Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Social Media and the Dissemination of Research: Insights from the Most Widely Circulated Articles in Plastic Surgery

Zhou, Joy Z., B.A., M.H.S.; Lemelman, Benjamin T., M.D.; Done, Nicolae, Ph.D.; Henderson, Macey L., J.D., Ph.D.; Macmillan, Alexandra, M.A.(Cantab.), M.B.B.S.; Song, David H., M.D., M.B.A.; Dorafshar, Amir H., M.B.Ch.B.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: August 2018 - Volume 142 - Issue 2 - p 555–561
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000004598
Plastic Surgery Focus: Special Topics
Watch Video
Editor's Pick
Journal Club

Background: The purpose of this study is to quantify the relationship between social media use and the dissemination of research across nontraditional channels.

Methods: Between June and August of 2016, the authors identified 10 plastic surgery journals with the highest impact factor and their 10 most widely circulated articles. Article age; journal impact factor; “distinguished” article designation; and social media metadata of the first authors, last authors, and journals were incorporated into a multivariate regression model to predict the Altmetric Attention Score, a quantitative measure of popularity across Web-based media platforms.

Results: A total of 100 articles, 181 authors, and 10 journals were identified. Older articles tended to be less popular. The article’s popularity was associated with the journal’s audience size, but not with the author’s social media activity. For each 1000 additional Twitter followers of the journal of publication, the Altmetric score is greater by a factor of 1.72 (95 percent CI, 1.076 to 2.749), which is the equivalent of 72 percent more Tweets. There is also a small but statistically significant negative association between the author’s social media audience size and the popularity of his or her articles: for every 1000 additional followers, the Altmetric score is lower by a factor of 0.822 (95 percent CI, 0.725 to 0.932), which is the equivalent of 17.8 percent fewer Tweets.

Conclusion: The popularity of an article across social media platforms is associated with the journal’s audience on social media, not with the magnitude of the author’s social media activity.

This and Related “classic” Articles Appear on for Journal Club Discussions.

Providence, R.I.; Chicago, Ill.; Boston, Mass.; Baltimore, Md.; and Washington, D.C.

From the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University; the Section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Chicago Medical Center; the Center for Access Policy, Evaluation and Research, Boston University School of Medicine; the Departments of Surgery and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

Received for publication September 11, 2017; accepted January 9, 2018.

Disclosure: Dr. Henderson serves on the board of directors for the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network/United Network for Organ Sharing, and receives research funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (grant K-01-DK114388). Dr. Song receives royalties from Elsevier Plastic Surgery 3e and 4e and Biomet Microfixation for Sternalock. Dr. Dorafshar receives research support and royalties from KLS Martin and research support from De Puy Synthes. None of the other authors has financial interest to disclose.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the text; simply type the URL address into any Web browser to access this content. Clickable links to the material are provided in the HTML text of this article on the Journal’s website (

A “Hot Topic Video” by Editor-in-Chief Rod J. Rohrich, M.D., accompanies this article. Go to and click on “Plastic Surgery Hot Topics” in the “Digital Media” tab to watch.

Amir H. Dorafshar, M.B.Ch.B., Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center, 601 North Caroline Street, Suite 8161, Baltimore, Md. 21287,

©2018American Society of Plastic Surgeons