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Scholarly Publishing: Altmetrics

This guide covers metrics, open access, tools to decide where to publish, who is citing me, author rights and, definitions

Altmetrics--what are they?

Alternative Metrics = Altmetrics, because traditional impact measures alone are slow, incomplete and limited.

Slow: relying exclusively on citations means relying on publishing cycles which, by their nature, have a built in lag time for peer review.

Incomplete: failing to consider all the other ways research is used (downloaded, bookmarked, mentioned in blogs etc.) excludes all the additional means of the ongoing conversation that is research.

Limited: traditional measures, e.g. journal impact factor or h index, limits the measure of impact only to peer-reviewed sources largely within the academy. In addition traditional measures do not consider all forms of contribution such as a dataset.

"...there is a growing movement within the scientific establishment to better measure and reward all the different ways that people contribute to the messy and complex process of scientific progress.  This movement has begun to gather loosely around the banner of "altmetrics," which was born out of a simple recognition: Many of the traditional measurements are too slow or simplistic to keep pace with today's internet-age science"    Samuel Arbesman "New Ways to Measure Science"  WIRED  January 9, 2012 

J. Priem, D. Taraborelli, P. Groth, C. Neylon (2010), Altmetrics: A manifesto, 26 October 2010.

altmetrics: a manifesto

"In growing numbers, scholars are moving their everyday work to the web. Online reference managers Zotero and Mendeley each claim to store over 40 million articles (making them substantially larger than PubMed); as many as a third of scholars are on Twitter, and a growing number tend scholarly blogs.

These new forms reflect and transmit scholarly impact: that dog-eared (but uncited) article that used to live on a shelf now lives in Mendeley, CiteULike, or Zotero–where we can see and count it. That hallway conversation about a recent finding has moved to blogs and social networks–now, we can listen in. The local genomics dataset has moved to an online repository–now, we can track it. This diverse group of activities forms a composite trace of impact far richer than any available before. We call the elements of this trace altmetrics.

Altmetrics expand our view of what impact looks like, but also of what’s making the impact. This matters because expressions of scholarship are becoming more diverse. Articles are increasingly joined by:

  • The sharing of “raw science” like datasets, code, and experimental designs
  • Semantic publishing or “nanopublication,” where the citeable unit is an argument or passage rather than entire article.
  • Widespread self-publishing via blogging, microblogging, and comments or annotations on existing work."

altmetrics: a manifesto

J. Priem, D. Taraborelli, P. Groth, C. Neylon (2010), Altmetrics: A manifesto, 26 October 2010.

Acceptance and Controversy

While Altmetrics are becoming better understood and accepted, as with all scholarship, there is debate and disagreement. 

  • Quantity does not equal quality, being discussed in blogs or tweets does not mean the discussion is positive.
  • Who is commenting?  Is the blog post by your mother or by a noted expert in the field?
  • How to measure--is a download as significant as a blog mention?

One of the strongest opponents to altmetrics is Jeffery Beal of Beal's list. His issues are discussed in "Article-Level Metrics: An Ill-Conceived and Meretricious Idea."   Impactstory's blog provides another view of those same issues in "What Jeffrey Beall gets wrong about altmetrics."  

Altmetrics are likely here to stay--in the old print models of dissemination citations and journal impact factors were all scholars had to measure impact.  While those traditional measures still have value they only measure citations and neglect all the other proxies for impact that are part of the research environment. 

The following publishers are among those including altmetrics in their journals:

BioMed Central







Altmetrics, another way to show impact


What does altmetrics look like?  This is one view. (snap shot, ScienceDirect September 15, 2015)  In this case "Observation of a new particle in the search for the standard model higgs boson with the ATLAS detector at the LHC" Physics Letters B 716 (1) 2012.

Outreach and Scholarly Communications Librarian

Collette Mak
Reach me at:

Hesburgh Library
159 Hesburgh Library
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

(574) 631-7392


Effective September 29, 2015 Web Of Science includes usage counts.  These metrics count 'intentional' actions--clicking through to full text or exporting to a citation manager or a format (e.g. cvs) that can be used with a citation manager.  There are two counts:

  • Usage since February 2013, Thompson Reuters began counting use on February 1, 2013.
  • Usage within the most current 180 days, this is a rolling count.  The count will change over time.  The 180 day count is intended to be a measure of early interest in a paper.

Usage counts are not yet available at the author level.




This highly cited article would still be missing part of the story without altmetrics. What are included in altmetrics? The number out social media sites keeps expanding but in general altmetric feeds from: 

  • Blogs 
  • Bookmarking (Delicious, CitULike)
  • Citation Managers (Mendeley, RefWorks, Zotero)
  • Microblogs (Twitter)
  • Publisher-hosted comment sites 
  • Recommender sites
  • Social Networks (Facebook)



Including altmetrics

10 tips for using altmetrics in your cv and grant applications   blog post by Celia Carver

Altmetrics FAQ   ECS Digital Library (Society for sold-state and electrochemical science and technology) Tips on how to use altmetrics and how to improve your score. 

Altmetrics in action: applications for researchers Fran Davies