Skip to Main Content

SOM Research Impact: Altmetrics

What are Altmetrics?

Altmetrics let us measure and monitor the reach and impact of scholarship and research through online interactions. Altmetrics stands for "alternative metrics." The "alternative" part references traditional measurements of academic success such as citation counts, journal prestige (impact factor), and author H-index. Altmetrics are meant to complement, not totally replace, these traditional measures.

Supporters of the altmetrics movement believe that doing so will give a more complete picture of how research and scholarship is used.

Simply, altmetrics are metrics beyond traditional citations.

Altmetrics can answer questions such as:

  • How many times was it downloaded?
  • Who is reading my work? (on Mendeley, bookmarking sites, etc.)
  • Was it covered by any news agencies?
  • Are other researchers commenting on it?
  • How many times was it shared? (on Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Which countries are looking at my research?

Adapted from Pitt Libguides


  Bibliometrics Altmetrics
Immediacy - How soon can I get some metrics? When the works that cite your work are online and/or indexed. When the work is online, you can view downloads, shares, likes, and an Altmetric attention score if there is one.
Coverage - Which types of sources have these metrics? Primarily journal articles, conference papers, books and book chapters. Works that have cited references and are indexed themselves. Other sources like data and software/code are not cited as well. Any online source can have data like shares, likes, downloads. Resources tracked by Altmetric need a unique identifier like a DOI.
Disciplinary Differences - What can I compare across different fields? Or in the same field?

There are disciplinary (and even sub-disciplinary) differences and these should not be crossed in any comparisons. Biomedical journal articles are going to have different citation patterns than books in the humanities and social sciences.

Comparisons within the same field should also be approached cautiously. Are the researchers in the same sub-discipline, and at similar places in their careers?

Along with the standard disciplinary differences, works in disciplines that get a lot of news coverage may have metrics that reflect that. For example: health and medicine, climate change and other environmental topics, internet and technology, etc.
Knowledge - How well known are the metrics to others? Bibliometrics have been around for quite a while, so times cited and journal impact factors should be familiar (even if they don't know exactly how the JIF is calculated. The H-Index is a more recent metric. However, knowledge does mean these metrics do not get misused. Altmetrics are a more recent tool, and as such may not be as well known. Some may assume altmetrics are solely based on social media like tweets, rather than a broader scope of online engagement.

From UCSD Libguides

A Beginner's Guide to Altmetrics


If you would like help creating metrics reports for a researcher, lab group or unit, have questions about metrics or accessing the tools in this guide, or would like guidance on metrics not discussed in this guide, please contact:

Lena Bohman, Data Services and Research Impact Librarian,


The Altmetric Bookmarklet is a free browser plug-in compatible with Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. This tool allows you to quickly and easily pull up altmetric data on articles as you view them in your browser.

Note: an article must have a DOI and Google Scholar friendly citation metadata for the Bookmarklet to access its altmetric data

When reading an article, click on the “Altmetric it!” button on your bookmarks bar to open a pop-up window that contains the donut and score, as well as a list of the different types of mentions the article has received.


Impactstory is a tool that gathers altmetrics from many sources under one roof. It is a way to promote, manage, and share your research and scholarship. Impactstory is able to collect this information through ORCID. An Impactstory profile includes achievement badges, a timeline of online mentions, and a publications list:

Impactstory achievements are assigned to your profile to highlight the type of attention your work is getting and how that compares to the other researchers in the Impactstory database.

Achievements fall into 4 categories:

  1. Buzz - measures the amount of online discussion your work is generating
  2. Engagement - measures how people are interacting with your research
  3. Openness - measures how easy it is to access your research online
  4. Fun - includes less serious achievements, like being tweeted by a person named Richard

These achievements fall into gold, silver, and bronze levels based on how difficult they are to get.

Adapted from University of Waterloo

After selecting a publication in the Dimensions database, the altmetric information for that publication is provided in the "donut" on the right-hand side. Click on the donut for detailed information.

For more information on dimensions, see Publication Metrics tab.

From the Zucker School of Medicine Faculty Profiles site, you can view Altmetrics for each publication listed.

  1. Go to
  2. Search for a faculty member's name in the search box
  3. Click on their name in the search results
  4. On the top menu, navigate to the "Publications" tab
  5. For every article with Altmetrics, there will be a box labled "Am." Click on the box for more details

How To Use Altmetrics

  • Context is king: It’s usually much more informative to say, “This article has received 89 Mendeley bookmarks, putting it in the 98th percentile compared to articles of a similar age and subject” than it is to say “This article has received 89 Mendeley bookmarks” alone. Give viewers of altmetrics a solid reference point when presenting the data.
  • Qualitative data is usually more illuminating than metrics alone: Presenting qualitative data alongside metrics can create a much more compelling case for research’s impact. For example, rather than saying, “This software has been mentioned in 32 news outlets,” you can say, “This software has been mentioned in 32 news outlets worldwide, including the New York Times and The Guardian.”
  • Altmetrics are a great supplement to citations: Even with the increased acceptance of altmetrics, citations are still the most recognised proxy for impact in many disciplines. Create a more comprehensive picture of research influence by including both types of metrics together where possible.

Adapted from

Hofstra University

This site is compliant with the W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY Hempstead, NY 11549-1000 (516) 463-6600 © 2000-2009 Hofstra University