How Much Research Shared On Facebook Happens Outside Of Public Pages And Groups? A Comparison of Public and Private Online Activity around PLOS ONE Papers

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

Enkhbayar, A., Haustein, S., Barata, G., & Alperin, J. P. (2020). How much research shared on Facebook happens outside of public pages and groups? A comparison of public and private online activity around PLOS ONE papers. Quantitative Science Studies, Advance publication.

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1162/qss_a_00044
Public engagement
Science communication

Despite its undisputed position as the biggest social media platform, Facebook has never entered the main stage of altmetrics research. In this study, we argue that the lack of attention by altmetrics researchers is due, in part, to the challenges in collecting Facebook data regarding activity that takes place outside of public pages and groups. We present a new method of collecting aggregate counts of shares, reactions, and comments across the platform—including users’ personal timelines—and use it to gather data for all articles published between 2015 to 2017 in the journal PLOS ONE. We compare the gathered data with altmetrics collected and aggregated by Altmetric. The results show that 58.7% of papers shared on Facebook happen outside of public spaces and that, when collecting all shares, the volume of activity approximates patterns of engagement previously only observed for Twitter. Both results suggest that the role and impact of Facebook as a medium for science and scholarly communication has been underestimated. Furthermore, they emphasize the importance of openness and transparency around the collection and aggregation of altmetrics.

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