Methods: We describe the sequence of events, hypotheses of the cause of these events, and actions taken.
Results: The paper was published online February 26, 2016 with the first inquiry from a Canadian journalist on February 29. In April, two “independent” journalists emailed each research team member requesting an interview. Both emails used similar wording implying that ED utilization was high. By the end of April, a UK tabloid journalist requested an interview and two academic researchers emailed requesting data. The article scored in the 97th percentile of article of the same age (60 days) and source for comments/responses: 95 tweets from nine countries (88 from the public, 5 from science community and 2 from bloggers). Most of the social media comments noted that “9.9% ended up in emergency rooms in just 42 days” and attributed this directly to vaccination.
We hypothesize that two factors this high rate of social media commentary: the title of the paper, and the lack of contextualization of the health service utilization. The unusual attention necessitated a plan and comparative data to contextualize the reported hospitalization data. University of Calgary Media Relations assisted us to identify a contact person, standard responses and a communications plan.
Conclusion:Our experience demonstrates the importance of contextualizing results to minimize the misinterpretation of study findings. Social media may be used to disseminate misinterpretations of research findings and researchers should prepare accordingly.
C. Bell, None
X. Liu, None
M. L. Russell, None