Thing 16 – Altmetrics

You might be familiar with traditional metrics for measuring the impact of research. For example, publications have their citation count; journals have their impact factor; and individual authors have their h-index. Did you know that it is also possible to measure your impact from sharing research online and through social media? Although subject to the same flaws as traditional metrics, article Level, or Altmetrics can apply to people, journals, books, data sets, presentations, videos, source code repositories, web pages and more. Altmetrics cover not just citation counts, but also other aspects of the impact of a work, such as how many data and knowledge bases refer to it, article views, downloads or mentions in social media and news media.

The term ‘Altmetrics’ was first coined in 2010 and the method has been growing in popularity ever since. Although not yet commonly used amongst researchers, higher level bodies like publishers and research councils are adopting them and it is possible to view the Altmetric ratings for articles from publishers such as PLoS, Nature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell and Springer.

Several services exist to aggregate and calculate Altmetric scores, including:

Perhaps the most well known is, which is run by Elsevier, who also manage the publication database Scopus. For any particular piece of research, calculates a single score, and presents it in the form of a coloured ‘donut’ which reflects the composition of the altmetrics sources used.


Visit and explore the services offered on the site. What are the benefits for publishers, institutions or individual researchers?

Follow the instructions to install the Bookmarklet app. This will allow you instantly to view the altmetric score for any individual piece of research. Try finding the abstract for a well-known paper in your research field and have a look at the altmetrics associated with it.


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