Are Doctors Causing Trouble by Tweeting at Conventions?

Leigh Page


January 10, 2018

In This Article

How Will Conferences Regulate Twitter?

Many conferences have virtually no policy about Twitter on a meeting-wide basis, and instead leave it up to individual speakers to decide whether they want their information to be tweeted.

For example, the AAO's 2017 meeting policy allows photography "for personal, social or non-commercial use," which seems to allow tweeting, but attendees are urged to "respect presenters who state they do not want their slides and/or content shared on social media."[29]

The 2017 meeting policy of the American Society of Nephrology says it "strongly encourages compliance with speaker requests," and "if a speaker does not wish to have his/her presentation or research shared via Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks, the speaker should make an announcement before, and during, the presentation."[30]

Finally, the American College of Rheumatology 2018 meeting policy states that photos should be for "personal, non-commercial use" and that "presenters have the right to request no photographs," and they can indicate this by using an "icon" in their presentation.[31]

Leaving it up to speakers to set policy, however, is not practical, Dr Kim says. "It's hard to police users," he says. "People come and go from the meeting room, and they may not be aware of what the policy is."

Perhaps the best way to stop Twitter use, he says, is to come up with a technology that prevents attendees from taking pictures of slides. This may well be on the horizon. Apple, the inventor of the iPhone®, has a patent for a product that would send out infrared signals to disable the camera in smartphones, according to a news report.[32]

What to Do About Twitter Now?

Rather than fighting Twitter, conferences and speakers should accept the phenomenon, Dr Campbell says. "If you're presenting at a national meeting, you have to expect you will be tweeted on," he says. "Asking not to tweet is so out of date."

An open-tweeting policy might actually benefit speakers, because they might gain more attention for their research than if people didn't tweet about them. A 2011 study of tweets about published studies found that highly tweeted articles were 11 times more likely to be highly cited than less tweeted articles.[33]

Meanwhile, speakers who don't want certain data revealed shouldn't bring it up in the first place, Dr Campbell believes. "Once you present data at a meeting, it's fair game for open discussion," he says. "You are putting it out there. If you don't want it seen, don't present it."

But the prospect of speakers excluding more data in their presentations suggests that information available at conferences of the future will be scantier than in the past. More limited information would affect all attendees, including Twitter users and their worldwide following.

Dr Campbell still believes that Twitter users should follow some basic etiquette. "You should give credit to the speaker," he says. "Otherwise, it's plagiarism." He adds that taking a photo of every slide is "a little bit disrespectful" of the speaker, and it will bore Twitter users. "If you overload people with information, they stop listening," he says.

To survive the Twitter onslaught, conferences will have to offer something new for attendees that is also digitally based, according to Len Starnes, a digital consultant based in Berlin, Germany. He believes that meetings have to evolve into "hybrid conferences," in which speakers take to the stage but also interact digitally with the audience.

"The new frontier for medical societies is digital engagement of members throughout the year," he told an interviewer.[34]


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