About Altmetric and the Altmetric score

What is Altmetric?

Altmetric is a system that tracks the attention that scholarly articles and datasets receive online. It does this by pulling in data from three main sources:

  • Social media like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and blogs
  • Traditional media - both mainstream (The Guardian, New York Times) and science specific (New Scientist, Scientific American). Many non-english language titles are covered. 
  • Online reference managers like Mendeley and CiteULike
We track too many sources to list individually but a more detailed breakdown is available here.

Altmetric cleans up and normalizes the data from these sources then makes it available for analysis. A key difference between Altmetric and other social media monitoring services is that Altmetric will disambiguate links to articles: it knows that even though some tweets might link to a PubMed abstract, newspapers to the publisher's site and blog posts to a dx.doi.org link they're all talking about the same paper.

What does it provide?

After Altmetric aggregates all of the information (we call each piece of information a post) it can find about a scholarly article it looks at both the quantity and the quality of attention being paid to an article and visualises it:

The number inside the coloured circle is the Altmetric score for the article being viewed. This is a quantitative measure of the quality and quantity of attention that the article has received - you can read more about the scoring algorithm here

The colours themselves reflect where the posts mentioning the article came from. For example, red means that the article has been mentioned by mainstream news outlets, blue means it has been tweeted about. In the Altmetric Explorer tool you can hover the mouse cursor over a visualization to see the appropriate legend.

Clicking on the circle typically gives you access to all of the posts that Altmetric has collected for that article.

Use the "demographics" tab to see where in the world attention is coming from and to get a sense of which audiences the article is proving popular with.

How articles are scored

The Altmetric score is influenced by two factors

  1. The quantity of posts mentioning an article
  2. The quality of each post

The first is relatively straightforward: the more posts mentioning an article the higher its score.

We measure quality in a few different ways. In general:

  • Higher profile posts are worth more than lower profile ones. An article in the Washington Post contributes more, in score terms, than a blog post. A blog post contributes more than a tweet.
  • Who authored each post is important. For posts on social media sites we typically fetch an author's list of followers, a list of their past posts and information about how often those posts were liked, retweeted or reshared. A tweet from a doctor followed by other doctors will contribute more than an automated tweet from a journal's press office.

A more detailed explanation of how the scoring algorithm works can be found in a separate article.

Important things to remember

  • Altmetric measures attention, not quality. People pay attention to papers for all sorts of reasons, not all of them positive.
  • Altmetric only tracks public attention. Papers are discussed in private forums, offline in journal clubs and by email but we cannot track this.
  • Altmetric tracks direct attention, that is to say attention focused on a specific research paper or dataset. More specifically for a newspaper article or blog post etc. to be counted by Altmetric it must contain a hyperlink to or formal citation of a scholarly work.
  • Altmetric provides you with a single metric per article so that you can quickly compare relative levels of attention but it only makes sense to use this when comparing apples with apples (e.g. within a single discipline). The norms for attention are very different for different scientific disciplines, just as the norms for citations are. 

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