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Publicize or Perish! A Guide to Social Media Promotion of Scientific Articles

Featuring the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery “Author Tool Kit”

Branford, Olivier Alexandre Ph.D., M.R.C.S., F.R.C.S.(Plast.); Mallucci, Patrick F.R.C.S., F.R.C.S.(Plast.)

Author Information
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: October 2015 - Volume 136 - Issue 4 - p 579e-581e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000001589
  • Free

Sir:

A recent blog examining promotion of scientific publications in the mainstream press concluded that academia has become part of the problem in generating biased interpretations of those studies.1 In contrast, we suggest that close collaboration between authors and public relations teams of scientific publications may ensure the accuracy of news items.

There are incentives to authors to promote their scientific work: scientists compete for increasingly scarce grants; expanding journal numbers leads to dilution of scientific data. Authors need to keep their work afloat in this torrent of information.

It is easy to see how exaggerated claims arise. First, authors may exaggerate the implications of their findings: we agree with the British Medical Journal’s proposal of accountability by having named authors on press releases.2 Second, distortion may arise during creation of press releases by marketing teams. Third, journalists may accept assertions in press releases without checking original studies.

The Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery “Author Tool Kit” advises authors as to how a social media response can help build traffic for an article, ensuring that work will be read, spread, and cited beyond the confines of libraries and journal Web sites.3 It also provides information on making articles discoverable by search engine optimization, use of e-mail, and contacting press outlets. It is easier for authors to learn about social media than it is for commercial marketing companies to learn about scientific method.

As a starting point, authors need a clear interesting message with widespread public relevance. Twitter has been central to disseminating research findings providing customized real-time news delivery. We have learned a great deal about the use of social media through the promotion of our article “Population Analysis of the Perfect Breast: A Morphometric Analysis” released in the September issue of the Journal.4 Authors should control press releases themselves to minimize bias, working directly with the public relations teams of scientific journals after acceptance of their article. These teams may have good connections with the press. By following the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Author Tool Kit advice, we have gained a following of 15,000 genuine Twitter users with over 12,000 profile views per week. The study was featured internationally in a number of magazines, newspapers, and countless blogs (Fig. 1).5–8 The article was the most viewed in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery for 4 months after its publication. If a story has public interest, the journal may promote it by means of press releases6 or using media such as video.9

Fig. 1
Fig. 1:
Blog of our September Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery article on Health magazine Web site. (Lombardi L. Available at: What the perfect breast looks like, according to men and women. http://news.health.com/2014/11/04/what-the-perfect-breast-looks-like-according-to-men-and-women/. Accessed April 7, 2015.)

Article-level metrics measure impact at an article level instead of journal level. Other alternative metrics, or “altmetrics,” include full-text and PDF downloads and mentions in social media. Online “hit counts” and the number of tweets related to an article, or “tweetations,” correlate well with subsequent citations and therefore impact factor.10,11

Public appetite for science news is healthy and growing and may ultimately serve to support high-quality translational research with real-world application. For a small time investment, social media provides authors a way of disseminating information while minimizing bias.

DISCLOSURE

The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article.

Olivier Alexandre Branford, Ph.D., M.R.C.S., F.R.C.S.(Plast.)

Patrick Mallucci, F.R.C.S., F.R.C.S.(Plast.)

The Cadogan Clinic

London, United Kingdom

REFERENCES

1. Anderson K. Exaggerated claims—Has “publish or perish” become “publicize or perish”? Available at: http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/12/15/exaggerated-claims-has-publish-or-perish-become-publicize-or-perish/. Accessed April 7, 2015
2. Goldacre B. Preventing bad reporting on health research. BMJ. 2014;349:g7465
3. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. . Author Tool Kit. Available at: http://links.lww.com/PRS/b45. Accessed April 7, 2015
4. Mallucci P, Branford OA. Population analysis of the perfect breast: A morphometric analysis. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014;134:436––447
5. Lombardi L. What the perfect breast looks like, according to men and women. Available at: http://news.health.com/2014/11/04/what-the-perfect-breast-looks-like-according-to-men-and-women/. Accessed April 7, 2015
6. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. . Plastic surgery researches ask, “What’s the perfect breast?” Available at: http://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/past-press-releases/2014-archives/whats-the-perfect-breast.html. Accessed April 7, 2015
7. Weatherby J. What does the “perfect breast” look like? The newest trend in augmentation might not be what you think. Available at: http://www.realself.com/blog/breast-augmentation-end-porn-star-look#/.VK1U9dKsVrM. Accessed April 7, 2015
8. Davies L. The perfect aesthetic breast. Available at: http://www.byanise.com/the-perfect-aesthetic-breast/. Accessed April 7, 2015
9. Rohrich RJ. The perfect breast. Available at: http://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Pages/videogallery.aspx?videoId=538&autoPlay=true. Accessed April 7, 2015
10. Perneger TV. Relation between online “hit counts” and subsequent citations: Prospective study of research papers in the BMJ. BMJ. 2004;329:546–547
11. Eysenbach G. Can tweets predict citations? Metrics of social impact based on Twitter and correlation with traditional metrics of scientific impact. J Med Internet Res. 2011;13:e123

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Viewpoints, pertaining to issues of general interest, are welcome, even if they are not related to items previously published. Viewpoints may present unique techniques, brief technology updates, technical notes, and so on. Viewpoints will be published on a space-available basis because they are typically less timesensitive than Letters and other types of articles. Please note the following criteria:

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