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Research at St Andrews

How scientists and physicians use Twitter during a medical congress

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access Status

  • Embargoed (until 16/05/20)


M. Cevik, D. S. Y. Ong, G. Mackenzie

School/Research organisations


OBJECTIVES: During medical congresses Twitter allows discussions to disseminate beyond the congress hall and reach a wider audience. Insights into the dynamics of social media interactions during congresses, dissemination of scientific information and the determinants of a successful tweet may allow us to better understand social media's role in science communication.

METHODS: We retrospectively extracted social media data during the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) 2017 and 2018 using NodeXL. We compared social media activity during these two congresses. Subsequently, we conducted in-depth analyses to identify the components of a successful tweet and multivariable analysis to assess independent factors associated with retweet activity.

RESULTS: In 2018, approximately 13,000 delegates attended ECCMID, but only 591 Twitter accounts actively tweeted about the congress. Although fewer tweets were posted in 2018 compared to 2017 (4,213 vs 4,657, respectively), ECCMID2018 generated a 63% increase in the total number of retweets (p <0.001). According to multivariable logistic regression analysis, using multimedia, URL or hashtags and mentioning other Twitter account(s) were independently associated with retweet success. Mentioning of other users and use of multimedia were the only consistent predictors of retweets irrespective of the number of followers.

CONCLUSIONS: A substantial increase in retweet activity and a modest increase in the number of influential Twitter accounts were observed between two successive congresses. Dissemination of scientific messages is more successful when connected accounts are actively involved in social media activity, and social media posts constitute the right combination of components.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1561.e7-1561.e12
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number12
Early online date16 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • Medical conference, MedTwitter, Science communication, Social media, Twitter

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