Dissemination of Cochrane Reviews in social media channels and the influence of ‘positive’ versus ‘negative’ results

Cuello-Garcia C1, Perez-Gaxiola G2, Colunga-Lozano LE3, Delgado-Figueroa N4, Agarwal A5
1Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Canada, 2Cochrane Mexico, Hospital Pediatrico de Sinaloa, Mexico, 3Department of Internal Medicine, Hospital Civil de Guadalajara “Dr. Juan I. Menchaca”, Mexico, 4Department of Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Guadalajara, Mexico, 5University of Toronto, Canada

Background: Currently there is a tendency to measure the research impact of scholarly articles in social media sites (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Scientific Blogs, mass media, etc.). The Cochrane Library uses Altmetrics, a new tool to encompass social activity in the form of mentions on social media channels, online scholarly activity and commentaries.

Objectives: To assess how Cochrane Reviews are disseminated in social media channels and if those with ‘positive’ results (i.e. with a statistically significant result) are more disseminated than those with ‘negative’ results.

Methods: We analysed all systematic reviews published in the Cochrane Library from January to December 2013. Metrics obtained from each review included the number of Tweets, Facebook posts, Blog posts, News media, F1000 evaluations, and the total Altmetric score. Reviews were classified as ‘positive’ if the main outcome effect presented a statistically significant result (P value < 0.05, or if confidence intervals reject the null hypothesis) or ‘negative’ if there was not a statistically significant result, or evidence from individual studies was insufficient or null.

Results: A total of 1007 reviews were evaluated; 37 had been withdrawn from the Cochrane Library and were excluded from the analyses. The 970 reviews included had a median and interquartile range (IQR) of seven included studies (2 to 15), four Tweets (1 to 11), and an Altmetric score of 4 (1 to 11). Reviews with ‘positive’ results had more tweets than the ‘negative’ reviews (11 [5 to 23] vs 4 [1 to 10]; P value < 0.001) and a higher Altmetric score (6 [2 to 18] vs 3 [1 to 8]; P value < 0.001). After adjusting for number of included studies, country of first author, and status of the review, the differences remained statistically significant.

Conclusions: Twitter is the main channel used for disseminating Cochrane Reviews followed by Facebook. Reviews with positive results are tweeted and disseminated in social media channels more often than their negative counterparts.