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The purpose of this guide is to provide resources and information to the UMass Medical School community about open access and new models of scholarly publishing.
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Altmetrics Print Page

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Why Altmetrics?

On the Research to Action website, Laura ffrench-Constant has compiled a list of the advantages of altmetrics for researchers:

  • Metrics can be added to a CV or used to enhance an online research platform/ collaboration site.
  • Altmetrics are a useful tool to track the social impact and the uptake of specific articles.
  • The geographical breakdown and profession of your readers can show the breadth of uptake beyond a specific field or discipline.
  • Social media statistics and bookmarks can show public engagement with research and even allow feedback.
  • It could be useful to scope out particular collaborators who are engaging with your research.
  • It allows better understanding of the research community and how it communicates, for example metrics include mentions by F1000 and pick up by academic blogs.
  • As well as assessing certain papers or individuals some sites allow research groups or departments to be evaluated as a whole.
  • What it doesn’t tell you is just as important as the metrics it does show; gaps should be used to improve future research dissemination strategies and achieve better social impact along with heightened research visibility.
  • Altmetrics should be used in parallel with impact factors and citation counts to add a more nuanced, qualitative side to impact.
  • They amass much quicker than citation counts, with results in days.

What Are Altmetrics?

Altmetrics, or alternative metrics, are new ways to track and measure scholarly influence and research impact in real time.  They measure the attention an article (or any sort of online publication) has received online, including social media mentions, news coverage, downloads, bookmarks, blog mentions, etc.  They are complementary to traditional bibliometrics such as the Journal Impact Factor and personal citation indices like the H-index.  

Helpful introductory resources about altmetrics:


Slides from 11/14/2013 NISO Webinar: “New Perspectives on Assessment: How Altmetrics Measure Scholarly Impact”


Altmetrics in Action: A Live Example from eScholarship@UMMS

In 2013, UMMS' Journal of eScience Librarianship began experimenting with data from Altmetric to display article level metrics for each of our articles. The Altmetric score is a measure of the attention an article has received online, including social media mentions, news coverage, and online reference manager counts.  Here's an example of the Altmetric data for an article:


In the News

What Jeffrey Beall gets wrong about altmetrics (Impactstory blog, 9 September 2014)

Response to the anti-altmetrics claims raised by librarian Jeffrey Beall in a blogpost titled, “Article-Level Metrics: An Ill-Conceived and Meretricious Idea.”

Research Trends special issue on altmetrics (Research Trends, Issue 37, June 2014)

This special issue of Research Trends includes 9 articles about altmetrics. 

Four great reasons to stop caring so much about the h-index (Impactstory blog, 26 March 2014)

Explains four ways the h-index is failing on the job and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Altmetrics Tools

Below are listed some comprehensive tools.  Article level metrics are also available from an increasing number of publisher websites, such as PLOS, Frontiers, and Elsevier's Scopus product.

  • Altmetric
    Compiles article level metrics by tracking and analyzing the online activity around scholarly literature in social media sites, newspapers, government policy documents and other sources.
  • ImpactStory
    Researchers can create an "impact profile" of all their research products—from traditional ones like journal articles, to emerging products like blog posts, datasets, and software.
  • Plum Analytics
    Collects, tracks, and measures research impact for both individuals and groups.

In the News - Archives

Impact Factor and the Future of Medical Journals (The Atlantic, 10 January 2014)

Some research publications are getting away from flawed measures of influence that make it easy to game the system.

Alternative metrics now available for Cochrane Reviews (The Cochrane Library, December 7, 2013)

Altmetric scores and badges will be displayed on each Cochrane Protocol and Review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) beginning December 7, 2013.

Which academic research caught the public imagination in 2013? (, December 11, 2013)

A look back at 2013 from Altmetric with a review of the 100 papers that received the most attention online - and the conversations that happened around them.

Towards a common model of citation: some thoughts on merging altmetrics and bibliometrics (Research Trends, December 2013)

Mike Taylor stresses the need for a theoretical basis for the nascent field of alternative metrics, on which any methodological decisions need to rely.

Universities can improve academic services through wider recognition of altmetrics and alt-products (LSE Impact blog, October 15, 2013)

Carly Strasser provides an overview of why altmetrics are here to stay and how universities might begin to incorporate altmetrics into their own services. While this process might take some time, institutions can begin by encouraging their researchers to recognize the importance of all of their scholarly work (datasets, software, etc).

Research impact: Altmetrics make their mark (Nature, August 21, 2013)

Alternative measures can yield useful data on achievement — but must be used cautiously.

Rise of 'Altmetrics' Revives Questions About How to Measure Impact of Research (Chronicle of Higher Education, June 3, 2013)

New tools show who's sharing researchers' work online, but the data typically aren't considered by tenure panels.


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