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Attention-Grabbing in Two Ways

There's a link between popular media coverage of a scientific study and how often that paper is cited by other researchers, a new analysis has found.

Researchers led by Brigham Young University's Matthew Seeley examined more than 800 peer-reviewed articles, analyzing their scientific impact, the authors' and publications' reputations, and the attention the works received from popular media, including mainstream news, blogs, and social media. They also measured how often the articles — which were all health and exercise science papers — were then cited. As they report in PLOS One this week, the researchers found a strong association between the attention a study received from popular media and how often other researchers cited it.

Seeley and his colleagues note, though, that it is unclear whether scientific impact drives media attention or that media attention drives citation levels, or if a third factor drives both.

Seeley tells Times Higher Education that more work is needed "to investigate causality between scientific attention (i.e., citations) and popular media coverage." He adds, though, that it "would indeed be troublesome" to find that researchers pay more attention, as gauged by citations, "to research receiving more popular media coverage … especially if that increased attention is based only upon the increased popular media coverage."