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Scholarly Publishing

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