Journal Article Impact III: Altmetrics

Now you know how to figure out how often your journal article has been cited. Other nagging questions include: How many people read the article but didn't cite it? And what if your article isn't pure research? What if it's more important to educators, policy makers, clinicians, or other practitioners? They would also read your article but not necessarily cite it. What if your article is picked up by the news media? Or there's a discussion on a blog about it? None of these 'impacts' are included in the scholarly citation count. How can this kind of use be measured or captured?

This is where altmetrics comes in. Altmetrics (alternative bibliometrics, get it?) focuses on social and news media, rather than the scholarly literature. The different services and publishers will cover slightly different mixes of blogs, Twitter accounts, news media, and sharing sites like Mendeley, figshare, and GitHub. A good overview of altmetrics is provided by Robin Chin Roemer and Rachel Borchardt. There are several services that will provide some of these numbers for you; a few are listed below.

  • Altmetric offers several commercial products that let you monitor and display how frequently an article has been mentioned in social media or the news. Publishers that use the Altmetric service include Elsevier, BioMed Central, and Nature Publishing Group.
  • ImpactStory is a nonprofit that lets you build a public profile based on your publications. Their data is open source.
  • PLoS is an example of a publisher that provides their own article level metrics. They provide article views, HTML page views, as well as PDF and XML download numbers for each article. Mentions on Wikipedia, Google+, blogs, and Twitter are included, as are links to services which provide the more traditional citation numbers.

And that's the end of this short series on journal article impact. We covered rules of thumb, citations, and altmetrics. If you're interested, there's a Scholarly Metrics guide with more information about other metrics. As always, your librarians are happy to discuss these topics with you.

About Robin Sinn

Robin is the Scholarly Communications Specialist at Sheridan Libraries, JHU. Metrics, academic publishing, discovery, repositories, and Open Science interest her.

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