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article imageScience and social media: It's all about Kim Kardashian

By Tim Sandle     Aug 2, 2014 in Science
A scientist has created the "Kardashian Index" to measure how a scientist’s social media presence stacks up against his or her citation record.
Genomicist Neil Hall from the University of Liverpool in the U.K. has proposed what something he has called the Kardashian Index (K Index). This is described as a “measure of discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers.” Essentially, Hall is attempting to determine which matters more: citations or retweets?
Hall has outlined his model — K Index — in the journal Genome Biology ("The Kardashian index: a measure of discrepant social media profile for scientists"). To help some of his readers, who could well be unaware who Kim Kardashian is, she is described as "a reality TV star with millions of fans and online followers". He adds: "despite having not achieved anything consequential in science, politics or the arts . . . she is one of the most followed people on Twitter and among the most searched-for person on Google."
Hall writes in his paper: “I am concerned that phenomena similar to that of Kim Kardashian may also exist in the scientific community. I think it is possible that there are individuals who are famous for being famous (or, to put it in science jargon, renowned for being renowned).”
From this basis, The Scientist notes that the K Index is a calculation of the number of Twitter followers a scientists has divided by the number of followers they are expected to have based on their citation record.
For those mathematically minded the Kardashian Index (K-index) can be calculated as follows : K−index=F(a)F(c).
Where F(a) is the actual number of twitter followers of researcher X and F(c) is the number researcher X should have given their citations.
Hall also attempts to make a serious point about the role of women in science: "My introduction highlights the fact that women have a history of being ignored by the scientific community. Interestingly, in my analysis, very few women (only one in fact) had a highly inflated Twitter following, while most (11/14) had fewer followers than would be expected. Hence, most Kardashians are men!"
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