Altmetrics are a kind of non-academic 'cousin' to bibliometrics. That's not to say that they are any less important though. Instead, they have a unique purpose. They should be considered a useful addition to bibliometrics, as opposed to a replacement.
Altmetrics show you how research has been covered by the mainstream press, discussed on blogs and distributed via social media across the world. Perhaps more importantly, altmetrics can also show how research has been adopted by industry and influenced policy. This can provide a fascinating insight into how research has made it's way out of the academic realm and entered the real world.
While reading this page, it's worth remembering that the term 'altmetrics' kind of under-sells what they can do. While they can indeed tell you metrics about, for example, how many times a research article has been written about in the press, they also give qualitative details of exactly which media outlets have covered the article or who has tweeted about it etc.
To get a flavor of how this works, you may like to take a look at the top 100 Altmetrics articles.
Who are the main providers of altmetrics?
There are two main providers of altmetrics. Slightly confusingly, a company who is actually called Altmetrics and also another company called Plum Analytics. While they offer similar functionality, Altmetrics provides an overall 'score' of attention. As discussed below, some caution should be taken when using this overall score.
How can I look up the altmetrics for an article?
Publishers websites -
Probably the easiest way is to look at the article or book record on the publisher's website. Different publishers use different altmetric providers (ie. Altmetrics or PlumX), but you're essentially looking for one of the icons shown above. You can then click on 'plum print' or Altmetric's 'donut' icon to get specific details about exactly which news stories have mentioned the article, who has shared it on twitter etc.
Article databases -
Altmetrics (PlumX) are also shown in the search results in Discovery and on Scopus. Again, your essentially looking for one of the two icons shown above. You can then click on 'plum print' or Altmetric's 'donut' icon to get specific details about exactly which news stories have mentioned the article, who has shared it on twitter etc.
Bookmark tool -
If you want to go into a little more depth, Altmetrics offers a 'bookmark' tool that you can install. This only takes a few seconds -
- Go to the bookmarklet page, then scroll down until you see a blue 'Altmetric it!' button.
- Then drag-and-drop it onto your browser toolbar. This adds a small button to your browser (see icon circled in red above).
- Then go to the web page containing an article that your interested in.
- Click the bookmarklet buttton on your browser. A little coloured donut will appear in the top-right which gives you the altmetrics (see above). You can then click on it to get specific details about exactly which news stories have mentioned the article, who has shared it on twitter etc.
How can I look up the altmetrics for a group of articles?
Individual academics and students don't have the ability to be able to look up this themselves at the moment. However, the Library does have the facility to do this on request. If you'd like to know more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
How can I use altmetrics to look up policy and patent influence?
When looking at which research has made a tangible difference in the real world, two indicators are how it's affected policy and patents.
If you're using Altmetrics, if you can click on the coloured 'donut' icon you'll be taken through to a screen that looks similar to above. You can then click on the Policy Documents or Patents tabs to see this information.
if you're using PlumX metrics, then click on the coloured 'plum print' icon, then look under the Citations area.
What should I be careful with when dealing with altmetrics?
Although altmetrics are useful, they should be treated with some caution. They are essentially a measure of the amount of 'attention' being paid to a piece of research. However, they do not show whether this attention is positive or negative. For example, an article could be mentioned many times on twitter because it is bad! So when interpreting altmetrics, you need to explore beneath what the numbers actually mean.
Where can I get further help?
Please contact the Research Outputs team on email@example.com Or if you are interested in research impact, then please contact the University's Research Impact Officer, Dee Summers - firstname.lastname@example.org