The Botization of Science? Large-scale study of the presence and impact of Twitter bots in science dissemination

Abstract

Twitter bots are a controversial element of the platform, and their negative impact is well known. In the field of scientific communication, they have been perceived in a more positive light, and the accounts that serve as feeds alerting about scientific publications are quite common. However, despite being aware of the presence of bots in the dissemination of science, no large-scale estimations have been made nor has it been evaluated if they can truly interfere with altmetrics. Analyzing a dataset of 3,744,231 papers published between 2017 and 2021 and their associated 51,230,936 Twitter mentions, our goal was to determine the volume of publications mentioned by bots and whether they skew altmetrics indicators. Using the BotometerLite API, we categorized Twitter accounts based on their likelihood of being bots. The results showed that 11,073 accounts (0.23% of total users) exhibited automated behavior, contributing to 4.72% of all mentions. A significant bias was observed in the activity of bots. Their presence was particularly pronounced in disciplines such as Mathematics, Physics, and Space Sciences, with some specialties even exceeding 70% of the tweets. However, these are extreme cases, and the impact of this activity on altmetrics varies by speciality, with minimal influence in Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences. This research emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between specialties and disciplines when using Twitter as an altmetric

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