Beyond Journals-Visual Abstracts Promote Wider Suicide Prevention Research Dissemination and Engagement: A Randomized Crossover Trial

Front Res Metr Anal. 2020 Oct 14:5:564193. doi: 10.3389/frma.2020.564193. eCollection 2020.


Background: Many academic institutions and journals disseminate research through social media to increase accessibility and reach a wider audience. "Visual Abstracts" are well-suited for social media dissemination, and have been adopted by some as a novel approach to increase engagement with academic content. Visual abstracts are a visual representation of key methods and findings from a traditional peer-reviewed publication. This study expands on previous research by examining the impact of visual abstracts compared to traditional text abstracts to disseminate research produced in a national research center focused on preventing Veteran suicide. Methods: A prospective, randomized crossover design was utilized to compare Twitter posts with a visual abstract to those with a simple screen grab of the PubMed abstract (n = 50 journal publications). Outcomes were measured using native Twitter Analytics to track impressions, retweets, total engagements, and link clicks about 28 days post-tweet, and Altmetric It to track additional alternative metric outcomes. Results: Visual abstract tweets were associated with a significantly higher number of impressions (p < 0.001), retweets (p < 0.001), and link clicks (p = 0.02) compared with text abstract tweets. Conclusions: In line with results from prior studies, we found that visual abstracts resulted in significantly greater research dissemination and social media engagement via retweets and link clicks compared with text tweets. These findings provide further evidence that visual abstracts increase awareness and readership of journal publications, and that Twitter is an effective platform for research dissemination beyond the traditional academic researcher audience. Implications highlight the importance of social media for suicide prevention advocates, Veteran health researchers and other stakeholders to communicate research findings.

Keywords: altmetric; open science; randomized crossover design; social media; suicide prevention; twitter; veterans.