Twitter and Mastodon presence of highly-cited scientists

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Social media platforms have an increasing influence in biomedical and other disciplines of science and public health. While Twitter has been a popular platform for scientific communication, changes in ownership have led some users to consider migrating to other platforms such as Mastodon. We aimed to investigate how many top-cited scientists are active on these social media platforms, the magnitude of the migration to Mastodon, and correlates of Twitter presence. A random sample of 900 authors was examined among those who are at the top-2% of impact based on a previously validated composite citation indicator using Scopus data. Searches for their personal Twitter accounts were performed in early December 2022, and re-evaluations were performed at 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 2 months (February 6, 2023). 262/900 (29.1%) of highly-cited scholars had Twitter accounts, and only 9/800 (1%) had Mastodon accounts. Female gender, North American and Australia locations, younger publication age, and clinical medicine or social science expertise correlated with higher percentages of Twitter use. The vast majority of highly-cited author users of Twitter had few followers and tweets. Only 6 had more than 10,000 followers and none had more than 100,000. One limitation of our study is that it is possible that some accounts, especially with Mastodon, could not be detected. However, the study suggests that Twitter remains the preferred social media platform for highly-cited authors, and Mastodon has not yet challenged Twitter’s dominance. Moreover, most highly-cited scientists with Twitter accounts have limited presence in this medium.

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