Skip to Main Content

Measuring academic impact: Altmetrics

Altmetrics: online attention surrounding your research output

Colours and sources in the Altmetric donut

Altmetrics (alternative metrics) are an alternative for or complement to traditional citation impact metrics. Altmetrics especially capture online attention - how has research been shared, discussed and reused online -, for example on X (Twitter), in scholarly blogs or policy documents, in newspapers. The video What are 'altmetrics'? (3.58) gives a brief introduction to the concept of altmetrics.

These altmetrics can be useful to

  • Discover the use of your work beyond (academic) citations – for example from professionals (who will not cite your work, but might discuss it online), in policy documents.
  • Find potential partners or stakeholders by looking at who writes about your research.

Be aware: attention can be good, bad or neutral; attention is not impact! See for example this article - it received a lot of online attention, mostly caused by a peer-review or editing mistake in the article. To get a true evidence of impact, you need to dig deeper into the numbers and look at the qualitative data underneath.

Collecting Altmetrics in Altmetrix Explorer

Follow the handout 'Collecting altmetrics in Altmetric Explorer' to collect Altmetric data for (your) publications. Included are questions you can ask yourself while looking at the data.

There are several companies collecting altmetric data, with their own types, definitions and sources. In the chapter 'Suppliers of altmetrics' you can find an overview. The activity in this module is based on Altmetric Explorer, a tool to perform analyses and generate reports for Altmetric attention data. The EUR has licensed Altmetric Explorer. 

Tips and tricks

  • If you want to see the Altmetric information for one particular article, add the Altmetric Bookmarklet to your browser. Click 'Altmetric it!' to see the Attention Score in your browser, plus a link to the Altmetric details page.
  • Use a identifier when you tweet or blog about research: use for example the DOI, the link to the article on the website of the publisher, the handle or the PubMed ID. Do this also when you write about the research of others – this is a way for them to find you! In the example links to the website of the publisher or the link to the record in PubMed are included in the tweet.
    Example of a Tweet, using different identifiers to link to articles
  • If you want to be notified when your research was mentioned online, you can create a search alert in Altmetric Explorer. The easiest way is first to link your publications to your ORCID (an identifier for researchers. More information about ORCID is available in the online module 'YOU in databases: academic profiling' and in the EUR ORCID LibGuide). Make sure you choose the visibility setting ‘Everyone’ for these publications in ORCID - then Altmetric can 'see' this information as well. After a couple of days, you can use your ORCID to search the full Altmetric database. When you save that search and create an alert, you will get a notification when your research was mentioned online. 
    Please note: When you manually add publications to ORCID the identifiers are especially important. Altmetric has a list of tips about how to set up your ORCID profile to get maximum coverage. 
    To be able to save searches in Altmetric Explorer you need to create an Altmetric account: click the sign in button on the left side of the Altmetrics Explorer screen -  you have to use your EUR e-mail address to create the account. 
  • In the video 'How to use altmetrics for professional advancement'  (2.44 min) you can see how to include altmetrics data in tenure and promotion dossiers. Three rules for responsible use of altmetrics are:
    • provide context for the metrics you share, for example by providing percentiles
    • use appropriate metrics to the type of influence you claim to have
    • choose longform evidence of your impacts: instead of using metrics, show who is using your research

Suppliers of altmetrics

Several companies collect altmetrics, with their own definitions and sources.

  • Altmetric - the provider of Altmetric Explorer, for which the EUR has a license. You might encounter the Altmetric donut - with the Altmetric Attention Score - on the websites of publishers (see for example a SAGE journal, the tab Trending shows 'Articles with the highest Altmetric score from the last 3 months, indicating influence and impact'), in repositories, in the EUR & Erasmus MC Research Information Portal or in online publication lists of researchers. This score is an indicator of the amount of attention received by a publication. It is a weighted count of the attention: a tweet gets a weight of 1, a newspaper article of 8 and a policy document of 3, etc (see ‘How is the Altmetric Attention Score calculated?’). Please note that the scores for each type of attention are given by Altmetric - other choices could have been made. The score should not be used to compare articles. Each type of attention has its own color: tweets are light blue; newspaper articles are red and policy documents purple etc.
  • The metrics of Plum Analytics are called PlumX Metrics and are divided into four categories: usage, captures, mentions and citations. More information, including the sources used by Plum, is available here. The PlumX metrics are integrated in Scopus, ScienceDirectSSRN and in the EUR & Erasmus MC Research Information Portal. For example: in Scopus on the document details page under Metrics you can find the PlumX metrics - the link 'View PlumX details' will bring you to the PlumX page for the publication.

Example of PlumX metrics in Pure

  • In ImpactStory (from Our Research) you can create your own profile, add your publications (for example by linking to your ORCID iD) and see the mentions for your publications. ImpactStory also adds achievements, for example by looking at the percentage of Open Access publications in your profile. This is an example of a ImpactStory profile:

Technical and practical side of altmetrics

The exact way altmetrics are collected differs per supplier, but in general it works like this:

  • The research outputs, this can be articles, books, book chapters, datasets, presentations etc., need to have at least one unique identifier, for example a DOI, a PubMed ID or a handle.
  • The research outputs have to be on a domain that's been whitelisted by the supplier of the altmetrics. 
  • The unique identifiers, and other required information like title and author, have to be encoded in the metatags of the output’s webpage. 
  • A list of sources used to track the research outputs are regularly searched for links or mentions. These links are followed and the metadata is checked. Then the mention is linked to the details page of that research output. The list of sources used differs per supplier (list of PlumX, list of Altmetric).

These more technical aspects are important when you tweet or blog about research. See the Tips and Tricks for examples on how you can do this.

Activity - collecting altmetrics in Altmetric Explorer

Follow the handout 'Collecting altmetrics in Altmetric Explorer' to collect Altmetric data for (your) publications. Included are questions you can ask yourself while looking at the data.