Altmetric Blog

The Real Science Stars of Twitter

Euan Adie, 18th September 2014

I don’t think the top three science stars on Twitter are Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox and Dawkins. The honour, I think, should go to a disembodied brain, a Japanese science journalist and a health blogger from Thailand. Obviously.

Here’s our list:

neuro_skeptic @neuro_skeptic Neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry through a skeptical lens. Just a brain with some eyes.
yuji_ikegaya @yuji_ikegaya Google translation from Japanese: Ikeya Yuji brain researchers. […] Serialized in Weekly Asahi, Yomiuri Shimbun, economist, at Kooyong other. I will introduce the latest information on brain research at Twitter.
thidakarn @thidakarn Google translation from Thai: Doctor lazy feline Issued in 11 volumes I want to be healthy, Thailand . I have no patients for cats. . Gosh, ^^ doctor .
edyong209 @edyong209 Science writer, freelance journalist, husband. I CONTAIN MULTITUDES–on partnerships between animals & microbes–out in 2016.
ananyo @ananyo Science journalist. Community editor for @TheEconomist. Opinions expressed are my own. Especially those that happen to be correct.
aller_md @aller_md Allergist – Twittering on #allergy, #asthma & #immunology. Associate Professor of Immunology. Del Salvador University, Buenos Aires. Chief Editor WAO website
erictopol @erictopol Cardiologist, researcher, Editor-in-Chief, Medscape, author of The Patient Will See You Now (to be released 1/15)
noahwg @noahwg Senior Editor @nature | Engagement Editor @FrontYoungMinds. These thoughts are mine alone since nobody else will take responsibility.
andybeetroot @andybeetroot Professor of Applied Physiology at Exeter University. Endurance sports training, physiology and nutrition expert. Not as cool as Gary Numan.

 

Some context: Science this week is carrying a news piece on the top 50 science stars of Twitter. Metrics, science and Twitter! I was going to go to bed early for once tonight but if ever there was a time for an opportunistic blog posting then this is it.

The article is plainly meant to be taken lightheartedly, like the K-index paper, but interestingly both have come in for some (fair, I reckon, if sometimes harshly delivered) criticism for not covering / valuing science communicators.

Selection problems aside I think the Science methodology is fine, but you do end up with a lot of stars who happen to be scientists and are on Twitter rather than people who are stars because of what they do on Twitter, if that makes sense. I reckon a better system would start off by taking everybody on Twitter and then look at:

  • how often do they tweet about research, and how often are those tweets retweeted, hat tipped or ‘via’ed (let’s treat all of these – RTs, MTs, HTs, vias – as retweets)

And we could help people interpret that data by also pulling in:

  • how many unique accounts are doing the retweeting
  • how global those accounts are – how many unique countries are they from?
  • what’s the reach of those accounts? What’s their total number of followers?

This sort of approach opens up the list to science communicators. The caveat is that a lot depends on how you define ‘research’. Let’s say we go for the Altmetric definition, which is that we consider a tweet to be about research if it links to a paper, book or dataset with a scholarly identifier. This means news stories and blog posts won’t get included. So this kind of stuff mentioned in the Science piece is a no go:

“Gilbert says he prefers to tweet materials that appeal to a general audience, rather than complex scientific papers”

But we will be measuring the kind of activity that @erictopol likes:

“Now, he starts his workday browsing through his Twitter feed for news and noteworthy research in his field”

Eric obviously contributes to Twitter as well as consuming data from it – he jumps from 17th place on the Science list to 7th on a list ordered by retweets.

Conveniently we have all this data going back to around Jan 2012, which is how I can tell. I’ve uploaded the numbers for the ‘top’ 1000 accounts by number of retweets to figshare (which comes in at #57, incidentally).

Account Papers tweeted, then retweeted by others Retweets Unique retweeters Sum of followers of unique retweeters Number of unique countries of retweeters
neuro_skeptic 5,213 45,442 14,133 9,528,055 108
yuji_ikegaya 193 27,631 15,272 8,141,617 88
thidakarn 194 25,501 17,121 2,745,015 73
edyong209 1,005 15,324 9331 10,844,071 93
ananyo 611 15,144 10,144 5,820,330 110
aller_md 3,297 11,490 751 274,999 40
erictopol 646 11,439 5,799 4,223,219 83
noahwg 488 10,938 8,224 5,151,045 95
andybeetroot 954 10,815 3,461 1,112,243 43
bengoldacre 280 10,064 7,686 7,553,402 75
uranus_2 4,400 9,582 1,936 910,825 30
rami_shaath 55 9,251 6,052 8,598,032 63
trishgreenhalgh 1,211 9,249 4,080 2,594,950 62
hayano 184 9,151 5,159 4,062,774 63
lulu__19 2 7,165 5,483 3,592,075 33

 

That’s the top 25 table for people, rather than people + organizations. The real star if we don’t discriminate against non-human accounts is @naturenews with an epic 174k retweets from 66k different people who have a combined upper bound follower count of 39M.

(that said the follower count number should be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s simply a sum of followers and doesn’t take duplicates into account, but many of the retweeters will share people on their followers list. That’s why it can only be considered an upper bound).

Science, NEJM and the BMJ come pretty close behind. There’s quite a lot of overlap with the Science list – Ben Goldacre, Jonathan Eisen and Vaughn Bell are all still there, but they’re joined by people like Carl Zimmer, Mo Costandi and Trish Greenhalgh. I haven’t looked at genders, but the data’s all there on figshare, so feel free to investigate.

I quite like the fact that @uberfacts also makes an appearance. Uberfacts is a funny fact of the day type service but has only tweeted about papers seven times since we started tracking Twitter. In fact in Uberfacts’ case it’s the same paper they’ve tweeted seven times but it in turn has been retweeted by eight and a half thousand people.The paper in case you’re wondering is perennial altmetrics favourite Winnie the Pooh: A Neurodevelopmental Perspective.

So finally, on that note… don’t take lists like this too seriously.

Account Papers Retweets Unique retweeters Sum of followers Unique countries
naturenews 4633 174528 66957 39528901 181
sciencemagazine 5382 52397 21624 13385965 136
neuro_skeptic 5213 45442 14133 9528055 108
nejm 1943 42586 18284 7322764 130
bmj_latest 3489 34067 16194 6429678 114
hiv_insight 14301 31354 3723 1617000 82
thelancet 1729 31087 16317 10235287 133
yuji_ikegaya 193 27631 15272 8141617 88
thidakarn 194 25501 17121 2745015 73
jama_current 1570 20645 9692 3371884 101
blackphysicists 11245 15723 1515 1374120 63
edyong209 1005 15324 9331 10844071 93
naturemagazine 1316 15268 9822 5084348 105
ananyo 611 15144 10144 5820330 110
plosone 3077 14145 6317 4132059 93
the_bdj 1789 12616 2754 501496 62
aller_md 3297 11490 751 274999 40
erictopol 646 11439 5799 4223219 83
noahwg 488 10938 8224 5151045 95
andybeetroot 954 10815 3461 1112243 43
bengoldacre 280 10064 7686 7553402 75
uranus_2 4400 9582 1936 910825 30
rami_shaath 55 9251 6052 8598032 63
trishgreenhalgh 1211 9249 4080 2594950 62
hayano 184 9151 5159 4062774 63
uberfacts 7 8735 8631 871744 87
astrophypapers 5432 7397 960 909608 45
biomedcentral 2218 7264 2942 1330733 79
scphrp 2223 7193 1973 686923 38
lulu__19 2 7165 5483 3592075 33
mocost 1093 7105 3698 4045278 79
sientetegood 572 7021 2475 514634 34
jeukendrup 357 7008 3118 1097030 50
naturemedicine 685 6923 3895 2738129 72
naturebiotech 1013 6808 3136 1804731 66
whsource 1000 6798 2549 1758456 47
miakiza20100906 910 6583 1752 1950709 26
caloriesproper 1757 6520 1499 889925 36
bjsm_bmj 322 6386 2945 893033 50
ibis_journal 2298 6330 1333 481663 43
chemstation 557 6145 3623 1130853 38
genetics_blog 1437 6000 1733 752207 53
dr_chasiba 415 5944 2781 2692085 38
sharethis 2895 5939 2962 1309665 71
nsca 858 5860 2282 429472 41
tarareba722 3 5780 5757 2252308 58
prison_health 3220 5779 1529 696987 38
neuroconscience 1897 5724 2045 1201640 57
conradhackett 25 5675 5185 6447081 100
bmc_series 2015 5569 1637 650866 59
juancivancevich 1909 5481 363 197059 29
medskep 808 5310 2418 2108379 57
sagesociology 1464 5284 2281 1059603 67
mathpaper 4645 5086 325 146787 20
rincondesisifo 1605 4903 1229 743276 22
exerciseworks 1040 4872 2496 769800 44
figshare 1514 4862 2516 1494532 69
richardhorton1 627 4808 2806 2461315 70
brodalumab 60 4801 3538 865513 63
greenjournal 1290 4790 1291 418062 54
annalsofsurgery 946 4776 1039 259576 44
naturerevmicro 1621 4710 1503 497756 56
mackinprof 475 4599 2140 745163 41
addthis 3348 4491 2418 1150052 81
wbpubs 148 4467 2746 1476093 116
vaughanbell 432 4373 2812 3129213 78
academicssay 18 4336 4103 1838349 70
carlzimmer 247 4309 3278 3993438 70
adammeakins 519 4250 2095 733219 42
plosmedicine 574 4243 2447 2024688 71
scireports 1584 4224 2153 870578 53
hughesdc_mcmp 1137 4219 1218 388652 32
msseonline 557 4136 1743 360889 33
nature 533 4121 3018 1391217 69
keith_laws 1470 4105 1589 1635308 45
jaapseidell 931 4104 1295 400341 16
eqpaho 831 3924 1683 1087857 59
moorejh 1197 3924 1589 1271985 56
hotsuma 868 3874 1825 945085 35
dylanwiliam 220 3869 2518 986642 38
darwin2009 309 3862 2692 960746 70
hlth_literacy 2826 3797 1423 913847 37
rawhead 6 3716 3705 2247854 52
jamapeds 375 3715 1293 592233 43
drjcthrash 1682 3682 989 340171 43
trished 1059 3648 1867 2065425 46
angew_chem 2378 3648 997 227161 47
natrevneurol 1778 3628 1127 365716 43
critcaremed 805 3615 879 175567 47
tapasdeciencia 647 3491 2367 702467 46
blogdokter 57 3491 3114 1217202 41
health_affairs 371 3473 2041 1799809 44
m_m_campbell 814 3472 2471 1835724 63
jamainternalmed 655 3375 1635 640007 48
wiringthebrain 1029 3362 1346 1085261 44
jadvnursing 598 3335 967 313516 27
profabelmendez 1644 3333 963 1054885 48
juangrvas 797 3332 1199 481684 27
feedly 2264 3292 1004 619024 52

23 Responses to “The Real Science Stars of Twitter”

Euan Adie (@Stew)
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

Had some fun pulling this data out earlier: The Real Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter http://t.co/6OBjzENfXW #altmetrics

@Publons
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

Altmetric fun: RT @Stew: Had some fun pulling this data out earlier: The Real Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter http://t.co/T2u2DARETg

@paulcoxon
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

New @altmetric blog by @stew on the real science stars of Twitter - http://t.co/BnDNFbVwTs

@Richvn
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

.@Altmetric shows much better use of data to examine most-influential science-tweeters http://t.co/QMNZMxNCVk

@m_m_campbell
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

Star search.
Could "science stars on Twitter" be determined *objectively*? Here's a good try: http://t.co/LYykWWsygt #SciComm by @Stew

Altmetric (@altmetric)
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

Who are the *Real* Science Stars of Twitter? http://t.co/RdGt9Gln7N (followers aren't the only useful indicator...)

@franciscome
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

The Twitter science stars http://t.co/Wd1bc7mQRs

@kirkenglehardt
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

Metrics, science & Twitter...oh, My! (A new way to determine who the stars are by Altmertic) http://t.co/KlX3PLQT9N via @Stew #scicomm

@pnarpir
September 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

And here is an alternative list of Real Science Stars of Twitter http://t.co/bjI4kYuq8j

@KLA2010
September 19, 2014 at 12:00 am

@Ananyo nice one Ananyo! http://t.co/CumZSdCczO

@jezcope
September 19, 2014 at 12:00 am

Nice bit of data wrangling from @stew: Top twitter accounts by reshares of research articles http://t.co/eXT5xTIqMP Plus, it's #opendata

[…] search. Could "science stars on Twitter" be determined objectively? Euan Adie makes a good […]

@eglerean
September 25, 2014 at 12:00 am

Just noticed @Neuro_Skeptic made it to the top of a data-based "ScienceStarsOfTwitter" list by @altmetric :) http://t.co/fY0f90pnU9

@DiscoverMag
September 26, 2014 at 12:00 am

#FF: Discover blogger @Neuro_Skeptic, who was named @Altmetric's top science star of twitter! http://t.co/61dh5iICXM

[…] – such as In Response to the Top 50 Science List, the Twitter hashtag #WomenTweetScienceToo and The Real Science Stars of Twitter blog – spawned forth. Lists to combat lists-weapons in the war of Twitter […]

[…] – such as In Response to the Top 50 Science List, the Twitter hashtag #WomenTweetScienceToo and The Real Science Stars of Twitter blog – spawned forth. Lists to combat lists-weapons in the war of Twitter […]

@NYITLibrary
October 2, 2014 at 12:00 am

The real science stars of Twitter? http://t.co/snUq5AmTeR

Twitter’s science stars, the sequel | Nagg
October 6, 2014 at 12:00 am

[…] the most serious look at an influence-based ranking of science-themed Twitter accounts with this blog post[5] on the “The Real Science Stars of […]

@RudolfStichweh
October 6, 2014 at 12:00 am

How to measure the influence of science communication on Twitter? http://t.co/EHmheK3Ppk

@Andy_Tattersall
October 6, 2014 at 12:00 am

The Real Science Stars of Twitter - http://t.co/YHkhLadlol #Altmetrics

[…] the most serious look at an influence-based ranking of science-themed Twitter accounts with this blog post on the “The Real Science Stars of […]

[…] bigger crowd – now 100, with a quite different top 50. In between, Euan Adie from Altmetrics weighed in with “The real science stars of Twitter” – the power-sharers of scientific […]

[…] a bigger crowd – now 100, with a quite different top 50. In between, Euan Adie from Altmetrics weighed in with “The real science stars of Twitter” – the power-sharers of scientific […]

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