Understanding altmetrics

Interested in gathering an overview of who is viewing, sharing and talking about your research within and beyond academia? Want to know how to use this knowledge to improve your reach and possible engagement? Cassandra Freeman explains how altmetrics can help your research reach further.

What are altmetrics? 

Altmetrics have evolved from measures of scholarly impact based on author and article citation counts and journal impact factor, known as Bibliometrics. It began with the introduction of article level metrics by PLOS (Public Library of Science) in 2006, to recognise that scholarly communication was changing as academics were moving into an online environment and engaging more with social media. As a result, impact should be measured at the article level with views, downloads, mentions and shares of an article tracked and shown in addition to citation counts. 

The term altmetrics, a shortening of “alternative” metrics, was first used in a 2010 tweet by Jason Priem, a doctoral student who went on to co-found one of the main altmetrics tracking services, Impactstory. Priem liked the emphasis placed on article level metrics, but felt it still did not recognise that academics produce a diverse range of research outputs in addition to journal articles, and the dissemination and online engagement with these outputs should also be tracked and counted.  Altmetrics, therefore, can be used to mean “Impact measured based on online activity, mined or gathered from online tools and social media”, or metrics for alternative scholarly outputs.

Where can you view altmetrics?

It can take time to utilise the tools to gather all the metrics associated with a research output, and to get an overview and analyse the numbers from so many sources. Publishers and companies that provide products for academic institutions now offer this service. Currently, there are three main tracking services. Two of these are Altmetric.com and PlumAnalytics, commercial products that offer more detailed analytics of altmetrics for academic institutions and researchers for a subscription fee. EBSCO PlumAnalytics categorise their metrics into 5 main categories of usage, captures, mentions, social media, and citations. Basic information provided by the Plum widget for articles can be freely viewed in the CINAHL and Business Source complete database.

Altmetric.com is a product of the Digital Science publishing company, who also developed the secure repository service recently launched at Monash called Figshare. The repository is key to the availability and discoverability of research outputs, as not only journal articles can be deposited and made public (if publisher compliant) but also videos, slides, data, posters etc. which if the researcher chooses to make public are given a citable DOI (digital object identifier). It is the identifiers that can then be tracked for mentions, shares and usage across social media platforms.

Monash.figshare users can now also view the Altmetric.com badge ‘donut’ on their dashboard to view the altmetrics of any of their publicly viewable research outputs. The donut provides a weighted score, based on volume, sources and author. For a detailed explanation of the donut read more here

The Altmetric.com badge is a free tool that can also be embedded into a researcher’s own personal webpage, and the free Altmetric bookmarklet  can be added to a browser so that anyone can view the altmetrics of any research output with a permanent identifier. Some e-journals and online databases including Wiley online, Springer and Taylor & Francis, also have the Altmetric badge next to selected article results. The Monash Library Search has a Metrics tab using the donut for articles with participating publishers and a DOI.  Almetric.com has also recently launched the badge for books and chapters.

The third company is a service called Impactstory, co-founded by Jason Priem, mentioned above. Researchers can now join for free with their ORCiD. Described as a hybrid research service, it provides researchers with a profile page and can also be linked to other accounts such as a Google Scholar profile and ORCiD for automatic import. Once a profile has been created, researchers can manually add the URLS of any videos they have produced, link to webpages, or add the DOI of articles they have published. Impactstory will then track their research outputs and update the altmetrics associated with them.

Another free service called Kudos has been gaining more attention, and recently signed an agreement with SAGE publishing to assist their authors with the dissemination of their research. Kudos provides authors with trackable links to their articles and also provides a platform for researchers to use plain language to explain their work. An example of how they do this can be viewed here.

Altmetrics are reliant on discoverability, correct attribution and promotion. Ensure you register for an ORCiD to create your own unique researcher identifier, publish open access, deposit your research outputs in monash.figshare, and make them public if possible. Develop an online profile and think about a social media strategy to start promoting your research. Think about using the free Altmetric.com tools to see who is already sharing your research for possible collaboration or targeting policy makers.

Altmetrics are not a replacement of traditional research impact measurement tools, rather they can be used in addition to other metrics. For more information about altmetrics and measurement tools, see the Monash Research impact and publishing library guide.


Further reading:


What constitutes valuable scholarship? The use of altmetrics in promotion and tenure.
EDUCAUSE Review 51, no. 2 (March/April 2016)

Policy impact and online attention: Tracking the path from research to public policy on the social web.
LSE Blog

Social Media Metrics in Scholarly Communication Exploring tweets, blogs, likes and other altmetrics
Special issue of Aslib Journal of Information Management:

Photo 1: KROMKRATHOG Freedigitalphotos.net
Monash Library Search record

Share on Google Plus

About Anonymous

This is a short description in the author block about the author. You edit it by entering text in the "Biographical Info" field in the user admin panel.


Post a Comment