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Politics Departments on Twitter: A (Draft) League Table

Image by Jurgen Appelo
Image by Jurgen Appelo

Twitter is becoming an indispensable tool for the modern academic. Sceptics might doubt it, but the social media platform is perfectly designed to facilitate the dissemination of research findings, information about research projects and teaching materials. Beyond that, Twitter can significantly enhance the profile of an academic, their research and their respective School and University more generally.

It is no surprise, therefore, that there are now numerous guides on how academics can reap the benefits that Twitter offers (like herehere and here). But until now, and beyond individual academics, there has been little information (or discussion) about the extent to which actual departments of politics (or political science) are embracing the little blue bird.

We set out on an exploration of this area, by creating a draft league table of politics departments, which are organized according to their number of followers. This is a rather crude but still useful measure of how engaged the respective department is on Twitter. To reiterate, this is a draft league table, and we welcome those who would like us to record changes to contact our Social Media Officer @NottsPolitics, Naomi Racz. These changes will be recorded before we publish the final 2013 league table next week.

The table below only includes official departments or schools rather than, for example, accounts based on individual blogs, university modules or centres. So, for example, we do not include our own Short Not Brutish feed, which the Nottingham Centre for Normative Political Theory launched to encourage and promote research in this area. Similarly, we do not include high profile Twitter feeds for political science blogs, such as the LSE’s LSEEUROPP or LSEImpactBlog. Instead, we list the actual LSE Department of Government.

The figures reported below were accurate as of Monday May 13, 2013.

Based on these data, from a total of 33 departments in the UK who were found to have a Twitter profile, the average number of followers is 646. But there are considerable variations, ranging from the Department of War Studies within Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London, which has over 4,100 followers, to the Department for Politics, Languages and International Studies at the University of Bath, which has 50 followers. In fact, only six departments have rallied over 1,000 followers. There is also considerable variation in the level of activity, or tweeting. For example, War Studies at King’s occupies the top spot after only 486 tweets, while the School of Politics at Surrey stands in sixth place with well over 2,100 tweet

Clearly, each department will vary according to what they hope to gain from this activity. While some will use Twitter to engage with external audiences, others are clearly using the platform more narrowly, to engage with their students and publicise internal events. For this reason, we warn against interpreting these data as some indication of broader relevance or quality. But as higher education (sorry, #highered) moves into the social media world, pausing to reflect on where we all stand –and what this might mean- is a useful exercise in its own right.

School or Department

University

Twitter

Followers

Department of War Studies King’s warstudies

4,135

School of Politics and International Relations Nottingham NottsPolitics

2,153

Department of Government LSE LSEGovernment

1,949

Institute of Local Government Birmingham INLOGOV

1,323

Blavatnik School Oxford BlavatnikSchool

1,228

School of Politics Surrey SurreyPolitics

1,001

School of Politics and International Studies Hull HullPoliticsDep

983

Department of Politics and International Studies SOAS soaspolitics

940

Department of Politics and International Relations Westminster DPIRWestminster

737

Department of International Relations LSE LSEIRDept

676

Department of Politics Birkbeck bbkpolitics

667

School of Politics and International Relations Kent POLIRatKENT

547

BA Politics in Dept. of Behavioural & Social Sciences Huddersfield hudpolitics

509

Department of Government Essex uniessexgovt

435

Department of International Politics Aberystwyth InterpolAber

433

Department of Politics Sheffield ShefUniPolitics

361

Department of Politics and International Relations Oxford Politics_Oxford

360

Department of Political Science and International Studies Birmingham BhamPolsis

348

Politics and International Relations Division Southampton sotonpolitics

324

School of European Studies Cardiff cardiffeurop

313

School of Politics and International Relations Queen Mary QMPoliticsIR

296

Academy of Government Edinburgh Edinburgh_AoG

285

Department of Political Science UCL uclspp

212

School of Sociology, Politics and International Relations Bristol SPAISBristol

202

Department of Political Economy King’s kingspolecon

194

Department of Politics and International Relations Leicester PoliticsLeicsU

161

School of Politics, Economics and International Relations Reading UniRdg_SPEIR

130

Politics and International Relations Edinburgh EdinburghPIR

108

School of Politics and International Studies Leeds POLISatLeeds

101

Politics and International Relations Division Plymouth IRatPlymouth

78

Department of International Studies and Social Science Coventry covuniisss

51

School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy Keele SpireKeele

51

Department of Politics, Languages and Int. Studies Bath PoLIS_Bath

50

 

Published inAcademic Impact

3 Comments

  1. Interesting stuff. However, I’d suggest that official departmental sites are not yet that important or interesting in what they tell us about political science communication, for two key reasons:

    1. A lot of knowledge exchange goes on now in relation to blogs and many of the blogs involved are multi-author and multi-disciplinary, such as these four blogs run for LSE as a whole by LSE Public Policy Group, but drawing on contributions from scholars from a great many universities in every case:
    British Politics and Policy . @LSEpoliticsblog 20,500 followers
    LSE Review of Books. @LSEReviewBooks 10,370
    Impacts of Social Science blog. @LSEImpactblog 9,530
    Europp – European Policy and Politics. @LSEEuroppblog 6,080

    There are also collaborative blogs such as the joint Oxford and Cambridge one
    Politics in Spires @PoliticsinSpire 1460 followers

    I’d also love to follow on Twitter the Ballots and Bullets blog at Nottingham, perhaps the best single institution blog around. But you don’t seem to have an account for that?

    2. A lot of communication of political science to the wider public on Twitter takes place via individual political scientists, who seem to outperform their department accounts at present, in some cases by a long margin, such as
    Phil Cowley. @philipjcowley 5,470 followers
    Matthew Goodwin. @GoodwinMJ 4,870
    Patrick Dunleavy. @PJDunleavy 3,050
    Rob Ford. @robfordmancs 1,308
    Chris Hanretty @chrishanretty 550
    (Apologies if I’ve left out other folk far more prominent here! This is a non-scientific selection based on my very limited knowledge).

    This effect may only be temporary however – it may just reflect who got into the Twitter scene earliest? Perhaps as more departments get going, learn from each other, and do more interesting and adventurous things on Twitter than departmental notices and puffs, the power of the collective intelligence may emerge as dominant.

    Finally, people might find it useful to compare the scale of department, blog and single author Twitter followings already being achieved in the social sciences with the scale of Twitter following for major UK think tanks, covered in March 2013 by @Guerillapolicy Their analysis is at http://www.guerillapolicy.org/guerilla-policy/2013/02/03/the-top-40-odd-think-tanks-by-twitter-following/

    These numbers are a bit old now, but what they surely show is that universities and departments who get into social media can begin to reach wide audiences quickly – without having to go through the often frustrating ‘intermediation’ filters of think tanks, or the mainstream media, on what can and can’t be communicated.

    We’ve only just begun, and there’s a lot more “shorter, better, faster, free” communication and knowledge exchange for political scientists to foster.

    • NottsPolitics NottsPolitics

      We will be doing a follow-up post addressing in more detail some of the issues you’ve raised. We will be releasing a second league table of political scientists in the coming weeks too. We don’t have a Twitter account specifically for Ballots & Bullets, but we do tweet about the blog and the latest blog posts on @NottsPolitics.

  2. Followership is mainly a reflection of activity and reciprocity. Tweeting as a department requires delegation and ideally social media management software.

    Some people prefer to focus on Klout scores (other influence metrics are available)

    Based on Klout scores the Top 5 would be as follows:
    1. Nottspolitics 56
    2. Warstudies 50
    3. LSEgovernment and Hullpoliticsdept 47
    4. INLOGOV and Surreypolitics 46
    5. Soaspolitics 44

    Oh, and in case you are interested the top 3 Patrick mentions in his list of political academics have Klout scores of 60, 62 and 59 respectively.

    As an occasional tweeter myself I will return to working out how to get from 37 to the lofty heights of 38.

    Jolly good.

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