging. Perhaps if they had chosen a more general topic with proven academic and non-academic interest (e.g., climate change, open access), and one that was not hinged on a distinctly academic event, they may have had more representative results. On a separate note, their use of Twitter as an indicator of emerging trends and popular topics of conversation did seem valuable for those who study discipline formation or specific communities of practice.
Letierce, Julie, Alexandre Passant, John Breslin, and Stefan Decker. 2010. “Understanding How Twitter Is Used to Spread Scientific Messages.” Proceedings of the WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line, April 26-27th, 2010. Raleigh, NC: US. http://www.johnbreslin.org/files/publications/20100426_webs2010c.pdf