The verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it?
“In October 2011 I began a project to make all of my 26 articles published in refereed journals available via UCL’s Open Access Repository – “Discovery“. I decided that as well as putting them in the institutional repository, I would write a blog post about each research project, and tweet the papers for download. Would this affect how much my research was read, known, discussed, distributed? I wrote about the stories behind the research papers – the stuff that doesn’t make it into the official writeup... So what are my conclusions about this whole experiment? Some rough stats, first of all. Most of my papers, before I blogged and tweeted them, had one to two downloads, even if they had been in the repository for months (or years, in some cases). Upon blogging and tweeting, within 24 hours, there were, on average, 70 downloads of my papers. Now, this might not be internet meme status, but that’s a huge leap in interest. Most of the downloads followed the trajectory I described with the downloads to Digital Curiosities, in that there would be a peak of interest, then a long tail after. I believe that the first spike of interest from people clicking the link that flies by them on twitter (which was sometimes retweeted) is then replaced by a gradual trickle of visitors from postings on other blogs, and the fact that the very blog posts about the papers make them more findable when the subject is googled. People read the blog posts – I have about 2000 visitors here a month, 70 per cent new, with an average time on the site of 1 minute and 5 seconds... The image above shows the top ten papers downloaded from my entire department over the last year. There were a total of 6172 downloads from our department (UCL Department of Information Studies is one of the leading iSchools in the UK). Look at the spikes. That’s where I blog and tweet about my research. I’m not the only person producing research in my department. You will see that 7 out of 10 of the most downloaded papers from my Department in the last calendar year have me in the author list. 27 out of the top 50 downloads in our department in the last calendar year feature me (as a rough guide, I get about 1/3 of the entire downloads for my department). My stuff isn’t better than my colleagues’ work. They’re all doing wonderful things! But I’m just the only one actively promoting access to my research papers. If you tell people about your research, they look at it. Your research will get looked at more than papers which are not promoted via social media. Some obvious points and conclusions. Don’t tweet things at midnight... Don’t tweet important things on a Friday, especially not late... The best time is between 11am and 5pm GMT, Monday to Thursday in a working week... The paper that really flew – Digital Curiosities – has now been downloaded over a thousand times in the past year. It was the 16th most downloaded paper from our entire institutional repository in the final quarter of 2011, and the 3rd most downloaded paper in UCL’s entire Arts Faculty in the past year. It’s all relative really – what does this really mean? Well, I can tell you that this paper was the most downloaded paper in 2011 in LLC Journal, where it was published (and where it lives behind a paywallapart from being available free from Discovery). LLC is the most prestigious journal in the discipline I operate in, Digital Humanities. The entire download count for this paper from LLC itself, which made it top paper last year? 376 full text downloads. There have been almost 3 times that number of downloads from our institutional repository. What does this mean? I think its fair to say: It’s a really good thing to make your work open access. More people will read it than if it is behind a paywall. Even if it is the most downloaded paper from a journal in your field, Open Access makes it even more accessed. However. I might just have written a nice paper that caught people’s interest: there are, after all, no controls to this are there? How can we tell if papers would fly without this type of exposure? Well, I might not have tweeted one or two papers to see the difference between tweeting and blogging about papers and not doing so. Take the LAIRAH (Log Analysis of Internet Resources in the Arts and Humanities) project, which I wrote about here. We actually published four papers from this research. I tweeted and promoted three of them actively. One I didn’t mention to you. Here are the download counts. Guess which one I didn’t circulate?  Library and information resources and users of digital resources in the humanities: 297 downloads...  Documentation and the users of digital resources in the humanities: 209 downloads...  If You Build It Will They Come? The LAIRAH Study: Quantifying the Use of Online Resources in the Arts and Humanities through Statistical Analysis of User Log Data.: 142 downloads...  The Master Builders: LAIRAH Research on Good Practice in the Construction of Digital Humanities Projects: 12 downloads. The papers that were tweeted and blogged had at least more than 11 times th