Scientists and social media

Social media has become an important platform to access and share information globally. In academia, social media also has become a new way to publish research and share personal opinions. While some universities and departments require that their faculty members have a profile in social media and encourage them to have an active role, in general, is a personal choice to have a public profile. However, in an era of technology and social media, if research faculty wants to keep up with new research trends and have a broad audience for their research, they must have a public profile and contact with the public and other researchers.

Many researchers with a public profile in social media, have become famous and have a big number of followers. There are evidences that researchers with abundant followers will have more citations, maybe because they are reaching a bigger audience, or maybe because the public assumes that they are experts in a subject, without digging in their list of publications and achievements. The question is whether these researchers are famous for their research or just for their comments on social media?

I found an interesting 2014 article published in the journal Genome Biology, a peer-reviewed and open access journal of medicine. In that publication, the author’s argument is that some scientists have a big audience in social media, which does not mean they are the experts or authorities in a specific topic or field. He proposed a new metric “The Kardashian Index” to measure the real performance of scientists on social media as compared with their research achievements. While the author expressed that the study was done just for fun, it is interesting to see that the academic performance of a famous scientist could be due to his active participation in Twitter or they could have a mediocre research career. Indeed, the author compares these researchers with celebrity Kim Kardashian.

I will leave the link of this publication below in case if you want to read it (it is only 2 ½ pages long).


  1. Hall: The Kardashian index: a measure of discrepant social media profile for scientists. Genome Biology 2014 15:424. (doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0424-0)


Filed under Preparing the Future Professoriate

10 Responses to Scientists and social media

  1. mgbullar

    I think this really goes back to the discussion we had in class today about the importance of being able to clearly communicate our research with the general public. We could have the most groundbreaking work, but if we can’t share that with the general public, policies won’t change, lives can’t improve, and we really fail at our ultimate research goal. Interacting with the public plays a key role in disseminating our research, and we would do well to start early and often sharing what we do with the general public.

  2. zookat13

    The article about the “Kardashian Index” was very interesting. I’m curious how the differences in access (Twitter is publicly accessible, citations would have to come from elsewhere in the scientific community via publication) might influence index ratings. For example, a scientist who is very good at engaging with the non-scientific public or tweets entertaining things is likely to have more Twitter followers, compared to a scientist who tweets more field-specific content, and thus is more likely to become a “Kardashian, even if both have the same number of citations. In effect, this metric might penalize scientists who put a lot of effort into science communication and outreach by saying that their work is overvalued compared to output.

  3. xsharma

    Love the concept of Kardashian Index! I do think some faculty are very good at marketing themselves on social media. Some of them, unfortunately, sell their work on social media to a non-expert audience at a level well above what their academic contribution merits. There are benefits of social media in communicating scientific work to the general public, but one also has to be careful in using the medium responsibly!

  4. alliem

    As I read this article, I could not help but think of Sebastian Gorka. With almost 50k followers on twitter, a PhD that has had its legitimacy highly debated, and a former US policy maker (under Trump for a few short months), he really is the picture perfect example of one thing this article is trying to convey. He has the twitter following and education that could make him appear legitimate, and certainly does to far right leaning folks, but in all reality the man is not someone who should be working on policy or influencing people on twitter.

    I like the concept this author is working with, but I am not sure how I feel about citations being used to essentially measure legitimacy. The reason being that there is just an abundance of scholarship and getting noticed (cited) is difficult. I wonder if there are other parameters that would be better indicators.

  5. sbbaron

    You made a good point that social media is useful to spread knowledge quickly and across boundaries in academia. Research is always being improved upon and social media allows researches to spread those improvements quickly.

  6. sofrgp

    Thank you for sharing. I found that social media is a key element to increase citations. Now a days, the citation strategy needs to include technology and platforms such as twitter to increase the impact on a published paper, which at the end help the author to promote their work.

  7. udayad15

    Nice blog post! It’s true that sharing research ideas and opinions is very useful in science. But I often see people talking/bragging too big on the social media but the genuineness missing in their actual work/claims. I agree with @alliem on this. This kind of an attitude in some scientists is pretty bad but somehow they seem to get away with it by maintaining a high profile in social media.

  8. Aanuoluwapo Ojelade

    The Kardashian index was fun to read. The analysis shows that women were being marginalized in the community which means that men have more followers on social media. It will be nice to see an infographic which shows that women are not being followed on social media.

  9. Lee Gill

    It is interestinf to see the index standard. Though it meant to be something funny I do believe that there’s some truth behind it. I agree with you that there’s more texhnology aided classroom materials and we see a lot of benefits. My personal experience in academia is that people not only use technology to connect but also to educate. For example, Linkedin is a popular platform where professionals can connect. However, it is also used as a place for learning, whether it is how something works.

  10. Carlos Michelen

    I did not like the Kardashian index, sorry. It basically advocates for scientists self-imposing limits on the size of their following on social media based on how influential they are in their disciplines. Why? If someone is good at communicating and gets a large following and enjoys telling others their opinion why shouldn’t they? Why should this be linked to their achievements in their disciplines? I immediately think about people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, great scientific communicators with huge followings. I have no idea about how influential they are in their respective fields, nor do I care.

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