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Evaluating Research Impact Using Altmetrics

About this Guide

The aim of this guide is to provide scholarly researchers with an introduction to the evolving area of ‘alternative metrics’ or ‘altmetrics’. Altmetrics are social media indicators and web based analytics used to demonstrate the potential impact and reach of scholarly research outputs.

The guide provides a succinct overview of:

  • The pros and cons of using altmetrics 
  • Tools to gather and analyze altmetrics data
  • How altmetric data is summarized and visualized in order to quickly highlight indicators of attention or engagement with research 
  • How major academic publishers are using altmetrics in peer-reviewed journals
  • How librarians and institutions are using altmetrics, and
  • Useful links to enable you to keep current with the latest developments and trends

There are varied and interesting opportunities for individual researchers, librarians, institutions, and academic publishers to obtain qualitative data, critically appraise it with the goal of providing a more comprehensive summary about research impact. The decision to collect and use altmetric data when describing scholarly research impact remains with the individual researcher, librarian, institution and academic publisher. 

A Definition of Altmetrics

Altmetrics can be defined as: 

"The collection of multiple digital indicators related to scholarly work. These indicators are derived from activity and engagement among diverse stakeholders and scholarly outputs in the research ecosystem, including the public sphere” (Outputs of the NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics Project, section 1).

"For stakeholders interested in the broad influence of scholarly outputs, altmetrics may offer insight by calculating an output's reach, social relevance, and attention from a given community, which may include members of the public sphere" (Outputs of the NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics Project, section 1, NISO RP-25-2016).

In a Nutshell