Altmetrics

Altmetrics are alternative methods of measuring interest or attention to research outputs and provide information about:

  • social media mentions on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.
  • mentions in other media such as blogs, Wikipedia and in the news
  • captures and shares on tools such as Mendeley and CiteULike
  • counts of the number of views and downloads can also be considered altmetrics, but are often available separately from the types of information above

This information from Altmetric.com is helpful to understand more about what altmetrics are. They are most commonly available for articles and papers, but can also be found for some other types of material.

Altmetrics should be seen as complementing citation metrics and can be used in building a ‘story’ around the impact of research outputs. The benefits of altmetrics include;

  • being able to track attention to outputs from the wider community not just the scholarly community.
  • seeing attention before citations are likely to occur.
  • finding out about mentions in documents such as policy documents, which are not usually tracked by the tools that offer citation metrics.
What do altmetrics look like

One of the commonly used providers of altmetrics is the company Altmetric.  Data from them is often displayed in a ‘donut’ like the one below.

If you click on the donut you will see more details about the mentions  on the ‘Altmetrics details page’ with further information providing some meaning to the attention score (the number in the centre of the donut).  You can also follow links to more details about the actual Tweets, news mentions, blog entries etc. that have been recorded.

PlumX Metrics data from Plum Analytics (another company providing this type of information) is indicated by a ‘Plum Print’ like the one below.

Clicking on the ‘Plum Print’ will provide more information on a details page.   There are a range of metrics available and you can follow the links to see more detail about each one. For example you can click on the Tweets link to view all the individual Tweets.

Other altmetrics

While Altmetric and PlumX altmetrics are the most commonly found, there are other altmetrics that you may come across.

These may be produced by the particular resource you are using.  For example, the Public Library of Science (PLOS) has been producing altmetrics for all their journal articles since 2009. The example below from PLOS, includes details about saves, views and  shares on Twitter and Facebook.

Warnke, P., Devide, A., Weise, M., Frickmann, H., Schwarz, N. G., Schäffler, H., … & Podbielski, A. (2016). Utilizing Moist or Dry Swabs for the Sampling of Nasal MRSA Carriers? An In Vivo and In Vitro Study. PloS one11(9), e0163073.

[The images from Altmetrics.com and Plum Analytics have been used with permission]
How are altmetrics produced

Altmetrics are created by tracking the attention to an output in a source that the altmetrics provider trackers.

The Altmetric.com how it works information is useful for understanding how this company tracks social media attention and creates the altmetric data they offer.

You will find that altmetrics are not available for all outputs.  For altmetric data to be collected about an output, the document needs to be uniquely identifiable by a Digital Object Identify (DOI) or similar identifier, depending on the supplier of the altmetrics.  You will therefore find that altmetric data is not available for materials types that do not have unique identifiers.

You may also find that:

  • Older resources may not be covered or tracked
  • An output may not have altmetrics if the domain on which it is hosted is not recognised.
  • A mention may not be tracked if the source where the attention  appeared is not tracked
  • It may not be possible for a mention to be tied to particular output and it will therefore not be counted.
How to optimise altmetric tracking of your research

Altmetric relies on identifiers to match up mentions with particular publications, so it’s important that when you share your research, you link to a page that includes a scholarly identifier such as a Digital Object Identifier or (DOI).

If you are sharing information about your research publications, include a link to the journal or other platform page where the publication was originally made available by your publisher.  For example the landing page for your article, on the journal’s website.  The link you include needs to lead to the content you’ve published with a valid identifier (like a DOI on the page), and that identifier needs to be embedded properly in the page’s meta tags.

Altmetric track posts on Twitter and many other sites, however, if you are blogging about your research on your own blog, Altmetric may not be tracking your blog’s domain, but you can request that they do.

This information describes in more detail how to share your published research online so that it gets tracked by Altmetric.

Where to find altmetrics for publications

Altmetrics can be found in a variety of places and the information provided will vary.   Often a summary is displayed initially giving numbers of view or tweets, etc. and you need to click to find out more details, for example to see the Tweets, details of the geographic distribution of the attention, etc.

Publisher web pages for journal articles

Publisher’s journal sites usually include an index of all the articles in a journal.  Alongside the article details, some publisher’s also provide data such as the number of views or downloads, altmetrics data about mentions or shares, the altmetrics ‘donut’ or PlumX altmetrics.

Library databases

Some library databases (Dimensions, Scopus, etc.) provide altmetrics data about the articles they index. You may see a link called ‘Metrics’ or ‘Altmetrics’ next to an article record or you may see the Altmetrics.com ‘Donut’ or PlumX altmetrics.

Altmetric it!

If you use Chrome, Firefox or Safari you can install a bookmarklet called ‘Altmetric it!’ from Altmetric.com in your favorites or bookmarks.  This enables you to  view the online shares and mentions of an article you are viewing in your browser by showing you the Altmetric donut for the paper being viewed.  Once it is installed, find your article online and then click on Altmetric It’

It is easy to  install the ‘Altmetric it!’ bookmarklet.

PlumX 

If you know the DOI of a publication you can see altmetrics for that publication on the PlumX site. Just add the DOI to the link below:

https://plu.mx/a/?doi=

For example: https://plu.mx/a/?doi=10.1186/s12884-016-1059-9

SHURA

On the Sheffield Hallam University Institutional Repository SHURA the Altmetric donut will be displayed for outputs where it is available.  Click on the donut to see more information about the Tweets, shares and mentions that the Altmetric donut summarises.

Elements

Elements is the University’s  publications management system and is available to SHU staff and doctoral students. When looking at the detailed view of your own publications, you may will see the Altmetrics donut to link you to altmetrics data for your outputs (where any altmetrics data exists).

Social networking services: Academia and ResearchGate

You can see some limited altmetrics on Academia and ResearchGate, for example, the number of views or reads for an output.  You may wish to find out more about sharing your research on these social networking  sites for researchers.

Other sources of altmetrics

If you have shared your research outputs using FigshareImpactStory or Zenodo  you will be able to see some altmetrics in those services.  Look in their help pages for more information.

If your outputs are in the database of papers on Mendeley you can see the numbers of reads they have had.

These aren’t the only options.  This is a fast developing area and things change and new services appear all the time.  Check and see if the tools you use are offer any altmetrics, but bear in mind that these are new and as yet are not standardised.

Another source of altmetrics: Almetric Explorer

Altmetric Explorer  provides a great way to find altmetric data for lots of outputs in one place.  For example you can find attention to your own collection of outputs, to outputs from a particular institution or with a particular keyword, etc.

  • To use on-campus: choose ‘continue as guest’ (no account needed).
  • To use off-campus, or with personalisation, choose ‘create an account’. Use your SHU email address to create your account.
  • To find your outputs, search for your name.  You will see your outputs that have almetric data tracked.

The default view shows SHU research outputs, to view the full content, click on ‘Edit Search’ and choose to search the ‘Full Altmetric database’.

You can find training material here.

Please not that this resource is on trial until July 2020.

Altmetrics alerts

You can automatically keep up to date with new mentions  of or attention to your work and that of others.

If you click on an Altmetric donut or use Altmetric Explorer to see the full details page for your publication or an output of interest to you, you will see an ‘Alert me about mentions’ button. Click on this to enter your email address and confirm that you would like to start receiving notifications.

How to use altmetrics data about your outputs

The following are some of the ways you may wish to use altmetrics:

  • you may wish to use altmetrics in CVs or job applications and in applying for research funding.
  • the underlying information about who is responding to your work and what they are saying is of most value
  • altmetrics are appropriate for helping  you to tell the story of  individual outputs

Below is an example of how you might consider referring to the altmetrics of one of your outputs:

“This paper is listed on Altmetric.com as being in the 98th percentile of outputs of the same age and source.  It was covered in 18 news outlets, including The Independent and the Nursing Times and cited in two policy documents including the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Avoid using just counts e.g.  Twitter mentions: 21, Blog mentions: 8.  Instead, add the context which gives these more meaning.

Have a look at this information about How to use altmetrics with suggestions for how they can be used in CVs, grant applications and job applications.

Bear in mind that these metrics may not always be considered appropriate, depending on your discipline, etc.

How to use altmetrics responsibly

Using altmetrics wisely:

  • remember that attention is not indicative of the quality of the research
  • Altmetric attention ‘scores’ are not an indication of quality or impact – they indicate the overall volume of attention that research has received. The “Score in Context” (found on Altmetric details pages) can be used to understand how a research output’s volume of attention compares to other scores. Have a look at the Metrics toolkit page on altmetrics scores for more information.
  • there is the possibility of gaming altmetrics, so look critically at the data
  • altmetrics are not standardised
  • altmetrics are not normalised by subject

When looking at Almetrics, take the following into account:

  • Many outputs do not have altmetric data – this is not a reflection of their quality or impact
  • Older data is not often available – for example Altmetric.com only started collecting data in 2012
  • There is some evidence emerging that the pattern of attention is variable by discipline
  • Alternative social media platforms may not be monitored by the producers of almetric data and therefore altmetric data is not captured.  This can affect the data for outputs, for example in China, where Twitter is blocked

You may find it helpful to read the University’s guidance on Responsible research metrics: a guide to research assessment and the use of quantitative indicators.