Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday 30 December 2012

NCBI PubMed and share buttons - easy way to share abstracts?

Update 15 July 2014
This has (sort of) been implemented. You can now share directly from NBCI PubMed to Google+, Facebook and Twitter with one click (if you're also logged in to the services you want to share to) although there's no information given about how many times a particular abstract's been shared. Useful nonetheless and seems to be quite popular.

------- Original post below -------- 

The other day, while reading the answers to a question on Quora: "What is the funniest research paper you have ever read?" I checked on PubMed to see what the URL was for my all-time favourite "Development of a technique for the in vivo assessment of flatulence in dogs" so that I could include it in an answer myself.

While on PubMed I wondered if folk at NCBI knew that I've shared that paper a few times, on Twitter and my blog, in a collection of abstracts or titles that make me giggle, (and now on Quora). I also wondered if the authors knew that their paper had been shared in this way... and that made me wonder about share buttons on PubMed, so that everyone knows how often an abstract's been shared.
Just for fun really as it's not a particularly stable metric to start weighing one abstract against another (see 'More on share buttons and what they can't do' below). Authors whose names are also the names of rude words will be highly 'cited' as I'm sure will any paper making reference to dogs farting, as my favourite one does. I've also shared abstracts that talk about rats flying in space and kittens being startled by a sort of jack-in-the-box device. So the strangeness or amusingness of the paper is definitely a factor.

After a brief exchange on Twitter with Graham Steel (@McDawg) in response to my tweet above he's investigating how useful it might be, with chums at NCBI, and asking other people what they think - there's a poll which he's shared with people via Twitter and email.

I can't really think of any cons other than jealousy if your paper gets shared more than my paper, so to speak, although there may be the risk that people misuse the numbers to imply that their paper's been shared and used more than the 'data' can really say - I think the benefit is mostly for sharers by making it easy to find the right bloomin' link.

Correct URL:
Incorrect URL:

More on share buttons and what they can't do
Article authors will also have copies of their abstracts or even whole papers on their own university site or an academic listing so people might share that link rather than the PubMed one. Also PubMed deals only in biomedical stuff.

But I thought it might be fun for anyone to see that something's been shared. I've noticed that the Advertising Standards Authority has very recently begun doing exactly this so that any adjudication shared from the share buttons on the page will show up. It doesn't show up though if you just copy and paste the URL (so if you want to share a page 'covertly' then that's the way to do it).

I provide a similarly pointless-but-kinda-fun metric for my pals on the CHI+MED project. Because all of our published papers (really pre-prints) are available on our document management system (Knowledge Tree) and it lets you know how often a paper's been downloaded I can provide this info for any paper.

It's fraught with irrelevancy and wrong-ness though because (a) papers that are published early are around longer and have had more opportunity to be downloaded (b) later-published papers are more likely to be promoted on Twitter or elsewhere as we started the Twitter feed a while after the project began. Exactly as above, authors have copies of papers on their own academic pages and they're also findable in university repositories and some journals make copies available too.

It also tells you nothing about the citations, or even if people read them... and if they did read them if they thought they were useful!

1 comment:

  1. And as of 7th July 2014, they have now finally added social media icons. RESULT.


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