Altmetrics, otherwise known as alt(ernative)metrics, has emerged as an alternative to more traditional journal and book citation metrics (bibliometrics), such as the impact factor and h-index.
Altmetrics should ideally be used as a supplement to citation metrics and considered as yet another measure of impact to be included when presenting a ‘case study of impact’. That is, build a case around the different ways your research has had a positive impact on academia, society, culture and/or economy.
The term ‘altmetrics’ is best defined by what it measures:
Altmetrics measure the number of times a research output gets cited, tweeted about, liked, shared, bookmarked, viewed, downloaded, mentioned, favourited, reviewed, or discussed. It harvests these numbers from a wide variety of open source web services that count such instances, including open access journal platforms, scholarly citation databases, web-based research sharing services, and social media.
By nature, altmetrics are a much more immediate measure of how a research output is tracking in the ‘real world’. That is because altmetrics is not slowed down by the lengthy peer-review and editorial process of publishing to generate a ‘score’. A researcher can publish a journal article for instance and immediately start generating attention in the form of tweets and bookmarks etc. The more attention an output receives, the higher the score.
Loria, P. (2013, Apr 16). Altmetrics and open access a measure of public interest [Web log post].
How are altmetrics scored?
There are a number of companies that track and analyse online activity to give an altmetric score. VU researchers can access the altmetric score (provided by altmetric.com) for their individual research outputs via their VU Elements account.
Altmetric.com monitor a range on online sources for mentions of a research output. This involves looking for HTML links to scholarly content, and also text-mining for publication and author name. The online sources include:
- Public policy documents
- Mainstream media
- Online reference managers, e.g. Mendeley
- Post-publication peer-review platforms, e.g. Pubpeer and Publons
- Research highlights, e.g. F1000
- Social media, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Multimedia and other online platforms.
The Altmetric score is an automatically calculated, weighted approximation all of the attention a research output has received. It is based on volume, sources and author. It is appropriate to consider this score as a measure of attention rather than quality. The score does not take into account the nature of the attention!
For more details on how Altmetric.com generates their score see the donut score.
Other altmetric tools that can be used to gain an altmetric score for your research output include:
- ImpactStory – can be used to track attention around a wide range of outputs (such as articles, data, slides etc). Aggregates data from a wide range of online sources and displays in a single report.
- PLoS Impact Explorer – allows you to browse conversations collected by altmetric.com for papers published by PLoS.
- Altmetric.com embeddable badges – Many systems and websites, including VU Elements, display an embedded altmetric.com badge so that researchers can instantly see their altmetric data.