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Research Profile: Altmetrics


Altmetrics, or "alternative metrics", are web-based metrics and qualitative data to measure the impact of research work. Social media outlets are used as the main data source for altmetrics. Altmetrics are meant to supplyment, not replace, traditional, citation-based metrics such as citation counts, journal impact factors, and the h-index.

This video from Leeds University Library provides a brief explanation of altmetrics.

Why use altmetrics?

Altmetrics expand the definition of “research impact” beyond citation-based metrics. They allow researchers to better understand how their work is being discussed, shared, saved, read, and reused by other scholars and the public.

Advantages of altmetrics:

  • Speed of accumulation: citations take months or years to accumulate; altmetrics data can be generated right after the research work is published.

  • Breadth of impact: citations only measure scholarly impact; altmetrics measure impact among scholars, the public, policy makers, practitioners, and more.

  • Diversity of research products: citations can only measure the impact of articles, books, and sometimes research data; altmetrics can measure the impact of these products plus software, videos, slides, posters, figures, and more.

Examples of altmetrics:

Bookmarks: scholarly bookmarks on Mendeley & CiteULike; bookmarks by the public on Delicious

Discussion: peer reviews on F1000, Publons, and other post-publication peer review websites; Twitter mentions and Facebook wall posts; newspaper articles, videos, and podcasts; mentions on blog networks

Views: Page view & download statistics from your publisher's website or the repository where you've archived your book/chapter

Share: Twitter mentions, Facebook shares

Likes: YouTube likes; Facebooks likes

Ratings: and Goodreads ratings

Tools for Altmetrics at U Sask:

Scopus now provides altmetrics data captured by PlumX, in addition to citation data. Here is how to find the metrics:

  1. From the Documents results list in Scopus, click an article title. The Document details page opens. A summary of the article’s ‘Metrics’ are located in the right-hand column.
  2. From the 'Metrics' frame, click the drop down arrow by 'PlumX Metrics' to view the summary of altmetrics of the article. Or
  3. From  the 'Metrics' frame, click the 'View all metrics'  to view the detailed metrics. 

Note that these links are not necessarily present for every article - this will depend on which types of metrics are present in Scopus for the article.  

This is a screenshot of the altmetrics of the article: Thelwall, M., Haustein, S., Larivière, V., & Sugimoto, C. R. (2013). Do altmetrics work? twitter and ten other social web services. PLoS ONE, 8(5)

Other Tools for Altmetrics:

There are now several tools for collecting altmetrics data. Here are some of the most popular:


Impactstory is an open-source website that helps researchers explore and share the online impact of their research.It is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. (not to be confused with altmetrics) is a commercial provider of altmetrics data . Known for their "doughnut" with a score, many widgets appear on publisher websites and even in library catalogues. Some data are available for free.


PlumX  is a fee-based tool  that collects impact metrics in 5 major categories: usage, captures, mentions, social media, and citations. It tracks data for research outputs including journal articles, books, videos, presentations, conference proceedings, datasets, source code, cases, and more. As shown above, the PlumX data are also available from Scopus.

An increasing number of researchers are using altmetrics to help document the varied impacts of their work in their CVs, tenure & promotion case files, grant applications, and personal websites.

TIP: When using altmetrics to document your research's influence, keep in mind that context is very important for making the numbers meaningful. So, rather than include raw numbers of your article's metrics, like this:

Author, A. (2015). "Title." Journal name. doi:10.000/10.100x
Citations: 4 / Twitter mentions: 21 / Mendeley bookmarks: 91 / Blog mentions: 12 is more effective to provide contextual information that communicates to your viewer how your paper or other research output has performed relative to others' papers/outputs, as in the entry below:

 Author, A. (2015). "Title." Journal name. doi:10.000/10.100x
Citations: 4 - listed in the 98th percentile of Biology research published in 2015 on Impactstory.
Other impact metrics: listed on as being in the 96th percentile of papers published in Journal name and the 87th percentile of papers published in 2015.
International impact: this paper has been mentioned, bookmarked, or viewed in at least 43 countries, according to Impactstory.

Tip: Qualitative data is also a good way to provide context for the impact your work has received. You can find full-text mentions of your work using altmetrics services like Scopus, and include them in your website, CV, or case file like this:

Author, A. (2015). "Title." Journal name. doi:10.000/10.100x
Paper covered by more than 100 media outlets worldwide, including The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.
Recommended on 12 research blogs, putting it in the 99th percentile of Biology publications published in 2015. Was described as "a breakthrough study on examples" by prominent genetics and evolution researcher Rosie Redfield.

More resources on using altmetrics:

10 Tips for Using Altmetrics in Your CV and Grant Applications

Consider Ways to Write About Your Impact in the New NIH Biosketch

Example of Altmetrics Use in CV:

Ethan White, Ecology, University of Florida

Examples of Altmetrics Use in Promotion Case File:

Trevor A. Branch, Biology, University of Washington (USA)

Ahmed Moustafa, Biology, American University in Cairo (Egypt)

Steven B. Roberts, Biology, University of Washington (USA)


  • Just like citation metrics, altmetrics are measures of attention, not quality. A high number of shares or social media mentions does not indicate that an article is of high quality. An article may be shared on social media because it includes something hilarious, unusual or controversial, without assessment of its scientific value.
  • Altmetrics can be easily manipulated. “Likes”, mentions, or ratings can be paid for or generated, so the data might not represent the actual public interest in that work.
  • Different altmetrics tools collect different kinds of data from different sources, so the altmetrics of an article can be different in different tools. Most sources recommend that instead of providing the raw  altmetric data, that you provide context for these numbers – See the "Use ​Altmetics Professionally" tab for more information.
  • Altmetrics are meant to supplement citations, not replace them. Citations still hold a place of high esteem in academia. Using the two measures together will provide a fuller picture of the research impact than either measure on its own.