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Scholarly Communication & Research Support: Altmetrics


Altmetrics or alternative metrics, are untraditional metrics to measure the use and importance of scholarly articles, particularly in the sciences.

Altmetrics, or article level metrics / alternative metrics, are untraditional metrics to measure the use and importance of scholarly articles, particularly in the sciences. Proposed as an alternative to more traditional bibliometrics (citation metrics) such as impact factor and h-index, altmetrics are always thought of as metrics about articles. They can be applied to journals, books, data sets, presentations, videos, etc. and cover new electronic sources of information, including number of downloads and page viewsmentions in social media and news media such as Twitter or blogs, etc.


Altmetrics are a very broad group of metrics. The following is an example of the altmetrics categories used by the Public Library of Science:

  • Usage -- such as HTML views and PDF downloads
  • Citations -- tracked by Web of Science, Scopus and others
  • Social bookmarking and dissemination activity -- saved in Medenley, CiteULike and other social bookmarks
  • Media and blog coverage -- e.g. comments in blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media
  • Discussion activity and ratings -- e.g. discussions in blogs, recommendations in F000Prime, likes in social media

Altmetrics vs. Traditional Metrics  

As more and more academic literature is published every year, scholars have to rely on a few "filters" to select the most relevant and influential sources. Traditional metrics such as citation counts and Journal Impact Factor (JIF) have served as important filters in scholarly publishing. However, these filters are failing now. A new type of metrics called altmetrics are emerging.

Citation counting used to be the best way to define the importance of a scholarly work. It is useful, but it takes time for a work to be cited. Sometimes a work's first citation can take years, and an influential work may remain uncited for years. Journal Impact Factors (JIF), a filter based on a journal's average citations per article, is another traditional metrics in academic literature assessment. But JIF does not necessarily reflect the importance and influence of individual articles in a journal. Besides, in today's highly commercialised scholarly publishing environment, it is easy to manipulate journal impact and rankings. Moreover, these traditional metrics neglect a work's impact online and in social media. As more and more scholars moving online, online usage, discussion and distribution should be taken into account when evaluating academic literature.

Altmetrics obviously expand people's view toward the impact of articles. Altmetrics take into account various metrics including online viewslikesdownloadsbookmarkingcomments and others. These diverse metrics are also timely. A work may receive thousands of comments and bookmarks online in a week. It can be spread over the world rapidly and begin to receive citations shortly after publishing. 

Traditional metrics will still be used, and citations will still be an important part in the assessment of impact and significance. But undoubtedly, altmetrics are changing the evaluation of the impact of scholarly works in the new information age. 

How Altmetrics Can Help  

The primary purpose of doing research and write a long research paper is to let people find it out and make use of it. Altmetrics enable researchers to better promote their research online and lead the race in the scholarly publishing cycle.

  • Altmetrics can help you to demonstrate the impact of your intellectual output. You will be able to find out how your researches are read, cited, liked and bookmarked online and receive updates on these statistics timely.
  • Altmetrics can help you to discover the latest scholarly articles in different disciplines and select better materials for your research.
  • Altmetric tools are like online scholarly communities where you can associate with other researchers and get known by others. They can help you to reach more readers. By visualising the impact of your research online, more colleagues within the community will findread and cite your papers. Your intellectual output can be further promoted online. 

Where Do I Find Altmetrics?  

There are several tools which can help to define the altmetrics of an article or an author, including, PlumX Metrics, etc. They can be used alone and are embedded in many databases and platforms as well.

Altmetric tracks a range of sources to capture and collate conversations about scholarly content online, helping to monitor and report on the attention surrounding a scholarly output. It offers a free bookmarklet for individual academic researchers, and enables you to instantly see Altmetric data for any published research output with a DOI. You may install the bookmarklet for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Fill in the form at and get the tool. 

Altmetric badges and data are available in a few academic databases subscribed by XJTLU Library, inlcuding Taylor & Francis SSH, Emerald,, Science and Wiley. You will be able to uncover online conversations around the articles in these databases. Below are the examples. 

PlumX Metrics

PlumX Metrics provide insights into the ways people interact with individual pieces of research output. Metrics inlcude citations, usage, captures, mentions and social media. 

PlumX Metrics are available on some databases and platforms, including Scopus, Science Direct and Digital Commons. Below are the examples.