Dissemination of scholarly literature in social media

Social media data have been increasingly used to assess the impact of scholarly research. Such data provide complementary metrics (often called altmetrics) to traditional impact indicators. This paper provides a summary on the diffusion of scholarly content in social media, based on a collection of tweets citing papers from a set of 27 academic publishers within various fields between 2011 and 2013. We first show that there has been an increasing adoption of Twitter as a channel to disseminate scholarly literature. In particular, between 2012 and 2013, the number of scholarly tweets and the fraction of tweets (over the entire corpus) have increased by 91.2% and 42.6% respectively. We then analyze the structure of the information diffusion network. We show that the distributions of the numbers of times a specific paper is tweeted, retweeted, and the number of connected components in the diffusion network are scale-free. These preliminary results suggest that, as for other kinds of information, there are underlying mechanisms that lead some scholars and their products to become viral.