This question here left me thinking that maybe I am too old and intolerant towards those things young people are doing.

I always think that academic publishing is peer-reviewed articles, or material that goes through some other academic filter, like a publisher or a conference board.

Are youtube, twitter, or facebook acceptable venues of academical work? Are they sources that can be safely ignored? Excepting the case pointed out by the respondent, which is that the object of the study is youtube, twitter, or facebook, obviously. In this case, it must be cited.

  • 1
    What do you mean by "acceptable venues"? They're not peer-reviewed publications, but people can have a big impact with them in the scientific world by getting the word out about something.
    – jakebeal
    Aug 14, 2015 at 22:11
  • @jakebeal: I mean when it comes down to progressing in an academic career, building an impressive CV and related stuff. Do you expect original research to appear through them? Aug 14, 2015 at 22:14
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    At least in some fields, peer-reviewed articles are not the only type of research impact that is valued in academia. I have seen successful tenure and promotion cases based (in part) on successful startup companies, on patents, on widely-deployed open-source software, on widely-read blogs, and even on significant contributions to Wikipedia. These are not replacements for peer-reviewed publication, which is still the most highly-valued vehicle for original research, but alternative forms of dissemination and impact.
    – JeffE
    Aug 15, 2015 at 22:26
  • As for citation, if a result is correct (which I can judge for myself), why should I care whether it's passed through an academic filter?
    – JeffE
    Aug 15, 2015 at 22:28
  • @JeffE: 1. can you disclose more details about contributions to Wikipedia being considered, at least in part, for a tenure position? 2. in some fields is difficult to replicate experiments, and basing your actions on a blog post would be unthinkable. Aug 16, 2015 at 1:32

2 Answers 2


We prefer sources of different sorts for different reasons. Journals and conference proceedings that are printed on high-quality paper and bound professionally are considered archival. They have lasted for hundreds of years at least and may be found (even with difficulty) for generations. Online publishing of traditional-style articles provides easy and quick access, and properly converted to text, annotated, or indexed is highly searchable. Both of these modes are typically bound up with peer review in order to also provide some measures of quality, correctness, and authority, though no system of peer review is perfect.

Blogs, online videos, and social media appear to lack basically all of these features, but that doesn't make them unciteable. Given the choice between citing a video lecture of a professor demonstrating the proof of a theorem or a journal article where the same theorem is proved, cite the journal. But given only the video, the culture of academic publishing and writing is that you must cite it. If Terry Tao proves something new on his blog that relates to a paper you are working on, you should cite to it if your article is to be published before he can turn it into a traditional publication.

There's a hierarchy of sources with some disagreement to the ordering. But if there's something that you can point to which backs your point, proves your theorem, or demonstrates your idea, you have an obligation to consider it for citation. Different fields will have different standards for how compelling this obligation is. Pointing to a random blog to bolster your theory of the American Civil War probably won't pass muster in most History circles, but primary sources testifying to the fact you want to demonstrate usually will. In math or CS, the standards are probably a bit different.


To give a slightly different perspective: In mathematics a proof is a proof. If you demonstrate a proof of an interesting and important Theorem in a youtube video, then the mathematics community would probably pick it up (and pick it apart). If it is a really important fact, experts will reproduce the results and it will appear in the "written history" of the subject in some form or the other, with credit to the original authors (if identifiable).

In other fields, I have doubt that youtube, etc. are the right media to document that gathered evidence supports claims.

An interesting discussion in this direction is the debate about Susan Greenfield.

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