About altmetrics

What are altmetrics?

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Altmetrics, or alternative metrics, are qualitative measures that provide insights into what is being said about research in non-academic environments. Altmetrics aim to demonstrate how research is being used to create public policy and solve real-world problems.

Altmetrics demonstrate the kind of attention research has received in sources such as social media, online news sources, blogs, policy papers, patents and other non-academic sources. Altmetrics can be used to demonstrate your broader impact as a researcher and to provide evidence of social impact and engagement. 

Outputs that have a persistent identifier, such as a DOI, ISBN, etc., can be tracked by altmetrics.

Altmetrics provides you with real time information on the attention being given to your research outputs.

On the other hand, bibliometrics are traditional quantitative measures of citations that take time to accrue and measure the reach of the work. Explore the ‘About Bibliometrics’ section of this module to learn about Bibliometrics.

Altmetrics may include information about:

  • the number of article or data citations, views or downloads in an institutional / preprint repository
  • who has shared your work on social media (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) and the potential reach of their audience
  • mentions in online news sources
  • citations in patents
  • mentions in blog posts from individuals and organisations
  • citations in policy documents.

Watch the following video to learn more about altmetrics.

What are altmetrics? (4 mins)

What are ‘altmetrics’? (4:00 min) by Altmetric.com (YouTube)

Why use altmetrics?

Altmetrics advantages and limitations

Speed Altmetric scores can begin to accrue immediately as you publicise your research. This is particularly useful for those whose bibliometrics citations may not have accumulated.
Range Altmetrics provides data on many types of outputs, not just scholarly articles, including datasets, software or code, conference presentations, book chapters and reports.
Detail Altmetrics provides detail on who is engaging with research outputs and what they are saying and where they are saying it. Altmetrics use many indicators, not just citations, to give a full picture of research impact.
Non-academic Altmetrics can surface non-academic discussion of your work and track the public conversation as it happens. People may mention the research but not actually cite it.
Sharing Altmetrics encourages sharing of research outputs with the academic and broader community as researchers are keen to promote conversation about their research.
Unregulated Altmetrics is unregulated and may be manipulated or gamed easily.
Reliability Public conversation measured by altmetrics is not necessarily indicative of research quality.
Difficulty Altmetrics can be difficult to collect, for example bloggers or tweeters may not use unique identifiers for articles.
Acceptance Altmetrics may lack broad acceptance by academic communities or funding bodies.
Context Use of online tools may differ by discipline, geographic region, and over time, making altmetrics difficult to interpret.

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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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