Adrián A. Díaz-Faes, Timothy D. Bowman, Rodrigo Costas
‘Social media metrics’ are bursting into science studies as emerging new measures of impact related to scholarly activities. However, their meaning and scope as scholarly metrics is still far from being grasped. This research seeks to shift focus from the consideration of social media metrics around science as mere indicators confined to the analysis of the use and visibility of publications on social media to their consideration as metrics of interaction and circulation of scientific knowledge across different communities of attention, and particularly as metrics that can also be used to characterize these communities. Although recent research efforts have proposed tentative typologies of social media users, no study has empirically examined the full range of Twitter user’s behavior within Twitter and disclosed the latent dimensions in which activity on Twitter around science can be classified. To do so, we draw on the overall activity of social media users on Twitter interacting with research objects collected from the Altmetic.com database. Data from over 1.3 million unique users, accounting for over 14 million tweets to scientific publications, is analyzed. Based on an exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, four latent dimensions are identified: ‘Science Engagement’, ‘Social Media Capital’, ‘Social Media Activity’ and ‘Science Focus’. Evidence on the predominant type of users by each of the four dimensions is provided by means of
VOSviewer term maps of Twitter profile descriptions. This research breaks new ground for the systematic analysis and characterization of social media users’ activity around science.