To tweet or not tweet unpublished data

is a question that came up after a recent seminar where unpublished research was being presented.  It’s the sort of thing that makes researchers turn pale and sweat – unpublished data has to stay unpublished for research papers to be accepted by journals like Pain, yet with smart phones like the iPhone it’s very easy to share pictures of slides on facebook, blogs, and twitter

This is what happens when you ask your audience to turn off their phones:

About Heidi Allen

Heidi AllenWe reckon that an all too common problem with ‘science’ is that it is only ever broadcast to ‘scientists’. Even then, it is often in journals that are read by a tiny proportion of the community. So, we sat down and thought ‘how can we better disseminate what we do – that is, how do we get the message out there, be a credible and interesting source of commentary on things to do with our research?’  How can we facilitate all those lovely ideas out there into research? Our answer: Heidi.  Heidi has set up, run, bugged us all about contributing to this website. She reckons it will serve the aim of the group – to disseminate and facilitate research into the brain and mind in chronic pain disorders. We reckon she is right.


  1. Just about to present a paper with unpublished data at the OT conference in Brighton, UK next week. Organisers have just sent out an email encouraging delegates to make use of social media in particular Twitter and have given a hashtag for doing so. Guess we’ll need to be very careful and also ask delegates in our talk not to do so…..

  2. Neil O'Connell says:

    The problem with unpublished data is that it is unreviewed. I have lost count of how many physio presenters have played the old “golden trial” trick at conferences.

    They tell you that any time now a trial will be published that magically confirms their pet idea so you should all adopt this clinically. The trial never materialises, or it is a shambles, or there were important caveats that mean you were being mislead in the presentation.

  3. Unpublished data in my idea bring two different meanings into mind: results of research which has not been accepted for publishing so far and is under review…and the results of studies (successful ones or mostly unsuccessful ones) which researchers did not reach to final decision on publishing…then they remain in the database of the researchers… however there could be some overlaps between these two categories…in my idea it is better to differentiate these two in our discussion

  4. Sandy Hilton says:

    Nicely done Heidi. I think this is an important topic and I don’t think many of us know what the rules are. I didn’t until the speakers at the NOI conference said that tweeting or taking pictures of the screen would be uncool for unpublished information. It makes sense.

    I would rather hear the information at a seminar and not pass it around than have to wait for it to get published to even hear about it. We have good access with twitter, facebook, post-publication peer review on blogs, and PDFs of the original article that can be requested from the author.

    I think it is the speaker who needs to clearly set the conditions in the seminar. That means they need to know how easy it is to take pictures or video with an IPad, phone or whatever other device comes up next. Asking the speaker if they are cool with tweeting probably isn’t going to happen, though it is likely the most respectful option.

    Besides, perhaps the delayed gratification is doing something healthy in the brain…

  5. Researchers do not know which journal will accept their research for publication when they first start submitting their paper and it usually takes many months before it is published.
    A condition for acceptance is unpublished data, however, in the meantime speaking about current research studies can add a lot of value to seminars and workshops for those attending.

  6. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of the researcher(s) to know their contracts with their various stakeholders. If the contract does not allow disclosure of unpublished material, then researchers presenting shouldn’t “leak” the unpublished data.

    Researchers could fight the language in the contract though. In the future, with so much open content, journal editors will need to evolve and allow any and all material to be leaked by researchers. Why not? If a buzz is created, the journal looks good.