Expert communication on Twitter: Comparing economists and scientists’ social networks, topics and communicative styles

Della Guista, Marina; Jaworska, Sylvia and Vukadinović Greetham, Danica (2020). Expert communication on Twitter: Comparing economists and scientists’ social networks, topics and communicative styles. Public Understanding of Science (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662520957252

Abstract

Experts increasingly use social media to communicate with the wider public, prompted by the need to demonstrate impact and public engagement. While previous research on the use of social media by experts focused on single topics and performed sentiment analysis, we propose to extend the scope by investigating experts’ networks, topics and communicative styles. We perform social and semantic network as well language analysis of top tweeting scientists and economists. We find that economists tweet less, mention fewer people and have fewer Twitter conversations with members of the public than scientists. Scientists use a more informal and involved style and engage wider audiences through multimedia contents, while economists use more jargon, and tend to favour traditional written media. The results point to differences in experts’ communicative practices online, and we propose that disciplinary ways of ‘talking’ may pose obstacles to an effective public communication of expert knowledge.

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