One quick trick to increase visibility and citations of research papers

digitization-of-library-3068971_640Since I’m “young” (whatever that means) I sometimes get asked to advise on how to disseminate research outputs through new-fangled doohickies like “the social media” (like writing click-baity headlines). This came up in a School Management Group meeting today, in the context of trying to increase visibility and citation rates for papers published by our faculty. It was something that I was quite interested in, so I spent about an hour doing some quick literature searches and then implementing some of what I found. Here’s the gist:

What drives citation rates in academic papers? A small, quick review.

Subfield Factor Finding Ref
Ecology Twitter Positive association between number of tweets and citation rate (1,599 articles from 20 journals, 2012-2014). Twitter more important than IF. [1]
Various in physics, chemistry, engineering, and biology Various Recency of references (proportion in 5 yrs prior to publication) and number of references in paper were strongest predictors [2]
Ecology Various Annual citation rates of ecological papers are affected by the direction of the study outcome with respect to the hypothesis tested (supportive versus unsupportive evidence), by article length, by the number of authors, and by their country and university of affiliation (228 articles from 1975 to 2001 in 53 ecological journals) [3]
Various Various Higher number of references, a higher share of references to publications within Web of Science and references to more recent publications correlate with citation impact (ca. 1m papers across hundreds of disciplines) [4]
Various Altmetrics Statistically significant associations were found between higher metric scores and higher citations for articles with positive altmetric scores in all cases with sufficient evidence (Twitter, Facebook wall posts, research highlights, blogs, mainstream media and forums). Twitter is the only meaningful altmetric. [5]
Evolutionary psychology Various Articles that cite more references are in turn cited more themselves (r = .44, R2 = .19). Based on 562 articles from 1979-2002 in Ethology and Sociobiology (later Evolution and Human Behavior). [6]
Biomedicine Twitter Correlations between tweets and citations are low, based on 1.4 million documents covered by both PubMed and Web of Science and published between 2010 and 2012. [7]
Various Self citation Self citation accounted for 10% of all citations in a dataset of 1.5 million research papers in the scholarly database JSTOR published between 1779 and 2011. Also, men do it 56% more than women. [8]
Ecology (one guy!) Delayed publication Publishing in lower impact journals leads to greater time published and, therefore, more citations because you don’t waste time getting rejections (based only on the author’s publication record). [9]
Medicine “The Matthew Effect” 12% increase in citations after award of a significant prize. [10]
Various Gold open access 1,138,392 articles from 2009 across 249 subject categories. There is no generalizable gold OA citation advantage, neither at article nor at journal level. [11]
Ecology Open access Open access increases citation rates significantly by (on average) one citation per paper, based on 3534 articles from 46 journals from 2009-2013. [12]

General findings:

  • There is no silver bullet – nothing works all the time.
  • Twitter can be useful if done right but you need networks to share.
  • Citing more (and more recent) papers increases citation rates.
  • Open access (both gold and green) can help.
  • Self-cite, because it can’t hurt.
  • Publicise your success – if you become famous for something, you might get cited more.

This got me thinking: if there is limited evidence for the value of social media, it probably isn’t worth spending a lot of time on it. However, there are plenty of tools out there that can be used to disseminate information on social media very quickly. So here’s the “one quick trick” mentioned in my title: I realised that my institution uses an online repository in which all recently accepted papers are archived ( That repository has a reasonable search function that allows the user to search for papers from particular parts of the university (I was interested in the School of Biology publications) and particular types of outputs (I was interested in books and papers). Here’s the result with a big long list. The lucky thing is, that list can be accessed through an RSS feed. I pulled the RSS feed into a “zap” (on Zapier) so that each time the RSS was updated the zap posted a tweet through the @LeedsEcoEvo Twitter account. Here’s the test, which worked perfectly:

By adding in the #LeedsBiolPapers hashtag, I can easily retrieve the tweets in case I want to share them. So there we go: no-effort sharing of papers from an entire academic department through Twitter, which may (possibly) increase citation rates (according to some studies…).


  1. Peoples, B.K., et al., Twitter Predicts Citation Rates of Ecological Research. PLOS ONE, 2016. 11(11): p. e0166570.
  2. Onodera, N. and F. Yoshikane, Factors affecting citation rates of research articles. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 2015. 66(4): p. 739-764.
  3. Leimu, R. and J. Koricheva, What determines the citation frequency of ecological papers? Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2005. 20(1): p. 28-32.
  4. Ahlgren, P., C. Colliander, and P. Sjögårde, Exploring the relation between referencing practices and citation impact: A large-scale study based on Web of Science data. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, in press.
  5. Thelwall, M., et al., Do Altmetrics Work? Twitter and Ten Other Social Web Services. PLOS ONE, 2013. 8(5): p. e64841.
  6. Webster, G.D., P.K. Jonason, and T.O. Schember, Hot Topics and Popular Papers in Evolutionary Psychology: Analyses of Title Words and Citation Counts in Evolution and Human Behavior, 1979 – 2008. Evolutionary Psychology, 2009. 7(3): p. 147470490900700301.
  7. Haustein, S., et al., Tweeting biomedicine: An analysis of tweets and citations in the biomedical literature. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 2014. 65(4): p. 656-669.
  8. King, M.M., et al., Men Set Their Own Cites High: Gender and Self-citation across Fields and over Time. Socius, 2017. 3: p. 2378023117738903.
  9. Şekercioğlu, Ç.H., Citation opportunity cost of the high impact factor obsession. Current Biology, 2013. 23(17): p. R701-R702.
  10. Azoulay, P., T. Stuart, and Y. Wang, Matthew: Effect or Fable? Management Science, 2013. 60(1): p. 92-109.
  11. Dorta-González, P., S.M. González-Betancor, and M.I. Dorta-González, Reconsidering the gold open access citation advantage postulate in a multidisciplinary context: an analysis of the subject categories in the Web of Science database 2009–2014. Scientometrics, 2017. 112(2): p. 877-901.
  12. Tang, M., J.D. Bever, and F.-H. Yu, Open access increases citations of papers in ecology. Ecosphere, 2017. 8(7): p. e01887-n/a.




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