Monday 15 July 2013

Altmetric: Solving the Impact Puzzle

Figure 1. Altmetric Explorer's Interface
Altmetric has been shortlisted for the ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation 2013. Here in a guest post, their data curator and blog editor Jean Liu, outlines the issues that drove its development.

"At Altmetric, our mission is to track and analyse the online attention that surrounds individual scholarly articles, in order to provide new ways for authors, publishers, and institutions to demonstrate research impact. The rationale behind this was simple: a growing number of scholarly conversations involving both academics and non-academics have been taking place online. Moreover, these conversations are centred on individual articles, rather than journals. As a result, traditional citation-based measures of journal impact are no longer suited to reflect the signals of impact that result from the new digital methods of scholarly discourse.

In some situations, the use of citation counts alone cannot demonstrate the wider impact that a research paper had on society. For instance, a paper that describes a life-saving public health intervention might have great societal impact, but few citations, perhaps due to the fact that the nurses at the front lines don’t have the time to write many peer-reviewed publications. In this case, the lack of citations might give the impression that the paper had little impact. However, metrics at the article level that measure the social web could help fill in the missing piece of this impact puzzle. For example, many healthcare practitioners are involved in the medical blogosphere and are active on social media, and might readily post about their experiences with the intervention described in the paper. As such, attention from blogs and social media could be better at telling the story of the paper’s true societal impact.

Altmetric aims to complement traditional metrics by measuring and quantifying the constellation of factors that can also be indicative of impact, not only in academia but also in society. Instead of focusing on journals, we provide article-level metrics that are based on attention from a variety of sources, including social media, blogs, news outlets, and reference managers. Through these alternative metrics (“altmetrics”), Altmetric is able to rapidly capture the impact of published research in a way that is better suited for the new age of digital scholarship.

All of Altmetric’s data can be easily browsed, filtered, and analysed using our flagship product, the Altmetric Explorer (Figure 1). Figure 1. above shows a screenshot of the Altmetric Explorer’s interface. Individual articles are represented by “donut” visualisations, which include Altmetric scores of attention. The colours of the donuts indicate the diversity of sources that have mentioned the articles. The video below provides a 'walk-through' of the Almetric Explorer tool.

Introduction to the Altmetric Explorer from on Vimeo.

For each paper, the number of mentions from each source are displayed in “article details pages” (Figure 2), along with the actual mentions themselves. By revealing the quantitative and qualitative data, users have the freedom to make their own assessments about the true impact of individual papers.

Figure 2. to the left shows a screenshot of an Altmetric details page. The left-hand side shows the donut visualization, Altmetric score, and breakdown of metrics. The main screen contains tabs that display the actual mentions that make up the metrics."

Jean Liu, MSc is the data curator and blog editor for Altmetric LLP. Her interest in altmetrics developed from her science blogging work and academic roots in neuroscience and pharmacology. She researches and writes about altmetrics for the Altmetric blog.

The ALPSP Awards finalists will be given the opportunity to showcase their journal or innovation in a rapid fire session at the ALPSP International Conference on Wednesday 11 September.

The winners will be announced at the Conference Awards Dinner on 12 September. Book now to secure your place.

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