Conversation about “The Conversation” in the Australian Twittersphere



Thursday 23 February




Brenda Moon


Through the publication of articles written by scholars with editorial assistance from journalists, The Conversation website has become a major platform for the amplification of scholarly content, including the sciences. Founded in Australia in March 2011, they have now expanded to editions in Africa, France, United Kingdom, United States, and a Global edition. The Conversation actively encourages the sharing of articles on social media with share buttons for Email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn at the top of each article and larger Twitter and Facebook share buttons at the bottom of the article. They also encourage republishing of the articles and provide a republish button to assist with republishing with proper attribution and acknowledgement of the original article.

By examining how people share articles from The Conversation, this project provides an opportunity to better understand engagement with academic research on social media, in order to contribute towards developing new measures of the impact of the research.

As part of the Australian Twitter News Index (ATNIX) project, tweets containing links to The Conversation website ( are collected using the Twitter Search API. There were over 100,000 tweets with links to The Conversation in September 2016 and it ranked 3rd overall behind the ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald out of the 34 Australian news and opinion sites tracked by ATNIX that month (Bruns, 2016). The ranking of these top three news and opinion sites has been consistent throughout 2016.

In this paper I combine the ATNIX data with a dataset which identifies Australian Twitter accounts, provided by the Tracking Infrastructure for Social Media in Australia (TrISMA) ARC LIEF project, in order to explore how much of the sharing on Twitter of links to The Conversation is by accounts identified as Australian, how many of the shared articles are science communication (communicating about science related topics) or not, and what additional conversation occurs around the science articles linked to in tweets sent by Australian accounts.

The links to The Conversation in September 2016 are used to retrieve the articles and the topic tags associated with each article. Each article is classified as being science communication or not. Following the approach developed by Moon, Suzor & Matamoros- Fernandez (2016), the set of tweets identified as being by Australian accounts that contain links to science related articles are used as a seed set to find any conversations around them from within the TrISMA dataset. This supplemented data set is then used to see how much, and what types of, additional conversation is occurring on Twitter about those articles. The Twitter accounts used to send these tweets are then highlighted on a map of the Australian twitter network developed by Bruns, Burgess & Highfield (2014) to see which parts of the Australian Twittersphere are participating in the conversation about The Conversation.


Bruns, A. (2016) ‘ATNIX: Australian Twitter News Index, September 2016’, The Conversation, 28 October 2016.

Bruns, A., Burgess, J., & Highfield, T. (2014) ‘A “Big Data” Approach to Mapping the Australian Twittersphere’, in Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theories (pp. 113–129). Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills.

Moon, B., Suzor, N. P., & Matamoros-Fernandez, A. (2016) ‘Beyond hashtags: Collecting and analysing conversations on Twitter’, paper presented at the Association of Internet Researchers conference, Berlin, 5-8 October 2016. conversations-on-twitter

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