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Few medical researchers and healthcare professionals use social media to discover publications

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posted on 18.03.2015 by Tom Rees, Carol Richter, Sheelah Smith

Objective: A recent Nature survey of 3490 researchers revealed widespread use of social media across all disciplines. We analyzed these data to
investigate the prevalence and nature of the use of social media by healthcare professionals to find and discuss scientific literature.


Research design and methods: We conducted an analysis of the 459 survey respondents who listed “medicine” as their primary area of interest.


Results: Most were aged 35-54 (60%), residing in North America or Europe (69%) and based at
a hospital (34%), university/college (27%) or medical school (14%). Most (368 [80%]) used social
networks regularly, with 251 (55%) using >1 network. ResearchGate was the most widely used (51%), followed by LinkedIn (39%) and Facebook (32%). Only 89 (19%) reported using any social networks to discover new scientific publications, and 56 (12%) to comment on new research. Compared with other services, more Twitter and ResearchGate
users used these services to discover new publications (34% and 28%, respectively). Across the full sample, ResearchGate was used to discover literature by 14%, and all others by <5%. However, 276 (60%) thought that online networks were useful in sharing authored content.


Conclusions: Compared with the full survey population, researchers with an interest in medicine
were just as likely to use social networks, although somewhat less likely to use them to discover
and comment on literature. Use of social media for literature discovery by medical researchers
remains low.

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