Social Media for Research Dissemination

Edited by Lara Killian, AHIP

Social media has been around for quite a while but has an iffy reputation, especially in the academic community. Social media may seem to be full of trolls and celebrity gossip, but it is also useful in communicating knowledge and as a siren for emergency response. If done right, social media can bring seemingly disparate ideas or communities together in novel and inventive ways.

There are many social media platforms to choose from, and they can be used for personal or professional interests. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the most popular and widely used, while ResearchGate,, LinkedIn, and Mendeley have niche users and are more focused in their respective purposes.

Today, about two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media [1]. To make sure that reporting is fair, researchers should be weighing in on the latest news. This will help users who gather news and information from social media to make better informed decisions and gather authoritative knowledge of what is happening in the world around them.

Reasons to use social media to disseminate research include:

  • debunk fake news
  • corroborate truth
  • widen research exposure
  • communicate with peers
  • keep up-to-date
  • connect directly with journalists and policymakers

Despite the popularity and ubiquity of social media platforms, many institutions are leery of social media and, therefore, do not support its use during working hours [2]. This needs to change, especially as the need for experts in these realms grow. As reported in 1985, “Scientists must learn to communicate with the public, be willing to do so, and indeed consider it their duty to do so” [3]. Librarians are in a great position to teach, inform, and guide the use of social media, because we embrace new technologies and promote their use as lifelong learners.

In the 2010 report, If You Build It, Will They Come? How Researchers Perceive and Use Web 2.0, the authors found that researchers used at least one form of social media to communicate their work, collaborate with colleagues, or keep up with them. The respondents also thought blogs were a waste of time. To combat this notion and raise awareness of social media’s usefulness, the authors suggested that university libraries provide guidance and training on their use and that university administrations develop policies and standards of practice in order to encourage innovation and openness while maintaining security and confidentiality [4].

Blogging is a great way to disseminate research findings. Blogging can be micro as in Twitter, and it can be macro such as creating your own research blog or guest blogging on other institutional or news platforms. Unless you plan to blog regularly and have a plan, it may be best to look for opportunities to contribute to existing blogs, newsletters, and the like. Check out the Social Media: A Librarian by Any Other Name MLA News column about launching a librarian blog for some food for thought.

Video and podcasting have more recently come to light in the academic community. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has added short videos on summarizing research findings, called Quick Take Videos. The University of Utah Health Sciences Radio program The Scope produces frequent short podcasts on a variety of consumer health topics, while the Cochrane Collaboration records short podcast summaries of freshly published systematic reviews.

With a variety of platforms available, it can be easier than ever to find the one that works for any researcher. By being informed about the options out there, librarians can provide valuable advice to researchers who are looking to communicate beyond the traditional academic journal article.

A reading list to better equip the librarian/research with the knowledge and use of social media:


    1. Shearer E, Gottfried J. News use across social media platforms 2017 [Internet]. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center; 2017 [cited 7 Nov 2017]. <>.
    2. McClain CR. Practices and promises of Facebook for science outreach: becoming a “Nerd of Trust.” PLOS Biol. 2017;15(6):e2002020. DOI:
    3. Bodmer WF. The public understanding of science [Internet]. London, UK: Royal Society; 1985 [cited 11 Sep 2017].
    4. Poschen M, Voss A, Snee H, Asgari-Traghi M, Chen M, Combs R, Elvey R, Harries B, Pechurina A. If you build it, will they come? how researchers perceive and use Web 2.0 [Internet]. London, UK: Research Information Network; 2010 [cited 28 Aug 2017]. <>.


    Originally published in: MLA News, November 15, 2017 at