Earlier today, David Bradley over at ScienceBase announced that his growing list of “Scientific Twitter Friends” has hit the 400 mark.  Given the recent explosion in Twitter use, I was intrigued to see how these science-types are faring in the brave new world of on-line communication, 140 characters at a time.

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This is a bubble chart of David’s science “tweeps,” courtesy of the Many Eyes website (click on the image to play with the original, or see the interactive version below) – the area of each bubble represents the number of users followers for a particular tweep…

It’s not a particularly sophisticated analysis – number of followers is a very crude measure of success or impact on Twitter.  But it does give an indication of where Twitter users with a science-bent stand.  as you would expect, there are plenty of tweeps with modest followings – the mean number of followers is 528 from this particular analysis.  That is a drop in the ocean compared to some of the celebrity power-users now populating Twitter.  But it does represent a respectable foundation for a science-based social network.  And as can be seen, there are a a number of users here who have followers in the four and five digits.

One of the reasons for carrying out this exercise – apart from looking for any excuse to do some real work – was to get a feel for how science information is beginning to flow between different communities and users on the web.  This is just one data-point – a lot more work is needed before the importance of social media to science communication becomes clearer.  But it does at least suggest that scientists and science writers are beginning to embrace new social media.

This can only be good news for science – it might actually mean that people generating and using information begin talking to one another at long last!

Notes:

For this analysis, I knocked out any users with no followers, and two tweeps with excessively high followings (@guardiantech and @Astronautics) – so they didn’t unduly bias the assessment.

And here’s the interactive version of the bubble plot:

Andrew Maynard