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Learn how to use altmetrics or alternative metrics

What are altmetrics?

Altmetrics or alternative metrics measure online social engagement with research outputs. They differ from the traditional metrics which are citation counts, impact factor and h-indices.

Altmetrics can be applied to all fields of research. They are not reliant on the citation frequency in a field, and you do not have to wait as long for the work to mature (as with published citations) before seeing the impact.

Key messages

  • The term altmetrics relates to a range of alternative or non-traditional bibliometrics
  • Altmetrics encompass different types of measures from counts to field-weighted metrics
  • Having a digital object identifier (DOI) and publishing in Open Access venues makes research visible and assists the collation of altmetric data in databases
  • Altmetrics can be used to complement traditional citation analysis

Benefits and Limitations

Altmetrics are

  • quicker to accumulate
  • often show a more diverse and multidisciplinary impact
  • can be applied to books, presentations, and data instead of being largely limited to journal articles as traditional metrics typically are.
  • can be particularly useful to areas of research that do not have high citation counts, as they can help show the societal impact of these areas of research.

Be wary of altmetrics, as they

  • can be easily distorted or misinterpreted.
  • are attention indicators that may not be measuring scholarly quality or impact.
  • favour disciplines with strong online communities and media attention (news worthy topics and headline grabbing content)