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What Is Altmetrics Counting and How Do Altmetrics Help Authors?

Jan 2017
 

Authors


Michelle M. Volesko Brewer
Librarian/Market Intelligence Manager, Wolters Kluwer Health

As an author, you might be curious about the altmetric score and how altmetrics can help you. Fundamentally, altmetrics concerns the measurement of the use of your research article beyond the traditional measures of a journal impact factor, which uses citation counts in scholarly information sources. There are many types of “use” measured by altmetrics—mentions in Wikipedia, social media like Twitter, saves in Zotero, links in bookmarking services like Delicious—and much more. Altmetrics measures uses in scholarly and non-scholarly outlets. Think of altmetrics on a continuum, with scholarly impact on one end (traditional citations and bookmarks in reference management databases) to popular and societal impact on the other end (tweets and Facebook mentions). 1
The list below represents many of the data sources and types of data tracked for the research outputs noted. For some sources, only one type of research output is tracked; for others, several may be counted. Not all altmetrics sources or aggregators use the same terminology for their measures, count the same metrics, or count the metrics in the same manner, frequency, or with the same methods. Some may employ weighted measures too for some metrics. Thus it is not statistically correct to compare altmetrics scores across aggregators or social media. The following list includes overlap to familiarize you with the terms that altmetrics aggregators use and report to you.

Altmetrics aggregation services

There are aggregation services that measure how much an author’s works are used within social media. To make better sense of the diverse altmetrics measures, and to save time, authors should use an aggregator service.4 There are currently three main products: Altmetric.com, Impact Story (impactstory.org), and Plum Analytics (plumanalytics.com).5 These services normalize the data for use by individuals, institutions, publishers, funders, and others. Authors can see how they compare to others and can access, see, and share the reports and reuse the data as needed. Not every service measures all social media, and not all services measure in the same way.

Availability of aggregation services to authors

Not all services are directly accessible via an author registration or individual subscription, which can be confusing. Altmetric.com and Plum Analytics data are licensed by institutions, though the data is available to authors for free via an institution or publisher page. Authors can see their data from these services on their article page from their journal publisher, or an author page, from their institution when they have faculty status, or via a library licensed database like Scopus. Altmetric.com also licenses to publishers or institutions.

Impact Story is available to the individual and uses data from Altmetric.com. The service is currently free to authors, supported by the Sloan Foundation, but it may or may not have an annual fee after a free access period. Impact Story uses CrossRef for article metadata and ORCID for author identity management.

Additionally, there are other services an academic institution may use like the Mendeley Institutional Edition (MIE) that functions as an analytics tool. MIE is built on top of Mendeley, so an academic institution can understand its research output4 and impact.

Other ways publishers and aggregators are helping authors is by putting the altmetrics data in context for interpretation. For example:

 

Overview of Altmetrics Measures Collected by Aggregators*

Altmetrics type

Impact Story7

Altmetric.com8

Plum Analytics9

Views, downloads

X
Uses data from  Altmetric.com to track online impact of publications


X
(optionally available and embedded on publishers’ journal articles in badges and detail pages, but not included in score)

X
(number of times abstract or full text was viewed, or the HTML was viewed or downloaded on various sources including the vendor’s products (EBSCO) as well as PLoS, PubMed Central  and others, see vendor site for listing)

Readers, bookmarks, tags

X

X

Comments

X
(peer review)

X

News media

X

X

Blogs

X

X

Policy documents, reports

X

X

Books, book chapters

X

X

Journal articles

X

X

Presentations

X

 

Data sets

X

X

Syllabi

X

X

Specific social media

Impact Story7

Altmetric.com8

Plum Analytics9

BASE – Bielefeld Academic Search Engine

X
Identifies free full text articles, calculates #OAscore as the percentage of work free to read in open repository

 

 

Bit.ly

 

 

Uses data from  Altmetric.com to track online impact of publications

 

X
(number of clicks of the URL)

CiteULike

X
(coverage ended Dec. 2014)

 

Delicious

 

X
(Number of times an artifact bookmarked)

Dryad

 

X
(number of times the artifact has been viewed)

F1000 Reviews

X
(links)

 

Facebook

X
(posts on public pages, not individual timeline posts)

X
(number of times a link was shared, liked or commented on)

figshare

 

X
(number of times the artifact viewed, recommended)

GitHub

 

X
(number of collaborators of an artifact, and number of times artifact followed, or repository ‘forked’, and number of people watching the artifact for updates)

Google+

 

 

Uses data from  Altmetric.com to track online impact of publications

X
(public posts only)

 

Mendeley

X
(number of readers, not included in score)

X
(number of people who added artifact to their library)

OCLC’s WorldCat

 

X
(number of libraries that hold the book artifact)

Open Syllabus

X
(link syllabi’s contents)

 

Publons

X
(peer review comments)

 

PubPeer

X
(peer review comments)

 

Q&A (Stack Overflow)

X
 (links)

 

Reddit

X
(original posts not comments)

 

Scopus

X
(citation counts, but not included in score)

 

Slideshare

 

X
(number of times the artifact has been viewed, and number of times the artifact  marked favorite)

Twitter

X
(public tweets, quoted tweets, retweets)

X

Vimeo

 

X
(number of times the a video played, and number of people subscribed for an update)

Wikipedia (English language)

X

 

YouTube

X
(links to outputs in video comments)

X
(number of times the a video played, and number of times the artifact  marked favorite, and number of people who have subscribed for an update)

*Note: This listing is not all inclusive and does include or describe all the metrics from these aggregators. Not all data that is counted and displayed may actually be used in the aggregator’s altmetrics score. Not all metrics may be counting the same items, or counting in the same way.  Check the aggregator’s websites for details.

The value of altmetrics to authors

A Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins (LWW) survey reported that authors used social media to help identify areas of interesting research and to find fellow researchers worth noting.10 So this data supports the current awareness need for authors when interacting with social media. Altmetrics has other uses, too, such as identifying collaborators and providing deeper insight into your research impact for your CV, for tenure or promotion applications, or grant proposals—to name a few.

Altmetrics data can provide authors help

Altmetric.com’s case study of Terrie Moffitt, the Nannerl O. Keohane University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University,13 explains this value. She needed to demonstrate broader impact of her work in her grant application to the U.S. NIH and the U.K. MRC programs. Using altmetrics she learned her work had been referenced in policy documents published by two major organizations.14 The professor learned her lab and its work was in the top 1% with global reach, found new collaborators from comments, and identified their methods were highly tweeted. They now emphasize methods in social media and follow commenters. The aggregated data used by her lab staff from Altmetric.com provided efficiency, eliminating the time-consuming or impossible task of chasing such data down manually.15

Action Plan

So now that you are convinced altmetrics can help you and you want to get started, where do you begin? The following list of techniques and tips provide a simple plan. 

Always keep in mind two guiding principles:

Techniques and Tips

Potential Pitfalls and/or Limitations of Altmetrics

Like traditional citation metrics, altmetrics are subject to many pitfalls and fraud. For example, be wary of:

Libraries and librarians as altmetrics resources

Librarians are delivering workshops at colleges and universities to educate faculty and graduate students about social media. They are offering best practices, discussing the tools and measures and what data the university may offer to authors. Librarians are advocating altmetrics to showcase the research of the institution’s authors for use perhaps in a research assessment system. Librarians now view altmetrics as a part of the research lifecycle and some formally include it on their menu of library scholarly communication services for their university.4,17
Visit the website of the library or your alma mater to learn more. Most medical, nursing and allied health schools have guides on this topic and use keywords like altmetrics or scholarship to locate their LibGuide. Many libraries also list reputable social media or scholarly sharing sites specifically for medical disciplines for example see the website of Weill Cornell Medicine, Samuel J. Wood Library, aptly named SCISSORS - Scholarly Communication Information Services in Support of Research.

References

  1. Collister, Lauren B. and Timothy S. Deliyannides. “Altmetrics: Documenting the Story of Research.” Against the Grain, February 2016, pp 16-18.
  2. Costas, R., Zahedi, Z., & Wouters, P. (2014). Do altmetrics correlate with citations? Extensive comparison of altmetric indicators with citations from a multidisciplinary perspective. arXiv preprint arXiv:1401.4321.
  3. “Altmetrics,” Online Searcher. March-April 2015. Vol. 39(2):6.
  4. Galloway, Linda M. “Introduction to Altmetrics for Medical and Special Librarians,” National Network/Libraries of Medicine - Middle Atlantic Region (NN/LM MAR) Boost Box Series. March 2014.
  5. Brigham, Tara J.(2014) An Introduction to Altmetrics, Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 33:4, 438-447, DOI: 10.1080/02763869.2014.957093
  6. Kwok, R. “Research impact: Altmetrics make their mark” Nature, 500, pp. 491–493 (22 August 2013) doi:10.1038/nj7463-491a Published online 21 August 2013.
  7. “About the data.” Impactstory https://impactstory.org/about/data
  8. “Tracking and Collating Attention.” Altmetric.com https://www.altmetric.com/about-our-data/how-it-works
  9. “Usage Metrics.” Plum Analytics. http://plumanalytics.com/learn/about-metrics/usage-metrics
  10. Scheponik, Nick, Amirah Lawson, Tom Pacific. “Altmetrics: Becoming More Than Just a Buzz Word,” [Unpublished]. Poster at the Lippincott Williams and Wilkins Symposium, 2014.
  11. Van Bergen, Penny. “Why academics should use social media (Education)” 11:08 min. [Video]. August 20, 2015. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ViQlOuVn7Y&feature=youtu.be
  12. Holmes, K. “Librarians & altmetrics: Tools, Tips and Use cases” [webinar]. Feb 20, 2014 - 59 min. http://libraryconnect.elsevier.com/library-connect-webinars?commid=96059
  13. “Terrie Moffit.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrie_Moffitt
  14. The Evolution of Impact Indicators: From Bibliometrics to Altmetrics.” Altmetric.com and Scholastica. [2015]. pp. 26. http://scholasticahq.com/altmetrics-the-evolution-of-impact-indicators
  15. Rouhi, Sara. Emerging Discovery Tools. “Altmetrics: Unlocking Opportunities for Discovery.” Paper presented to the NFAIS Hybrid Workshop: Discovery for Scholarly Research: Evolving Needs and Services, Alexandria VA., June 29, 2016. Annapolis, MD: National Federation of Advanced Information Services. https://nfais.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/Discovery_Workshop/sara%20rouhi.pdf
  16. Kaplan, Andreas M. and Michael Haenlein. “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media,” Business Horizons (2010) 53, 59—68. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.00310.
  17. Roemer, Robin Chin and Rachel Borchardt. “Keeping Up With… Altmetrics.” Association of College and Research Libraries. January 2014. http://www.ala.org/acrl/publications/keeping_up_with/altmetrics


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