If Twitter were good for academics

In my experience, most academics are skeptical of the professional value of Twitter. Will it enhance my career in a meaningful way? Or will it it rot my brain? What would be nice to see is some actual research on questions like this.

Lo an behold, one of the first papers in the new journal #Hashtag, humorously titled “Does this tweet make me look dumb?” is right on point. Here’s the abstract.

Using natural language processing (NLP) techniques and an instrumental variables analysis, we establish the causal link between style of use of Twitter by academics and their career advancement and publication rate. Prior work in this area suggested that Twitter use was negatively correlated with advancement and publication. However, these approaches did not correct for the endogeneity of selection into Twitter use. We exploit rates of change of subtweeting on academic campuses, established with a novel NLP algorithm, as an exogenous instrument. Doing so, we find that academics who engage with students on Twitter, use few hashtags, and adhere to established social conventions for manual retweets publish 1.2 more papers per year than their counterparts who do not. In a subanalysis of faculty untenured at baseline, we find that those who tweet an average of 10 times per week (retweets excluded) reach tenure 3.4 months more quickly than than those who do not use the Twitter platform. Our hypothesis, corroborated by structured interviews, suggests that the mechanism for these effects is that the interactions professors experience on Twitter serve as a source of fresh ideas and inspiration, more than compensating for the time spent tweeting. Our work indicates that consideration of updating promotion and tenure criteria to encourage use of Twitter may be warranted.

The paper is ungated, surprisingly brief, and a fun read. Do click through. (H/t Adrianna McIntyre.)


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