Citations to articles and other outputs have been used for some time as a way of gauging academic attention. Altmetrics are alternative methods of measuring interest or attention to research outputs, for example by capturing mentions in social media such as Twitter. They are at their most useful when you can see the underlying details about the attention such as what was being said about the research and by whom. They should be seen as complementing citation metrics such as citation counts.
What can altmetrics measure?
Altmetrics measure 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 download can also be considered altmetrics but are often available separately from the types of information above.
Why use altmetrics?
The benefits of altmetrics include:
- being able to track attention to your outputs from the wider community not just the scholarly community
- seeing more immediate 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 counts and analysis
What do altmetrics look like?
One of the commonly used providers of altmetrics is the company Altmetric.com. 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 it describes and further information providing some meaning to the attention score (the number in the centre of the donut).
When you are looking at the details of an output on Altmetric.com, you can also choose to be alerted about any new mentions of the output.
You may also come across altmetrics data from other providers such as Plum Analytics or PLOS and this will be presently differently.
Where to look for altmetrics
Altmetrics data can often be found for one of your outputs by looking at:
- the web page for your journal article on the publisher’s website
- the record for your article on SHURA,
- the record for your article in a library database such as Scopus
- by using the ‘Altmetric It!’ bookmarklet
- on social media sites
For more information and examples, have a look at: How to find altmetrics
How to use altmetrics
Have a look at the How to use altmetrics section on the What are altmetrics? site. This provides guidance on how to use altmetrics in a meaningful way in a CV, grant application and for promotion purposes, etc.
Limitations of altmetrics and using them wisely
Limitations of altmetrics:
- For altmetric data to be collected about a document, the document need to be uniquely identifiable by a Digital Object Identify (DOI) or similar, 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.
- Older data may not be included – for example, Altmetric.com started collecting data in July 2011
- Altmetrics are only part of the story of the attention to an output
- There is the possibility of gaming
Using altmetrics wisely:
- Altmetrics provide an indication of attention, but do not necessarily indicate the quality of the research
- Altmetrics should be used alongside citation analysis and other methods of impact and quality assessment such as peer review. They are not intended as a replacement
- It is recommended that you don’t compare outputs using altmetric data. They are more appropriate for telling the story of an individual output
- The numbers in the centre of altmetric donuts are calculated using an algorithm – only use these numbers if you are clear what they mean. Who is tweeting about your work and what they are saying or the percentiles could be more valuable to ascertain than this number.
The What are altmetrics? site is a useful source of information about what they are, where to find them and how to use them.
Altmetric.com how it works information is useful for understanding how this company tracks attention.