Tell us about your paper – and make it short and tweet

A medical journal now requires submissions to be accompanied by a Twitter-length summary

July 9, 2015
Twitter tweet button on Apple Mac keyboard

Researchers submitting articles with an abstract to a medical journal will now have to provide a tweetable version. A 110-character summary is now compulsory for academics seeking to be published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The tweets should “succinctly summarise” the paper and “will be used in social media dissemination”, say guidelines published online. The measure was introduced in 2014 “to encourage authors to think about the dissemination of their papers when they submit them”, assistant editor Louisa Waite said.

“Now we have the functionality to publish these at article level, online and in print,” she said, adding that “the request is in keeping with the journal’s image”. BJOG is very active on social media, regularly tweeting to 4,800-plus followers via @BJOGTweets, and posts are also shared on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

The idea has garnered support from some academics. “Wow!” tweeted Atul Butte (@atulbutte), director of the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. Shane McKee (@shanemuk), a consultant in genetic medicine at the Belfast Trust, said he loved the idea.

Other supporters noted the difficulties of boiling a research project down to a tweet. Veena Rodrigues (@vcrodrigues_uea), clinical senior lecturer at Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, said: “Great news – very challenging to #summarise paper in 110 characters though!”

But Mike Klymkowsky (@mikeklymkowsky), professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, was less enamoured. He asked why everything had to be “over-simplified”, trivialised, “and hyped”.

BJOG is not the first journal to stipulate that authors must provide a tweet describing their work when submitting a paper. In 2012 the online-only journal of the British Ecological Society, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, introduced the measure. It said it wanted to move away from tweeting article titles because it thought it would be more interesting if authors stated papers’ key message in their own words. In April 2013, its sister publication, the Journal of Ecology, also adopted the protocol.

European Respiratory Society journals including European Respiratory Journal and European Respiratory Review also offer abstracts that online readers can “click to tweet”.

Academics presenting at the International Congress for Conservation Biology, held in Montpellier from 2 to 6 August, are being encouraged to share their tweetable abstracts. The conference’s Twitter feed (@ICCB_ECCB) has posted a link to a video that explains the benefits of turning a conference abstract into 140 characters.

But why stop at the abstract? On the blog teabreak wildlife news Camellia Williams (@camellia_will), communications officer at the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, notes the trend for “tweetable posters”, which present bullet points about the research, photographs and data graphs. The format’s simplicity “makes it easy to highlight a project’s impact or identify solutions, and...the reach of these posters goes far beyond that of the traditional posters you find at conferences”, she writes.

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Article originally published as: THE Scholarly Web (9 July 2015)

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