Why are conservation news shared on social media

06 Mar 2015 NUS scientists study the mechanisms that influence conservation news shared in Facebook and Twitter.

An analysis led by Dr Sarah PAPWORTH and Ms Le NGHIEM from the Department of Biological Sciences in NUS found that the popularity of online conservation news articles being featured on Facebook and Twitter is largely dependent on where the conservation news was posted. Of conservation articles featured in online news, articles about charismatic mammals which include illustrations are more likely to be shared or liked on Facebook and Twitter. This suggests that a critical mass of initial shares may be needed for the article to spread successfully. The study also found that only 5% of conservation journal articles are reported in the news. Publishing journal was found to have a large influence on the probability of the article being reported.

Three main sectors of society – scientists, the public and policy-makers – need to be aligned in order to achieve biodiversity conservation goals. Conservation scientists need to engage the general public to ensure effective conservation interventions. These results are the first to show quantitatively which factors make a piece of conservation news successful in social media outlets. This information may be used by conservation scientists to better communicate with the public. Choosing the outlet where the article is to be published is also important. For instance, articles published in open access journals with good media coverage such as PLOS One, are more likely to be spread.



Illustration of conservation news sharing on Facebook (the photo features co-authors of the study Le Nghiem and Lahiru Wijedasa. [Image credit: Anuj Jain]



Papworth SK, Nghiem TPL, Chimalakonda D, Posa MRC, Wijedasa LS, Bickford D, Carrasco LR. "Quantifying the role of online news in linking conservation research to Facebook and Twitter." Conservation Biology (2015) DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12455