Alternative metrics

What are they?

Alternative metrics (“altmetrics”) differ from traditional scholarly metrics. Scholarship has increasingly moved online and altmetrics help researchers collect data about online interactions. Instead of looking at traditional metrics, for example journal metrics, altmetrics look at article-level metrics on non-traditional web-based platforms.

While journal articles may be one of the more common research outputs of scholars, altmetrics can also be used to collect data about the sharing and impact of academic books, posters, presentation slides, data, and software. For example, altmetrics include:

  • the number of downloads and page views of an article on websites or institutional repositories;
  • discussion of an article, book, presentation, or other research on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, and blogs such as ResearchBlogging;
  • sharing through social bookmarks; and
  • sharing through reference managers such as Mendeley.

Duke University’s Altmetrics for Researchers provides a very thorough list of different sources of altmetrics for articles, books, book chapters, data, software, posters, slides, and videos.

Why is it useful to track them?

Altmetrics can give a more comprehensive picture of the impact of your research, especially combined with traditional metrics. There is great deal of discussion around how altmetrics allow researchers to capture the impact of their research quickly, “letting researchers see, almost in real time, how an article or data set or blog post is moving through all levels of the scholarly ecosystem” (Rise of ‘Altmetrics’ Revives Questions About How to Measure Impact of Research).

Lack of standards and best practices

There is no standardization or set of best practices for altmetrics yet, but the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) is working on it. NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics Initiative has produced a variety of documents such as definitions, use cases and bibliographies; however, it has not yet issued its final documents.

How to track alternative metrics:

The following list is not exhaustive, but includes some notable examples of altmetrics providers and aggregators.

Free sources

  • Academia.edu
    • Create your own login to access this platform that allows researchers to upload research papers, follow researchers, and collect analytics.
    • Academia.edu does not charge, but it is not open access.
  • CiteULike
    • This free online citation manager does not specifically focus on altmetrics, but it allows you to track citations and article downloads.
  • figshare (basic free account for researchers)
    • The basic free account allows researchers to upload any file format and share research such as papers, presentations, data, and much more with other scholars in figshare’s repository. figshare tracks metrics such as views and downloads. Their data is integrated with Impactstory (see subscription sources).
  • Peer Evaluation
    • Researchers can share their working papers, articles, data, and other research outputs through this platform and receive peer feedback quickly. It also allows researchers to track the impact of their research on traditional and non-traditional dissemination sites like PubMed, Twitter, Research Blogs, Wikipedia, and more.
  • ResearchGate
    • Allows researchers to share and discuss research publications. The site tracks statistics such as citations, views, and downloads.
    • ResearchGate does not charge, but it is not open access.

Subscription sources

  • Altmetric
    • Allows you to monitor and track online engagement with your research on a variety of platforms such as Wikipedia, blogs, social media, online reference managers, and more.
  • Impactstory
    • Focuses on science researchers and allows them to show the impact of traditional and non-traditional research outputs, such as journal articles, blog posts, and datasets. Impactstory pulls in metrics from a wide variety of providers such as CiteULike, figshare, Mendeley, GitHub, Scopus, and Slideshare.
  • Plum Analytics
    • This EBSCO product is focused on institution-wide integration instead of individual researchers. Its PlumX Metrics can be integrated into an institutional repository. It collects metrics for usage, captures, mentions, social media and citations.

Publishers that collect alternative metrics

Additional reading