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).

AccountPapers tweeted, then retweeted by othersRetweetsUnique retweetersSum of followers of unique retweetersNumber of unique countries of retweeters
neuro_skeptic5,21345,44214,1339,528,055108
yuji_ikegaya19327,63115,2728,141,61788
thidakarn19425,50117,1212,745,01573
edyong2091,00515,324933110,844,07193
ananyo61115,14410,1445,820,330110
aller_md3,29711,490751274,99940
erictopol64611,4395,7994,223,21983
noahwg48810,9388,2245,151,04595
andybeetroot95410,8153,4611,112,24343
bengoldacre28010,0647,6867,553,40275
uranus_24,4009,5821,936910,82530
rami_shaath559,2516,0528,598,03263
trishgreenhalgh1,2119,2494,0802,594,95062
hayano1849,1515,1594,062,77463
lulu__1927,1655,4833,592,07533

 

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.

AccountPapersRetweetsUnique retweetersSum of followersUnique countries
naturenews46331745286695739528901181
sciencemagazine5382523972162413385965136
neuro_skeptic521345442141339528055108
nejm194342586182847322764130
bmj_latest348934067161946429678114
hiv_insight14301313543723161700082
thelancet1729310871631710235287133
yuji_ikegaya1932763115272814161788
thidakarn1942550117121274501573
jama_current15702064596923371884101
blackphysicists11245157231515137412063
edyong20910051532493311084407193
naturemagazine13161526898225084348105
ananyo61115144101445820330110
plosone3077141456317413205993
the_bdj178912616275450149662
aller_md32971149075127499940
erictopol646114395799422321983
noahwg488109388224515104595
andybeetroot954108153461111224343
bengoldacre280100647686755340275
uranus_244009582193691082530
rami_shaath5592516052859803263
trishgreenhalgh121192494080259495062
hayano18491515159406277463
uberfacts78735863187174487
astrophypapers5432739796090960845
biomedcentral221872642942133073379
scphrp22237193197368692338
lulu__19271655483359207533
mocost109371053698404527879
sientetegood5727021247551463434
jeukendrup35770083118109703050
naturemedicine68569233895273812972
naturebiotech101368083136180473166
whsource100067982549175845647
miakiza2010090691065831752195070926
caloriesproper17576520149988992536
bjsm_bmj3226386294589303350
ibis_journal22986330133348166343
chemstation55761453623113085338
genetics_blog14376000173375220753
dr_chasiba41559442781269208538
sharethis289559392962130966571
nsca8585860228242947241
tarareba722357805757225230858
prison_health32205779152969698738
neuroconscience189757242045120164057
conradhackett25567551856447081100
bmc_series20155569163765086659
juancivancevich1909548136319705929
medskep80853102418210837957
sagesociology146452842281105960367
mathpaper4645508632514678720
rincondesisifo16054903122974327622
exerciseworks10404872249676980044
figshare151448622516149453269
richardhorton162748082806246131570
brodalumab604801353886551363
greenjournal12904790129141806254
annalsofsurgery9464776103925957644
naturerevmicro16214710150349775656
mackinprof4754599214074516341
addthis334844912418115005281
wbpubs148446727461476093116
vaughanbell43243732812312921378
academicssay1843364103183834970
carlzimmer24743093278399343870
adammeakins5194250209573321942
plosmedicine57442432447202468871
scireports15844224215387057853
hughesdc_mcmp11374219121838865232
msseonline5574136174336088933
nature53341213018139121769
keith_laws147041051589163530845
jaapseidell9314104129540034116
eqpaho83139241683108785759
moorejh119739241589127198556
hotsuma8683874182594508535
dylanwiliam2203869251898664238
darwin20093093862269296074670
hlth_literacy28263797142391384737
rawhead637163705224785452
jamapeds3753715129359223343
drjcthrash1682368298934017143
trished105936481867206542546
angew_chem2378364899722716147
natrevneurol17783628112736571643
critcaremed805361587917556747
tapasdeciencia6473491236770246746
blogdokter5734913114121720241
health_affairs37134732041179980944
m_m_campbell81434722471183572463
jamainternalmed6553375163564000748
wiringthebrain102933621346108526144
jadvnursing598333596731351627
profabelmendez16443333963105488548
juangrvas7973332119948168427
feedly22643292100461902452

21 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

[…] 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 […]

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