A medical researcher discovers the power of combining open access with social media
Bertalan Mesko is a medical doctor studying for a PhD in clinical genomics at the University of Debrecen in Hungary. He is also a medical blogger at Scienceroll.com and microblogger at Twitter.com/Berci. An expert in web 2.0 tools and social media, he launched the first university credit course for medical students to focus on web 2.0 and medicine.
So what happened when he published his first paper? Naturally, Dr Mesko chose to publish it in an open access journal and to use his expertise with social media to share it as widely as possible.
“As I’ve been a medical blogger for years, it was clear to me I would like to get as much feedback as possible for my work so we decided to publish the paper in an open access journal. I wanted to get suggestions, I wanted to hear the opinion of respected scientists, some of whom were also bloggers,” explains Dr Mesko.
He published the paper (Peripheral blood gene expression patterns discriminate among chronic inflammatory diseases and healthy controls and identify novel targets) in BioMed Central’s open access journal Medical Genomics and shared it via his own English language blog, Scienceroll.com, his Hungarian blog, MediQ.blog.Hu, Twitter, Friendfeed, and ResearchGATE.
The results were swift and impressive. The article became one of the most viewed on BioMed Central, earning the “highly accessed” badge, and produced responses from his peers across a range of platforms.
“I received plenty of emails from colleagues from around the world which means we could launch new collaborations with those working in our field of interest. I received comments through my blog, Twitter network where I have over 6000 followers, Facebook which I use for professional reasons, and Friendfeed, where there is a scientific community,” adds Dr Mesko.
While Dr Mesko had anticipated some of the reaction to his open access and social media strategy, the opportunities it has opened up for him exceeded all his expectations.
“As a blogger, I expected to get seriously useful and scientifically accurate feedback. My situation is quite special due to the fact that I have been blogging quite actively for years which means getting feedback online and being able to ask scientific questions (through crowdsourcing) were not surprising. What was surprising though is that scientists who work in the same field as us found us now easily and we managed to launch new collaborations based on this (we plan to share the data with a group in the US and combine our efforts for a new study). From this perspective, publishing in an open access journal can provide enormous opportunities if the communication methods of social media are also used by the authors properly and with strategy.”
Dr Mesko is clear that he would use the same platforms for future papers as he believes that the best method to get useful feedback is “to be transparent about the research, open for discussions and ready to use social media in a strategy-based way”.
“Getting relevant feedback from the scientific community is crucial and with the growing importance of the social web, we should be able to leverage its power and communicate or collaborate without borders and limitations. Open access should and can accelerate this process,” concludes Dr Mesko.