It’s starting to feel Christmassy at Altmetric HQ, and we’ve been busy pulling together our annual list of which published research has been attracting the most attention online in 2014.
Based on data we’ve collated over the year, the list takes into account all mentions and shares of articles published from November 2013 onwards in mainstream and social media, blogs, post-publication peer-review forums, bookmarking sites and platforms such as Reddit and YouTube.
We’ve excluded editorial, comment and review content, as we wanted to focus specifically on original research. The data can be filtered by discipline, journal, institution, country, and access type – and you can click through to view the Altmetric details page will all of the original mentions and shares for each article.
The 2014 Top 100 in summary
- The top scoring article (at the point of data collection on the 14th of November 2014), published in PNAS in June 2014, was “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks”.
- 51 of the articles in the list have been published since the beginning of May this year (the others were published between November 2013 and the end of April 2014)
- 37 of the articles in the top 100 were published as open access (63 were published under the paywall/subscription model, although some have now been made free)
- 16 of the Top 100 were published in Nature, 11 in Science, 9 in PloS ONE, 8 in PNAS, and 4 in JAMA
- 68 of the Top 100 had authors from the United States, 19 had authors from the UK, 10 from Canada, 11 from Germany (the most in Europe), 4 from China, and 9 from South or Central America
- Top performing institutions include Harvard, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health – whose authors featured on 15 articles in total. Authors from institutions that are part of the University of California System featured on 10 articles. In the UK 3 articles featured authors from the University of Cambridge, and 3 from the University of Oxford.
A closer look
As we’d expect to see, a large proportion of the list reflects research that dominated the mainstream media agenda throughout the year – for example studies on Ebola, a new black hole theory from Stephen Hawking, and research which resulted in the manipulation of Facebook users timelines all rank highly.
It’s often the studies which have relevance or can be made easily accessible to a wide audience that receive a lot of coverage, and therefore is no surprise that studies which fall under medical and health sciences make up 44 of the 100 articles featured.
Geographically, authors from the US, Europe or UK are present on over 45% of articles which made the list (this is partly due to some of our coverage – there is a bias). Over 80% of articles which named a UK author were the result of an international collaboration, whilst in contrast just 46% of articles authored by US researchers featured input from overseas researchers.
Many people have questioned whether or not Open Access articles are more likely to get shared and discussed than those that are published behind a paywall – indeed we recently undertook a small scale study of our own to look at this. At the time the results we got proved positive, however we do not see the same trend reflected in this list; just 37 of the 100 articles featured were published under an Open Access license.
(An addendum here – in a comment on a recent Scholarly Kitchen post, it was rightly pointed out that due to the much smaller proportion of papers published open access overall, a 37% share in our list actually does represent a higher proportion of OA articles being shared – tying in with what we identified in our original study.)
This may suggest that those sharing these articles do not stop to consider whether or not their peers will be able to read the material, or it may be that the mainstream news agenda is driven to some extent by what journal publishers or institutions choose to highlight in through their press efforts.
It’s worth mentioning again that this list is of course in no way a measure of quality of the research, or of the researcher. Studies of the life span of chocolate on hospital wards, and an effort to search the internet for evidence of time travellers both feature high in the list this year – entertaining content which provides a bit of light relief and is quickly distributed. Similarly, a case of unfortunate author error (which we discussed in more detail here) is still generating new attention online now, months after publication and weeks after the error was spotted and rectified.
Nonetheless we hope that this breakdown and the Altmetric data available for each article will offer some insight into which research has captured the public imagination this year, and why that might have been.