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Research Impact Metrics: Altmetrics

This is an introduction to different research impact metrics and tools for author disambiguation.

Rise of Altmetrics

As social media has become a common avenue of communication, more scholars have turned to it to share ideas and comment on research studies.  Although these online interactions may contribute to research assessment, they are not accounted for by traditional impact metrics.  To address this new scholarly communication landscape, some academics have asserted the importance of alternative metrics (altmetrics).

The Public Library of Science has created a collection of articles on altmetrics.  This is their definition of altmetrics:

Altmetrics is the study and use of non-traditional scholarly impact measures that are based on activity in web-based environments. As scholarship increasingly moves online, these metrics track associated interactions and activity to generate fine-grained data, allowing researchers and policy makers to create a higher resolution picture of the reach and impact of academic research.
Altmetrics research seeks to build and track a rich, holistic image of impact on diverse audiences (general public as well as scholars) and monitors diverse types of engagement with scholarship, including viewership, discussion, bookmarking, and recommendation, along with traditional citation.

Data Sources for Altmetrics

Below are some data sources for altmetrics tracked by the journal PLOS ONE:

 Altmetrics examples

Uses of Altmetrics

A panel of speakers from different sectors discuss how altmetrics are used as well as the benefits and challenges in the video below. 

Altmetrics: A Manifesto

As the interest in altmetrics grew, four researcher came together in 2010 and issued a manifesto

Altmetrics expand our view of what impact looks like, but also of what’s making the impact. This matters because expressions of scholarship are becoming more diverse. Articles are increasingly joined by:

  • The sharing of “raw science” like datasets, code, and experimental designs
  • Semantic publishing or “nanopublication,” where the citeable unit is an argument or passage rather than entire article.
  • Widespread self-publishing via blogging, microblogging, and comments or annotations on existing work.

One of the co-authors of the manifesto, Jason Priem, explains altemtrics in this video:

Tools for Altmetrics

These are the common tools for measuring altmetrics:

Some journal publishers use the above tools to provide altmetrics for their articles.  

This video offers an overview of altmetrics and ImpactStory: