Social network 'emotional contagion' paper tops online attention list

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Alternative metrics provider Altmetric has reviewed the 100 academic papers receiving the most online attention in 2014 – and the conversations happening around them.

The list provides a detailed overview of the published research articles that have generated the largest amount of sharing and discussion across mainstream and social media, blogs, peer-review forums, platforms such as Reddit and YouTube, and bookmarking sites.

The 10 most shared scientific research papers for 2014 were:

  • 1.   Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks
  • 2.    Variation in Melanism and Female Preference in Proximate but Ecologically Distinct Environments
  • 3.    Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota
  • 4.    Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency
  • 5.    Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth's magnetic field
  • 6.    Christmas 2013: Research: The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study
  • 7.    Epidemiological modelling of online social network dynamics
  • 8.    Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers
  • 9.    Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies
  • 10.  Were James Bond's drinks shaken because of alcohol-induced tremor?

Medical and health research topped the list, with 44 per cent of sharing across mainstream and social channels. The most popular ranged from topics such as the effect of artificial sweeteners on glucose intolerance to the origins of the Ebola virus. Biological sciences accounted for 20 per cent of the Top 100. Articles in this category included controversial (and later disproven) studies on the creation of human stem cells in acid baths, and many others focussed on the ancestral genomes of humans and animals. Physical sciences ranked third with 9 per cent in total from these areas of study – the most popular of which was a new theory on the nature of black holes from Professor Stephen Hawking.

In terms of international collaboration, research in the United States leads the way – while UK-led projects show close links to American scientists.Some 80 per cent of articles the in top 100 which named a British author were the result of international collaborations, and 85 per cent of those collaborations included contributions from researchers in North America.

Euan Adie, founder of Altmetric, said: 'We continue to see a significant increase in the volume of research being shared and discussed online, and in the audiences engaging in those conversations. It’s no surprise to see that the most shared articles of the year heavily mirror the media agenda, but interesting to note that on occasion online communities are drawing attention to studies that have not received a significant amount of mainstream coverage.
'For example, we had more than 2,000 tweets for a study on how gaining basic certification affected nursing confidence levels. This reached a combined following of more than 2.2 million followers, demonstrating how social media can really boost the profile of some online published studies.'

The full list is available now at