Depth of media coverage for academic papers strongly based on number of citations

Researchers aimed to fully understand the association between the scientific impact of a paper and the depth of coverage in mass media.

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Scientific findings, particularly those published in peer-reviewed papers, are always the subject of mass media coverage and social media discussion, with some studies ranking as one of the biggest news headlines annually. The level of impact a paper is judged by can be acquired through the number of times it is cited by other peer-reviewed papers.

In a new study, released online in PLOS One, researchers aimed to fully understand the association between the scientific impact of a paper and the depth of coverage in mass media.

In totality, 818 peer-reviewed papers based on physical health and exercise were examined. All of the papers, analyzed for scientific impact, depth of media coverage, and authorship reputability, had been originally published in 2007 and 2008.

“The purpose of this study was to clarify this relationship, while accounting for some other factors that likely influence scientific impact (e.g., the reputations of the scientists conducting the research and academic journal in which the research was published),” the team of co-authors at Brigham Young University (BYU) stated in the findings.

“A structural equation model was produced describing the relationship between non-scientific impact (popular media) and scientific impact (citations), while accounting for author/scientist and journal reputation.”

According to researchers, a direct link was uncovered between the depth of mass media coverage an academic paper receives and the subsequent number of times it is cited in peer-reviewed publications.

“These results indicate that (1) peer-reviewed scientific publications receiving more attention in non-scientific media are more likely to be cited than scientific publications receiving less popular media attention, and (2) the non-scientific media is associated with the scientific agenda,” the BYU research team affirmed.

“Much remains to be discovered concerning interactions between popular media, generally produced by and for non-scientists, and the scientific literature which has historically been written by and for the scientific community,” the study concluded.

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