The Number of Tweets Predicts Future Citations of a Specific Journal Article

Citations of journal articles and the impact factor are widely used measures of scientific impact. Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and social bookmarking tools provide the possibility to construct article-level or journal-level metrics to gauge impact and influence.

Between 2008 and 2011, all tweets containing links to articles in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) were data mined.The tweets were compared to subsequent citation data 17-29 months later.

4,000 tweets cited 280 JMIR articles. The distribution of tweets followed a power law, with most tweets sent on the day when an article was published (44% of all tweets in a 60-day period) or on the following day (16%), followed by a rapid decay.

The Pearson correlations between "tweetations" and regular citations were moderate and statistically significant (0.42 to 0.72).

Highly tweeted articles were 11 times more likely to be highly cited than less-tweeted articles.

Top-cited articles could be predicted from top-tweeted articles with 93% specificity and 75% sensitivity.

Tweets can predict highly cited articles within the first 3 days of article publication.

Social media activity may:

- increase citations
- reflect the underlying qualities of the article

Social impact measures based on tweets are proposed to complement traditional citation metrics. The study author proposed a "twimpact" factor that measures uptake and filters research resonating with the public in real time.

After the initial publication, some science blogs have pointed out potential issues and conflicts of interests in relation to the topic and the single author who is also the founder, owner, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal. You can find more by performing a Google search for "twimpact" factor or checking the references section at the end of this post. Overall, I think this is an interesting concept and Gunther Eysenbach did a great job focusing the attention of the journal publishers on Twitter and Facebook as distribution channels that can also guide in measuring the impact of their articles.


Can Tweets Predict Citations? Metrics of Social Impact Based on Twitter and Correlation with Traditional Metrics of Scientific Impact. Gunther Eysenbach. J Med Internet Res 2011;13(4):e123.

New research plus twitter. Does it make a difference in the clinic. Heidi Allen Digital Strategy in Health.

'Highly Tweeted Articles Were 11 Times More Likely to Be Highly Cited'. The Atlantic.

Twimpact factors: can tweets really predict citations? BMJ.

Tweets, and Our Obsession with Alt Metrics

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Comments from Twitter:

@paediatrix:  Interesting. Makes sense

Harris Lygidakis @lygidakis: And Twimpact Factor is a good sign of what's ahead!

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