Social impact in social media: A new method to evaluate the social impact of research

Cristina M. Pulido, Gisela Redondo-Sama, Teresa Sordé-Martí, Ramon Flecha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 Pulido et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. The social impact of research has usually been analysed through the scientific outcomes produced under the auspices of the research. The growth of scholarly content in social media and the use of altmetrics by researchers to track their work facilitate the advancement in evaluating the impact of research. However, there is a gap in the identification of evidence of the social impact in terms of what citizens are sharing on their social media platforms. This article applies a social impact in social media methodology (SISM) to identify quantitative and qualitative evidence of the potential or real social impact of research shared on social media, specifically on Twitter and Facebook. We define the social impact coverage ratio (SICOR) to identify the percentage of tweets and Facebook posts providing information about potential or actual social impact in relation to the total amount of social media data found related to specific research projects. We selected 10 projects in different fields of knowledge to calculate the SICOR, and the results indicate that 0.43% of the tweets and Facebook posts collected provide linkages with information about social impact. However, our analysis indicates that some projects have a high percentage (4.98%) and others have no evidence of social impact shared in social media. Examples of quantitative and qualitative evidence of social impact are provided to illustrate these results. A general finding is that novel evidences of social impact of research can be found in social media, becoming relevant platforms for scientists to spread quantitative and qualitative evidence of social impact in social media to capture the interest of citizens. Thus, social media users are showed to be intermediaries making visible and assessing evidence of social impact.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0203117
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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