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Metrics & Impact Core

Learn about the mission and services of the MIC

Using Altmetrics

Altmetrics can help you answer questions about your research. For example:

  • How many times was my work downloaded?
  • Who is reading my work? (on Mendeley, bookmarking sites, etc.)
  • Was my work covered by any news outlets?
  • Are other researchers commenting on my work? (social media, blogs, peer review sites, etc.)
  • How many times was my work shared? (on Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Which countries are looking at my work?
  • Was my work cited in any policy documents?
  • Was my work cited in any patents?

Benefits of Using Altmetrics

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.

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.

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 researcher or early-career researchers, this speed helps determine which outputs are gaining online attention. Early online attention may predict future scholarly citations. Research is currently being done in this area, so stay tuned!

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.

Considerations When Using 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.

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.   

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!k

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.