How far can a tweet fly? Analysis of twitter messaging from four infection control conferences

Prof. Brett Mitchell1,2, Dr Phillip  Russo1,2,3, Dr Jonathan  Otter4, Mr Martin  Kiernan5, Mr Landon  Aveling1

1Avondale College Of Higher Education, Wahroonga, Australia,

2Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia,

3Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia,

4National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit,  Imperial College London  , London, England,

5Richard Wells Research Centre, The University of West London, London, England

Background: Through the use of Twitter at scientific conferences, communications can reach a wide audience.We examined tweeting activity, networks and common topics mentioned on Twitter at four international infection control and infectious disease conferences.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional study design, a Twitter ‘trawl’ each month was undertaken, between 1st July and 31st November 2016. The trawl identified tweets that contained the official hashtags of the conferences for the UK Infection Prevention Society, IDWeek2016, Federation of Infectious Society/Hospital Infection Society and the Australians College for Infection Prevention and Control conferences. Topics from each tweet were identified and an examination of the frequency and timing of tweets was performed. Social network analysis was performed to illustrate connections between users. A multivariable binary logistic regression model was developed to explore the predictors of ‘retweets’.

Results 23,718 tweets were identified as using one of the four hashtags of interest. The results demonstrated that the vast majority of tweets were posted during the conferences. Network analysis demonstrated a diversity of twitter networks. A link to a web address was found to be a significant predictor of whether a tweet would be retweeted (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.9–2.1). Other significant factors predicting a retweet included tweeting on topics such as Clostridium difficile (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.7-2.4) and the media (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.6-2.0). Tweets containing a picture were significantly less likely to be retweeted (OR 0.06, 95% CI 0.05-0.08).

Conclusion: Twitter is a useful tool for information sharing and networking at infection control conferences.


Professor Brett Mitchell is a Professor of Nursing and Director of the Lifestyle Research Centre at Avondale College. He holds a honorary position at Griffith University and is the Editor-in-Chief of Infection, Disease and Health. Brett has over 100 peer reviewed journal and conference presentations. He is the Chair of an NHMRC committee revising the national infection control guidelines.

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