The impact of social media on the dissemination of research: Results of an experiment

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    In September 2011 I returned to work after a year on Maternity leave. Many things needed sorted out, not least my digital presence at my home institution, which had switched to a content management system which seamlessly linked to our Open Access repository. The idea was we should plug in open access versions of all our previously published research, and link to it from our home pages, to aid in dissemination. There is no doubt that this type of admin task is tedious. To break up the monotony of digging out the last previous version prior to publication of my 26 journal papers (we put up a last-but-one copy to get round copyright issues with journals) I decided to blog the process. I wrote a post about each paper, or each research project that had spawned papers. I wanted to tell the stories behind the research - the things that don't get into the published versions. I also set about methodically tweeting about these research papers, as they went live, going through my back catalogue in reverse chronological order. What became clear to me very quickly was the correlation between talking about my research online and the spike in downloads of my papers from our institutional repository. A game that had spurred me to carry out an admin task was actually disseminating my research quite effectively. So this, in turn, became the focus of some blog posts that are featured here. The first, "What happens when you tweet an Open Access Paper" discussed the correlation between talking about an individual paper online, and seeing its downloads increase. The second, "Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it? The Verdict" discusses the overall effect of this process on all my papers: highlighting what I think the benefits of Open Access are. In the final post, "When was the last time you asked how your published research was doing?" I talk about the link between publishers and Open Access, and how little we know about how much our research is accessed once it is published. More than 20,000 people in total have now read these three online posts. It is evident to me that academics need to work on their digital presence to aid in the dissemination of their research, to both their subject peers and the wider community. These blog posts provide the evidence to prove this.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of digital humanities
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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