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Social Media and Online Attention as an Early Measure of the Impact of Research in Solid Organ Transplantation

Knight, Simon R.1,2,3

doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000000307
Editorials and Perspectives: Special Feature

Introduction: Traditional measures of the impact of published research, such as citation counts, are limited to measuring academic impact. The use of social media and other online tools as alternative measures of research impact is gaining popularity and used by leading medical journals.

Methods: MEDLINE was searched for articles published with subject headings relating to solid organ transplantation between August 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012. Citation data were retrieved from SCOPUS, and statistics regarding mentions in social media, social bookmarking sites, news outlets, and expert recommendation sites were retrieved from the data at Data were analyzed for associations between alternative metric data and citation rates.

Results: The search retrieved 6,981 publications. Sixty-six percent of the articles had at least one citation. Mentions in social media were 19.3%, 13.1% had social bookmarks, 0.9% had expert recommendations, and online news outlets picked up eight articles. Significantly higher citation rates were associated with mention in social media, expert recommendation, social bookmarking, and for articles identified as meta-analyses, multicenter studies, randomized controlled trials, and reviews (all P<0.001). The odds of an article being highly cited were significantly increased by a mention in social media (odds ratio, 2.58; P<0.001). Qualitative analysis suggests that article topics discussed on social media are more likely to relate to the more controversial and emotive areas of transplantation.

Discussion: Social media and online attention act as early predictors of the impact of transplant research as measured by later citation rate. Blogging and expert recommendation, in particular, are associated with higher citation rates.

1 Centre for Evidence in Transplantation, Royal College of Surgeons of England, London, United Kingdom.

2 Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

3 Address correspondence to: Simon R. Knight. M.A. M.Chir. FRCS, Centre for Evidence in Transplantation, Clinical Effectiveness Unit, The Royal College of Surgeons of England, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE, United Kingdom.

The author declares no conflicts of interest.


Supplemental digital content (SDC) is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text, and links to the digital files are provided in the HTML text of this article on the journal’s Web site (

Received 16 February 2014. Revision requested 10 April 2014.

Accepted 14 May 2014.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins