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The struggle for visibility

Disseminating a scientific article is just as important as publishing it

096-097_Carreiras_240-01The possibility of increasing the resonance of scientific output to reach a larger audience has led many researchers to adopt social media as a tool for disseminating their studies. It is by no mere chance that these platforms are increasingly being incorporated into laboratory work routines, in part because they identify the scope and influence of articles by analyzing citations on websites and social networks and the number of downloads and shares on Twitter and Facebook. Today, 13% of the world’s scientists use Twitter as a platform for disseminating and discussing scientific studies, according to an article published by scientific journal PLOS One (see Pesquisa FAPESP issue nº 221).

“Unlike the United States, the majority of Brazilian scientists still do not understand why they need to disseminate their work; and as a result, they see no point in drawing readers to their articles, which end up lost among thousands of others published every day,” says biologist Átila Iamarino of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the University of São Paulo (ICB/USP) and one of the founders of the scientific blog network entitled ScienceBlogs Brasil.

“Others are suspicious of anyone who uses digital tools to promote their output. They merely publish their works in specialized journals and do not send them to libraries or journalists—or even to colleagues in other departments.” Once it discovered this problem, SciDev.Net of England, the site that disseminates scientific information, published a list of advice to assist researchers in expanding article visibility (see recommendations).

One of the most important criteria for evaluating academic productivity today is the number of papers published. The more articles scientists produce—and the more citations they receive from other researchers—the better. One strategy to increase the impact of scientific publications is to publish them in open access journals. This removes the financial barriers and makes them available to anyone as soon as they are posted online. “Articles published in open access journals usually reach a variety of audiences faster than those published in closed access journals,” Iamarino says. “In Latin America, 25% of article downloads in open access journals are from places other than universities,” he notes.

He suggests that researchers increase the impact and scope of their output by posting it on open access portals such as ResearchGate and “It is just as important to facilitate access to scientific output as it is to identify the type of audience that is interested in them, as well as the places where the articles are shred, discussed and cited,” Iamarino says.

Staying active on the Internet through social networks, blogs or platforms such as Mendeley, can help researchers grow the network of contacts in academia and elsewhere, according to Brazilian biologist Alysson Muotri of the University of California School of Medicine in the United States. “Social networks have a major role to play in the dissemination of science because they enable more interactions with various audiences,” he says.

In his column entitled Espiral on the G1 portal, he disseminates his work and the work of other researchers. “I usually send my scientific articles to a few scientists and associations in the same field and to funding agencies.” Authors have to be very careful when they talk about their own studies. Dissemination requires considerable thought and must be based on more comprehensive work with well-defined conclusions, Muotri suggests.