Last week we got published in PLOS One a paper entitled ‘The unbearable emptiness of tweeting – About journal articles‘. Such provocative title was difficult to go unnoticed and almost immediately and ironically, people started to engage with it in Twitter commenting, criticizing and praising the paper. Among critiques, there were some regarding to the field analyzed (Dentistry), the fact that we focus our tweet analysis on the top 10 most tweeted papers or the feeling that our main message was that tweeting about research was a complete waste of time.
The reasons for such reaction might as well be many, but my take is that it is not due to the novelty of our findings (which I believe were not that surprising) but for being so bold on our conclusions. Altmetrics, as it also happens with Open Access, seem to be surrounded by a certain aura by which researchers seem to scare to criticize its limitations based on the assumption that they may lead to a complete disregard from the scientific community. It is as if we now there is something in them and therefore, we do not want to make them look too bad. Hence limitations are always presented with extreme care. In my opinion, this is dangerous. Bibliometricians and researchers working on altmetrics or social media metrics might be aware of their limitations, but many are not and are seeing these new metrics (with great potential, that is out of question) as true ‘saviors’ to the ill-fated Impact Factor.
and this is a shame because i thought altmetrics would become a new IF or individual’s H index. Obviously needs optimised for this to happen
— Eilidh (@EilidhPinkChic) August 25, 2017
Of course the paper does not position itself against the use of tweeting scientific literature, nor it states that all tweets relating to scientific literature are meaningless, but that current metrics based on Twitter are too flawed. That is not to say that meaningful metrics and approaches cannot be developed from Twitter and in fact there are many doing a fantastic job on better understanding Twitter and its value for research evaluation to develop more meaningful methodologies and metrics.