Twitter is Officially Part of Science Communications

Thanks to the watchful eyes of Ed Yong (@edyong209), Alexis Madrigal (@alexismadrigal) and Ivan Oransky (@ivanoransky), I am pleased to share that a standard exists to cite tweets in academic papers: Apparently, the Modern Language Association has established a format. It is:

Last Name, First name. (User Name). “The tweet in its entirety.” Date, Time. Tweet.

The ‘date’ and ‘time’ are those of the reader, not the tweeter. So the correct citation for this tweet will be:

McBurney, Michael (mimcburney). “Twitter is Officially Part of Science Communications.” March 6, 2012. Time. Tweet

This is the next step in firmly embedding social media into science communications. We are living in an era where science moves in real-time. No longer is scientific debate limited to print with delayed interactions as authors publish in peer-reviewed journals and respond by letter-to-the-editor in the next month/weekly issue. Nor are exchanges limited to questions-and-answers among those physically present at scientific meetings. Scientific debate can now be global and immediate. Digital communications are transforming science.

This observation stimulates me to think about the impact of a digital world.  However, I digress. The story begins more than 1 year ago with the report of bacteria using arsenic rather than phosphorus in DNA at in December, 2010. Dr Felisa Wolfe-Simon and colleagues reported their findings from bacterial obtained in Mono Lake, CAin Science, released online by Science on December 2, 2010. It drew my attention because NASA issued a media advisory 4 days before Science published the study which created an uproar online. Dr Wolfe-Simon has shared her perspective in an interview with Science’s news department but my interest lies in the online discussions surrounding the event. Especially those related to Dr Rosemary Redfield leading up to her decision to submit a  comment for publication in Science on June 3, 2011 (published online on May 27, 2011). The interaction online via blogs and twitter was detailed, immediate, and global.

Stimulated by this series of events using the internet, I wrote and submitted “Changing Dynamics in Science and Communications” for publication in Nutrition Today. On Jan 13, 2011, the editing office acknowledged receipt of the paper. On Jan 15, 2011, the Editor confirmed the manuscript was sent out for peer review. On April 5, 2011, the editorial office sent notice that the manuscript was ‘acceptable for publication pending appropriate revision’. Revisions were made and submitted on April 26, 2011. The editorial office sent notice that the paper had been accepted for publication on May 28, 2011. The paper was published in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue.

Clearly publishing in a peer-reviewed journal does not have the immediacy of posting a blog. Academic journals deem papers worthy before publishing. Impact is partially measured by the prestige of the journal. Anyone can blog. Anytime. As to reach, this is harder to determine. Most blogs are open access. Only subscribers can access subscription-based journals such as Nutrition Today. Or non-subscribers with institutional library access.  Print journals do not have ‘hotlinks’ embedded in them. I prefer digital content with ‘hotlinks’ to hard copies. This feature allows me to easily validate a statement, if needed. These are personal choices. They will change as people adopt new tools.

And now, we have a standard to cite tweets in academic research!


About Michael McBurney

Personal Blog | Nutrition science | Generally curious about impact of social media and open access journals on science communication. Employed by DSM.
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