Altmetrics let us measure and monitor the reach and impact of scholarship and research through online interactions. Altmetrics stands for "alternative metrics." The "alternative" part references traditional measurements of academic success such as citation counts, journal prestige (impact factor), and author H-index. Altmetrics are meant to compliment, not totally replace, these traditional measures. Supporters of the altmetrics movement believe that doing so will give a more complete picture of how research and scholarship is used. Simply, altmetrics are metrics beyond traditional citations.
Why they matter:
Groups image There is increasing understanding that scholarly research has moved beyond the printed page and that traditional measures of impact are inadequate. Citations are only a small part of the scholarly ecosystem and only represent one type of impact. Other media types of increasing importance such as data, tools, software, websites, videos, etc. produced for or during the research process may be just as, or more, important than the articles that accompany them. Since most research, including journal articles, are now electronic and networked we can track how many times they are accessed, used, and shared. These numbers provide a more complete picture of the reach and impact of research and scholarship; one that goes beyond citations in peer-reviewed publications.
How they work
You probably already know that nearly everything on the internet is tracked. What you click can be used to inform website design, serve targeted adds, or as a simple measure of popularity. Altmetrics uses this ability to track interaction with online items as a way of measuring research impact and reach. Altmetrics can answer questions such as: How many times was it downloaded? Who is reading my work? (on Mendeley, bookmarking sites, etc.) Was it covered by any news agencies? Are other researchers commenting on it? How many times was it shared? (on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Which countries are looking at my research?
Capture elements of societal impact
Altmetrics data can inform researchers of elements of the societal impact of their research. For example, altmetrics data can help researchers understand how their research is being interacted with by the public, government, policy makers, and other researchers. networking map
Complement traditional metrics
Altmetrics provide a wider range of data, from a wider range of sources than traditional metrics. Altmetrics data is also highly nuanced and can be provided in high detail and in the context in which it originates. rocket ship taking off
Offer speed and discoverability
Altmetrics data accumulates at a faster speed compared to traditional metrics. In disciplines where citations grow slowly, or in the context of new researchers, this speed helps determine which outputs are gaining online attention. an open padlock
Open access advantage
Providers like Altmetric.com and ImpactStory provide access to their API and source code. Altmetrics providers also pull their data from open sources, who give access to their APIs or raw usage data, which makes altmetrics data more easily replicable than data in proprietary databases.
Altmetrics lack a standard definition
The field of altmetrics remains undecided on what altmetrics truly measure. However, the NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics (Altmetrics) Initiative is currently working to create a standard definition of the term and has a draft of its definition open for public comment. even level bar
Altmetrics data are not normalized
It is not advised to compare between sources and data sets for altmetrics, as different providers collect different kinds of data. Instead, we suggest using altmetrics to tell a story about your research - see the "Use Cases" tab for more information. calendar with a timer
Almetrics are time-dependent
Altmetrics provide information about the use of the work, but much of this use has a lifespan - and that lifespan is unknown. For older works, there may not be much altmetrics activity, but that does not necessarily mean that the work is not heavily used! many inputs to one document
Altmetrics have known tracking issues
Altmetrics work best with items that have a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). PlumX is one provider that can track usage of an item with only a URL, but not all providers provide the same level of tracking for items without DOIs.