Although Twitter is best known for its role in political and cultural discourse, it has also become an increasingly vital tool for scientific communication. The record of social media engagement by laypeople is decoded by a new study publishing in the open access journal PLOS Biology, where researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, show that Twitter users can be characterized in extremely fine detail by mining a relatively untapped source of information: how those users’ followers describe themselves. This study reveals some exciting—and, at times, disturbing—patterns of how research is received and disseminated through social media.
Scientists candidly tweet about their unpublished research not only to one another but also to a broader audience of engaged laypeople. When consumers of cutting-edge science tweet or retweet about studies they find interesting, they leave behind