Structuring Social Paleontology: A Description of Twitter Hashtags and Users

Document Type

Conference Poster

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Geological Society of America Annual Meeting






Indianapolis, IN

Publication Date



On Twitter, individuals can find and contribute knowledge to the scientific community, regardless of status (i.e. professional, amateur, or other). The paleontological community, consisting of museums and their representatives, academic researchers, amateur fossil collectors, paleontological artists and commercial fossil retailers, use Twitter and seemingly benefit from the collaborative nature of the platform. Such collaboration would represent an accessible and transparent aid for accelerating the overall advancement of paleontology. However, to date, scant research has documented the structure of the paleontological social network on Twitter or explored how it might impact the flow of information and eventual discovery. This study seeks to provide a robust description of the ways in which paleontology-specific information flows through the social network on Twitter. Using an open-source network analysis software program, NodeXL, the social network for the top four paleontology-related hashtags was sampled (n = 7,297 connections), analyzed and visualized. Members in the social network (n = 3,386) were further classified based upon a taxonomy for how they described themselves and expressed their status. Results indicate that the network includes a surprisingly diverse variety of members, including the public (63%), scientists (23%), education and outreach entities (12%) and commercial entities (2%). Members of the public were central actors in the flow of paleontological information whereas scientists and science organizations served as key arbiters. The composition, structure and flow of information within this social network has implications for the paleontological community as it seeks to expand access, recognize the contributions of all, and support collaborations that improve the practice of science.

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