Using Twitter to drive research impact: A discussion of strategies, opportunities and challenges

Below are the citation and abstract of a new paper on the use of Twitter to drive research impact.

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CITATION: International Journal of Nursing Studies

Volume 59, July 2016, Pages 15–26

Using Twitter to drive research impact: A discussion of strategies, opportunities and challenges

Katy Schnitzler, Nigel Davies, Fiona Ross, Ruth Harris



Researchers have always recognised the importance of disseminating the findings of their work, however, recently the need to proactively plan and drive the impact of those findings on the wider society has become a necessity. Firstly, this is because funders require evidence of return from investment and secondly and crucially because national research assessments are becoming powerful determinants of future funding. In research studies associated with nursing, impact needs to be demonstrated by showing the effect on a range of stakeholders including service users, patients, carers, the nursing workforce and commissioners. Engaging these groups is a well-known challenge influenced by lack of access to academic journals, lack of time to read long complex research papers and lack of opportunities to interact directly with the researchers. This needs to be addressed urgently to enable nursing research to increase the impact that it has on health delivery and the work of clinical practitioners. Social media is potentially a novel way of enabling research teams to both communicate about research as studies progress and to disseminate findings and research funders are increasingly using it to publicise information about research programmes and studies they fund. A search of the healthcare literature reveals that advice and guidance on the use of social media for research studies is not well understood or exploited by the research community. This paper, therefore, explores how using social networking platforms, notably Twitter offers potential new ways for communicating research findings, accessing diverse and traditionally hard-to-reach audiences, knowledge exchange at an exponential rate, and enabling new means of capturing and demonstrating research impact. The paper discusses approaches to initiate the setup of social networking platforms in research projects and considers the practical challenges of using Twitter in nursing and healthcare research. The discussion is illuminated with examples from our current research. In summary, we suggest that the use of social media micro-blogging platforms is a contemporary, fast, easy and cost effective way to augment existing ways of disseminating research which helps drive impact.

What is already known about the topic?

– Demonstrating impact of research is an increasing requirement of universities, funding bodies and governments in higher income countries, a trend which almost certainly will spread internationally.

– The use of social networking sites is expanding communication and networking in business and increasingly used in health and nursing communities.

– The use of social networking/micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter™ and Facebook™ by researchers as part of strategies to engage wider audiences are not well developed.

What this paper adds

– Comprehensive review and discussion of how micro-blogging platforms can be used to support dissemination and potentially increase the spread and impact of research.

– A scholarly discussion of how social networking sites can contribute to proactively engaging with multiple audiences to facilitate research impact.

– A detailed practical guide for researchers to enable them to consider how social networking platforms can support their research and its ongoing impact.

Best wishes, Neil

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