HealthApril 11, 2023

Understanding the Altmetrics score and your research

One point of interest among authors of a research article is: Who has seen my paper? Before the internet, authors were limited to article citations as a means of quantifying the impact of their papers. Now, of course, research is online and with that comes the ability to track access.

Today, authors looking for article-level metrics have a powerful tool: Altmetrics.

What are Altmetrics?

Simply put, Altmetrics are a measure of non-traditional attention and engagement that your article has received. It is an alternative to relying solely on citations to quantify the reach and impact of your published research. To create an Altmetric score for your paper, a host of non-traditional sources are monitored and searched for links and references to the published research. This data is presented in an easily digestible format that enables you to see who is commenting on your research, and where these mentions are taking place.

A few things that Altmetrics are not:

  • They’re not just a number.
  • They’re not meant to replace traditional metrics (e.g., citations).
  • They’re not just used for journal articles — books and monographs, data sets, images, posters, and more are also tracked.

Many publishers, including Lippincott®, have been including Altmetric data on articles published in their journals.

Understanding the Altmetric badge

Altmetric donut

After tracking how often your research paper is mentioned in non-traditional sources such as news outlets, social media, and blogs, Altmetrics summarizes the results in the “Altmetric donut” that many researchers have become familiar with in recent years. The badge is a visual means of showcasing the online attention an article has received, and provides a means of evaluating its impact.

Each color in the Altmetric badge refers to a different source where your article was mentioned. And so, if you are familiar with the colors and the media outlets they represent, in a glance you can see where your article was discussed. In the center of the badge is the article’s current score, which is based on volume, sources, etc.

In calculating your article’s score, it’s important to note that not all media outlets carry the same weight in calculating your article’s Altmetric score. A mention of your article on a news outlet, for example, is weighted more than a tweet.

Altmetric infographic

Why the Altmetrics score matters for your research

There are a number of reasons why published researchers should pay attention to the Altmetrics score for their papers:

  • The Altmetrics score is an early indicator of an article’s potential impact. The score is calculated quickly after publication, whereas citations can take months, if not years, to build.
  • In a related sense, your paper’s Altmetrics score is a means of getting your work noticed, which can lead to citations.
  • You can find out who is talking about your research — and where they’re doing the talking.
  • Review committees looking for data-driven indicators of a scholar’s impact can incorporate Altmetrics to paint a fuller picture of the reach and influence of your scholarly output.
  • And finally, your Altmetrics scores can help strengthen funding applications.

A final word about Altmetrics

When looking at an article’s Altmetric score, you need to remember that the score is an indicator of attention not quality. This is important to remember because not all attention is positive – an article that receives negative attention can have a high Altmetric score.

In the end, Altmetrics are just one of many tools available to authors. Visit Lippincott’s Author Resource page for a variety of tools for preparing, writing, submitting, and promoting your research, including video tutorials, and more.

Further reading:

Lippincott author resources:

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