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Feature Medicine and the Media

Tweeting and rule breaking at conferences

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 27 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3556

Rapid Response:

Twitter can enhance the medical conference experience

International Twitter communities have emerged in many medical specialties, often collaborating around specific hashtags. In our own specialty, Twitter is the most common mobile application used by surgeons (1) and the hashtag #colorectalsurgery has become a unifying nidus for identifying specialty-specific tweets and individuals with similar interests. In the first 10 weeks since launch, #colorectalsurgery collated more than 5,200 tweets, from 823 global users, which were viewed nearly 17 million times.

Given the evident popularity of Twitter, conference organisers are increasingly registering and promoting conference-specific hashtags. This encourages attendance and bolsters the transmission and impact of key information within a competitive events market. However, live-tweeting at academic conferences is a controversial topic. Conference organisers must balance conflicting pressures of promotion (to attract attendees and future sponsors) against perceived copyright/intellectual property infringement and mis-representation of non-peer reviewed data (2).

A ban on live tweeting at conferences is a policy on the wrong side of history. It is almost impossible to regulate effectively and abrogates wider engagement and discussion. It is likely to be viewed in the near future as a historical argument made by those who failed to recognise the appetite for global communication and the importance of social media for medical professionals.


1) Logghe HJ, Boeck MA, Atallah SB. Decoding Twitter: Understanding the History, Instruments, and Techniques for Success. Ann Surg. 2016 Jun 17. (ePub ahead of print)
2) Groves T. Tweeting and Rule Breaking at Conferences. BMJ 2016;353;i355


1) Stephen J Chapman, Academic Clinical Trainee, (@SJ_Chapman; Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, United Kingdom)
2) Julio Mayol, Professor of Surgery (@juliomayol; Hospital Clinico San Carlos Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain)
3) Richard R Brady, Senior Intestinal Failure Fellow (@researchactive; Salford Royal Foundation Trust, United Kingdom)

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 July 2016
Stephen J Chapman
Academic Clinical Trainee
Professor Julio Mayol, Professor of Surgery; Mr Richard R Brady, Senior Intestinal Failure Fellow
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
United Kingdom