Skip to main content

Research Impact

This guide includes information and resources on measuring the impact of scholarly works, such as citation-based and alternative metrics.

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

"Altmetrics should be used in parallel with impact factors and citation counts to add a more nuanced, qualitative side to impact." (A Brief Introduction to Altmetrics for ResearchersSee the Nature Jobs blogpost "Metrics with Meaning: Shaping Your Scholarly Identity" on how tracking scholarly scientific output can be beneficial to a researcher's career.

Learn more at whatarealtmetrics.com. 

Pros and Cons of Altmetrics

Pros

  • Fast
  • Allow assessment directly at the article level (rather than the journal)
  • Accommodate other products: posters, datasets, blog posts, etc.
  • Measure "hidden impact" (impact without citations)
  • Provide evidence of impact for CVs, tenure packages, & grant applications
  • Provide context and meaning for download counts
  • Provide evidence of public impact and engagement for funders & other stakeholders
  • Complementary to traditional citation-based metrics

Cons

  • Impact can be exaggerated through data manipulation ("gaming")
  • Can be difficult to interpret
  • Rely on 3rd-party data souces
  • Metrics can only be accurate if name and object information is accurate

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.

Helpful Introductory Resources about Altmetrics

Who Is Using Altmetrics?

Many organizations are already actively collecting or displaying altmetrics data: popular scientific publishers (PLOS, Cell Press, Nature Publishing Group); platforms or online communities (ResearchGate, Mendeley, F1000, Scopus); and repositories (PMC, eScholarship@UMMS).  There are more every day.

Who is using altmetrics from slide presentation

Altmetrics in Action: An Example from Nature

These are the article metrics for a Nature article published in 2013 by Jeanne Lawrence's team in the Dept of Cell and Developmental Biology where they demonstrated that they could silence the extra chromosome responsible for Down Syndrome.  The Altmetric Attention Score is a measure of the attention an article has received online, including social media mentions, news coverage, and online reference manager counts.  

Jeanne Lawrence article in Nature with altmetrics