Michigan Publishing: integrating altmetrics

This post discusses the launch and roll-out of Altmetric data and badges across the Michigan Publishing portfolio. It was written with great input from Jon McGlone and Rebecca Welzenbach at Michigan Publishing – thank you both for your efforts and thoughtful contributions! 

You might have seen Michigan Publishing’s recent announcement on the introduction of Altmetric badges across their journal portfolio. The roll out of the badges marks the beginning of what Michigan Publishing are positioning as a two year pilot phase to roll out Altmetric data across much of their content – including grey literature hosted in their institutional repository platform, Deep Blue.

michiganA publisher with a strong tradition in humanities and in technical innovation, Michigan Publishing place a focus on not only ensuring that their business is sustainable, but also in encouraging and supporting their authors in exploring more diverse forms of publishing. In doing so they are keen to help their authors get credit for the research outputs that extend beyond journal articles – and to provide them with the feedback and data to enable them to demonstrate the impact of all of their work.

It’s equally important to Michigan Publishing that the value they offer to their authors can be reflected back to their stakeholders; to the institution that supports them. In implementing the Altmetric data across their portfolio, and using the Altmetric Explorer for internal reporting, they are aiming to gather a much more extensive and transparent understanding of who is using their content and how their publishing programmes are adding value to the disciplines that they serve.

“Altmetric is really important to us in terms of being able to tell stories about impact to be able to report back to our parent institution, and to the authors that publish with us.”

Open access is at the heart of Michigan Publishing’s portfolio. They are one of the first organizations to offer a fully open access journal program that does not charge author fees and is for the most part supported by library and volunteer staff. Although publishing OA books since 2005, they are aiming to improve how they quantify the value of their open monograph program and ensure its usage and sustainability. Altmetrics, they believe, will play a crucial role in being able to report on the attention surrounding their outputs, and in helping them to position the content effectively. Their researchers, they note, get asked to report on the impact of their work – and are looking for stories to tell that provide evidence of engagement beyond the academic sphere.workshop

The new initiative ‘The Common Good: Humanities in the Public Square’ has not gone unnoticed by Michigan Publishing – and keen to maintain their reputation as recognized thought-leader in their space they have taken this as further indication of the drive to look beyond traditional outputs and metrics alone as a measure of success.

As library publishers seek to develop their strategies, sustainability and the ability to demonstrate need and usage are for many equally, if not more, important than financial ROI. Data such as that provided by Altmetric can help them gather the feedback that is recognised as difficult to track and quantify: how is our research being used, what impact is it having in the ‘real world’, and how can we demonstrate this?

“Authors are being asked to deliver a whole range of more quantitative metrics of impact, to talk about why their thoughts are worthwhile, and they’re searching for good stories to tell.”

Already, Altmetric data has helped Michigan Publishing uncover stories that demonstrate the importance of their open access programs to audiences beyond academics or in countries with limited access to subscription-based academic journals. For example, one article published in the Trans Asia Photography Review has seen significant Twitter attention in India, a story they were able identify using Altmetric’s geographical breakdown of article mentions.

Article

Another, published in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association was referenced in several news outlets in 2014–something Michigan Publishing was not aware of until reviewing Altmetric data for the journal.

The project has begun with the initial implementation of Altmetric badges across the OA journals and books. From there it is intended to be extended across their Deep Blue repository content, and further into an increasing spread of non-traditional research outputs.

Altmetric’s Euan Adie adds, “We’re really pleased that Michigan Press decided to come on board with Altmetric. A lot of the work they are doing in supporting the research community closely aligns with the objectives that we as a company have set out to demonstrate, and it’s great that they are planning to apply the data extensively across non-article research outputs.”

As an organisation with the aims of the institution and the academics they serve integral to all of their development, Michigan Publishing look forward to further exploration of the opportunities that altmetrics hold for themselves, their institution, and their authors.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve launched a brand new design for the Altmetric details pages. The new details pages are now appearing on the Altmetric ExplorerAltmetric for Institutions, and the free Altmetric Bookmarklet. (They’ll also be made available on publicly-accessible publisher details pages soon.) Read on to find out about the new features we’ve added, and learn more about our launch plans.

New Details Page
 

Listening to user feedback

The new design constitutes the most significant change we’ve made to the details pages since Altmetric was founded in 2011. Efforts to revamp the details pages have been driven primarily by intensive user research we’ve conducted in the recent months. To find out what our users wanted to see on the details pages, we conducted hours of interviews with various organisations, including universities, funders, and publishers.

During our interviews, we gathered a lot of interesting feedback about the usability of the pages, how often certain tabs were accessed, and so on. We also learned that users wanted increased clarity in the Score tab, as well as more information and transparency about the data sources that we track (beyond what already exists on our website and Knowledgebase). We also got some pretty cool feature requests, which we’ve started implementing in the new details pages.

Our primary goals were to improve the overall user experience for the details pages and to make all messaging as clear as possible.

 

Exploring the new details pages

As part of this major re-design, we’ve made the details page layout clearer and also mobile-friendly, meaning that the pages now load beautifully on mobile phones and tablets.

The new details pages are now mobile-friendly.

The new details pages are now mobile-friendly.

Try clicking through some examples of the new details pages here and here. One significant change that you’ll notice right away is the addition of a “Summary Tab”, which includes bibliographic information, demographics for Twitter and Mendeley, and simplified score in context information. We’ve also added a prominent button that enables you to receive e-mail alerts whenever a particular article is mentioned. (This feature was designed for authors, and provides a daily e-mail digest summarising new attention for subscribed articles.)

The metrics legend (underneath the donut) is now clickable – if you click on a particular source, you’ll be taken to the corresponding source tab. For instance, if you click on the number of Wikipedia page references in the legend, you’ll be taken directly to the Wikipedia tab of the details page.

If you click through the various source tabs, you’ll notice that we’ve added some help buttons (“?” icons that lead to popouts) about our various sources and the Altmetric score in context. These popouts explain what you are seeing on each tab, and can help you to understand the kinds of things that Altmetric collects for each source. There are also clearer directions for getting in touch with our support team, if you happen to need any extra assistance.

Finally, we’ve added some neat sharing features, including the “Embed badge” button, which gives you HTML code that you can use to embed the Altmetric donut (for the article you’re viewing) onto your personal website, CV, or blog. We’ve also added a “Share” button, which lets you easily share a link to a details page on social media or by e-mail. It’s now easier than ever for authors to tell the world about their work’s successes in public engagement and scholarly influence.

 

Launch plans

Today, the new details pages are being launched simultaneously on the Altmetric Explorer, Altmetric for Institutions, and the Altmetric Bookmarklet. This means that within the 3 products, any links that you click on to view the details pages will be redirecting to the newly-designed details pages.

For the time being, badges on publisher sites and the free embeddable badges will continue to link to the older version of the details pages. Over the next few months, we will be gradually phasing out the old details pages and replacing them with the new design. We’ll be getting in touch shortly with all publishers who use Altmetric to discuss their individual upgrades to the new details pages.

 

Concluding thoughts

When reporting on altmetrics data, we think that it’s crucial to look at the conversations surrounding scholarly work, as well as the raw metrics. Auditability of the data is important to us, which is why the Altmetric details pages are meant to bring all the actual conversations and metrics into one place. Whether you use the Bookmarklet, the Explorer, Altmetric for Institutions, or the Altmetric API, the details pages are a big part of your experience with our data. We hope that these new eye-catching details pages will make it even easier to see and showcase the conversations surrounding your research.

What are your thoughts about the new details pages? Let us know by commenting on this post, e-mailing us, or sending us a tweet.

Introducing Bookmetrix

Celebrating the launch of Bookmetrix after the London Book Fair. From left to right: Milan Wielinga and Martijn Roelandse of Springer. Euan Adie, Jean Liu, Matt MacLeod, and Jakub Pawlowicz of Altmetric.

Celebrating the launch of Bookmetrix after the London Book Fair. From left to right: Milan Wielinga and Martijn Roelandse of Springer. Euan Adie, Jean Liu, Matt MacLeod, and Jakub Pawlowicz of Altmetric.

This week, the London Book Fair saw the launch of Bookmetrix, an exciting new book metrics platform that we have built in partnership with Springer. The project was born after Martijn Roelandse (Manager Publishing Innovation at Springer), Euan Adie (Founder of Altmetric), and Milan Wielinga (EVP Strategy and M&A at Springer) began brainstorming ways to showcase the wider impact of books, similar to how altmetrics are being used to illustrate the wider impact of articles. After formalising the project, a dedicated team within Altmetric worked closely with Springer counterparts for 6 months to transform the initial ideas into working software.

At Altmetric, we are constantly exploring ways in which our technology can be used to uncover mentions of articles and other types of scholarly content. The project arrived at a great time for us, as we were already keen to add more support for books.

And so, the mission of Bookmetrix is this: to give authors, editors, and readers a unique way to explore the broader impact and engagement generated by a Springer book. By bringing together many different types of metrics, namely citations, online mentions, reference manager readership stats, book reviews, and downloads, we hope that Springer’s editorial teams will be able to gain a better understanding of how their books have been received. Additionally, with all the new data that may potentially be used to support researcher CVs and funding applications, Springer authors should be able to get more credit for the books and chapters they have written.

 

A closer look at the platform and data

The central part of the platform is the free-to-access “Bookmetrix details page”, which allows users to browse through all the metrics and data for individual Springer books and chapters. Each book in the Springer database has its own Bookmetrix details page, and can be accessed from the book page on SpringerLink (see an example here), as well as via the Papers app.

Bookmetrix Details Page

An example of a Bookmetrix details page.

In order to broaden the picture of impact, Altmetric contributed online mentions data to Bookmetrix, making it possible to see how Springer books and chapters have been referenced across mainstream media, policy sources, Wikipedia, blogs, social media, and more. Most of the other data available for each book and chapter in Bookmetrix have come directly from Springer, including citations (which are gathered from CrossRef), usage data (downloads), and featured book reviews.

In addition to the Bookmetrix details pages, we also built an internal book search interface for Springer staff, enabling their editorial, marketing, and sales teams to search, filter, analyse, and report on metrics for their entire books collection.

 

Behind the scenes at Altmetric

The team at Altmetric. From left to right: Louise Hills, Matt MacLeod, Jean Liu, and Jakub Pawlowicz.

The team at Altmetric. From left to right: Louise Hills, Matt MacLeod, Jean Liu, and Jakub Pawlowicz.

Development formally started on a pleasant autumn day last year, when we gathered in our London office with Martijn Roelandse to draw up the first plans for the project. Martijn spent the whole day with us, sharing his vision for the product and discussing the features that we wanted to deliver.

Our small Altmetric development team, consisting of Matt MacLeod (Software Developer), Jakub Pawlowicz (Software Developer), Louise Hills (Agile Coach), and myself (Product Development Manager), spent 6 months building Bookmetrix from the ground up. We checked in regularly with Martijn and other staff at Springer, and also presented new features in internal demos every 2 weeks.

We worked with Springer to plan out the features we would deliver as part of Bookmetrix.

We worked with Springer to plan out the features we would deliver as part of Bookmetrix.

Since we were building a completely new product (which was quite different from Altmetric!), we made sure to pepper our development process with several rounds of user research, mainly with focus groups. Every step of the way, we wanted to make sure that we were building the right features for end-users, and that our software was easy to understand and use. We are very grateful to everyone who participated in our user research sessions (often on very short notice)!

I know that everyone involved with the project on the Altmetric side will agree when I say that the development of Bookmetrix has gone very smoothly. Springer were great partners – we are grateful to Martijn and his colleagues, who recruited users for testing, worked hard to get us the Springer data that we needed, and helped us to sync up with the development processes at SpringerLink and Papers.

We’ve been delighted to see such a warm response to the product following its launch at the London Book Fair, and we hope that Springer authors, editors, and readers will enjoy using Bookmetrix as much as we have enjoyed building it.

 

What do you think?

We’d love to hear what you think about Bookmetrix, so please share your comments and feedback with us below, or by sending us a tweet at @altmetric.

If you’d like to stay up to date with all the latest Bookmetrix news, you can follow its brand new Twitter feed, @Bookmetrix.

The Research Exellence Framework is a process of assessing research quality at UK universities and is funded and organised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. At Altmetric, we work with a lot of UK universities and are always really interested in learning more about the processes of research assessment. To this end, I attended the one-day REFlections event at the Royal Society on 25th March, to gain an insight into what people thought of the REF 2014, and in particular to hear what people had to say about the Unknowncontroversial decision to introduce “impact” as one of the assessment areas.

The day started with some very positive statistics. According to a the “key facts” sheet in the conference pack, research from 154 UK universities was assessed, and 1,911 submissions were made. The results showed that 30% of submissions were given a four star rating and judged to be “world leading” (up from 14% in 2008) while 46% of submissions were classified as “internationally excellent”, with a three star rating awarded (up from 37% in 2008). To give a bit of context, David Sweeney (Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE) informed the audience that roughly the same number of staff made submissions in both years, suggesting a genuine increase in top quality research.

Listening to each speaker present their thoughts, I felt the theme of the morning could definitely be summed up in one word; “multidisciplinarity”. David Sweeney posed the idea that the results of the REF 2014 defy previous criticisms that the exercise approaches institutional research in a narrow or insular way, by categorising submissions under their respective academic disciplines.

M’hamed El Aisati gave a very impressive presentation about a project undertaken by Elsevier, which was executed with the guiding principle that “some of the most interesting research questions are found at the interface between disciplines”. The project involved looking at how often journals across a large range of subjects were citing each other, and translating this into an infographic, or “map”. However, various members of the audience thought El Saiti was promoting the idea that multidisciplinary research is inherently good. They raised concerns that people would attempt to bias the REF responses to their submissions by including more accounts of multidisciplinary research, if they assumed the REF would favour accounts of academic endeavours combining more than one subject. The question of how to balance an appreciation of multidisciplinary research whilst continuing to honour and recognise the findings of more niche academic subjects was therefore an interesting one.

The late morning and afternoon sessions moved on from the question of quality and started to focus on the “impact” section of the assessment, which accounted for 20% of the overall assessment for each submission. Jonathan Adams closed the morning’s proceedings by introducing the REF impact case study database, which was put together in partnership with Digital Science. Each case study includes an introduction to the research, as well as citation data and an “details of the impact” section. For example, part of the impact of a case study of a submission from Durham university entitled “an X-ray tool for predicting catastrophic failure in semiconductor manufacture” was that “Jordan Valley semiconductors UK made the strategic decision to invest in the design and manufacture” of safer X-ray imaging tools.

After lunch, two analysts from RAND Corporation reported on their evaluation of the impact assessment process, in which they conducted face to face and telephone interviews with those who had been involved in making submissions, and with the assessment panelists. They summed up their findings as follows;

“The introduction of an impact element in REF 2014 might have been expected to generate concerns because of the relative novelty of the approach and because of the obvious difficulties in measurement, but in general it has succeeded.”

So, what can metrics providers make of all this? Taking all the speakers into account, it is seems as though “impact” is increasing in importance as a way of assessing research quality, but that the “obvious difficulties in measurement” described by RAND suggest a lack of tools with which to measure and quantify such a broad and slippery term, and translate it into relevant numbers. This then, is the gap in the market that metrics providers are seeking to fill, whether it’s bibliometrics or altmetrics.

However, this idea was somewhat contradicted by James Wilsdon, when he spoke about the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment, the full results of which are to be published in July 2015. James concluded that “it is not currently feasible to assess the quality of research outputs based on quantitative indicators alone”. He elaborated that “no set of numbers can create a nuanced judgement of research” and that the “collection of metrics for research is not cost-free”. In response to this, perhaps it’s worth pointing out that at Altmetric is not simply “a set of numbers”, as we try to provide qualitative as well as quantitative data. We aim to give our users a level of granularity by allowing them to click through to the full text of all mentions, and to the profiles of those who have shared research on social media.

In summary, REFlections provided much food for thought as to the role of “impact” in assessing research quality in UK HEIs, and the role of metrics in determining impact. At Altmetric we’re continuously preoccupied with questions of data coverage. How can we go beyond the article, and provide data for other research outputs? How can we increase our coverage beyond the sciences, and provide data for other academic disciplines?

It occurred to me as I left the Royal Society, that even if multidisciplinary research isn’t inherently good, and even if high-impact research doesn’t automatically mean good research, a multi-faceted approach to assessing impact itself might be the best way forward.

FernandoThis guest post is contributed by Fernando T Maestre. Fernando is a Professor in the Biology and Geology Department of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, in Móstoles (Madrid, Spain). In this post he talks about how he has been using altmetrics data to supplement his funding proposals and impact reporting: 

Some months after I wrote a tweet about how I was using alternative metrics of the impact of my research outputs (altmetrics hereafter) in my proposals, I was contacted by Cat Chimes from Almetric, who asked me if they could use it as an example about how researchers are using altmetrics. Soon after that I wrote a brief post in my lab´s blog about this topic; this post was also noticed by Chris Woolston, who wrote a piece for Nature on the interest of funders on altmetrics to measure the impact of the research they pay for. If you are interested in this topic and you have not done so yet, I would encourage you to read Dinsmore et al. (2014).

As an extension of my previous post, here I show how I have use altmetrics in my research proposals, as this may help other researchers interested in doing so. While I am not going to provide an in-depth discussion here on what altmetrics can do or why you should use them (there are already plenty of excellent posts, articles and discussions on this topic), I will also provide some personal thoughts on why I found these metrics useful and why it is a good idea to include them in our proposals or research reports. So far I have used altmetrics in two proposals and a prize nomination I submitted in 2014, which were successful in all cases.

In the first proposal, submitted to the Humboldt Research Award of the Humboldt Foundation in Germany, I had to describe five relevant publications. I included several measures of the impact of these publications, including altmetrics. Here is how I did it (note that the numbers correspond to the moment I prepared this application, in February 2014):

1. Maestre, F. T. et al. 2012. Plant species richness and ecosystem multifunctionality in global drylands. Science 335: 214-218.

“This study presents the first set of analyses of a global network of dryland sites (224 from all continents except Antarctica), which has been led by Dr. Maestre as part of his European Research Council-funded Starting Grant BIOCOM (http://goo.gl/u9H8tH). While many experiments have suggested that biodiversity enhances the ability of ecosystems to maintain multiple functions, such as carbon storage, productivity, and build-up of nutrient pools (multifunctionality), this study was the first in evaluating the relationship between biodiversity and multifunctionality in natural ecosystems at a global scale. Its main finding was that multifunctionality was positively and significantly related to species richness; the best-fitting models used accounted for over 55% of the variation in multifunctionality, and always included species richness as a predictor variable. The results of this work suggest that the preservation of plant biodiversity is crucial to buffer negative effects of climate change and desertification in drylands, which collectively cover 41% of Earth’s land surface and support over 38% of the human population. Some indicators of the relevance of this article and its impact among the scientific community are the number of citations it has received so far (55 and 90 according to ISI´s Web of Science and Google Scholar, respectively), which have made it be named as a “Highly cited” article by ISI, and the three evaluations received from Faculty of 1000 (F1000) members, which have rated it as a “Must read”/ “Recommended”  article (http://goo.gl/cLa4gl). This study has also been widely discussed in the social media, as indicated by an Altmetric score of 50, which makes it scoring higher than 98% of its contemporaries and includes it into the top 5% of all the articles tracked by Altmetric (more than 1,660,000; see http://goo.gl/aNVUUk for details). In addition, this work has been featured by newspapers, magazines, web pages and blogs from around the world (see http://goo.gl/JrJ4EY for a selection of news).”

 

2. Delgado-Baquerizo, M., F. T. Maestre, et al. 2013. Decoupling of soil nutrient cycles as a function of aridity in global drylands. Nature 502: 672-676.

“Using the network of sites deployed in the framework of the BIOCOM project, this study reports a negative effect of aridity on the concentration of organic C and total N, but a positive effect on that of inorganic P, in dryland soils worldwide. Aridity was negatively related to plant cover, which may favor the dominance of physical (i.e. wind-blown sands that abrade exposed rock surfaces) over biological (i.e. litter decomposition) processes. The results of this study indicate that the predicted increase in aridity with climate change by the end of this century will uncouple the C, N and P cycles in dryland soils, thus negatively affecting the provision of key ecosystem services by drylands, such as the buildup of soil fertility and carbon fixation. This article has attracted lots of attention from scientists since its publication, as it was the object of a “News & Views” in Nature (Wardle, 2013, Nature 502: 628-629), and has been viewed more than 6300 times since its publication two months ago (see http://goo.gl/EuHYOv for details). This article has also been widely discussed in the social media, as indicated by an Altmetric score of 151, which makes it scoring higher than 99% of its contemporaries and includes it into the top 5% of all the articles tracked by Altmetric (more than 1,730,000; see http://goo.gl/f3fu3A for details). This study has also received substantial attention by newspapers, magazines, web pages and blogs from around the world (see http://goo.gl/CU2hSR for a selection of news).”

Similarly, and as part of my application to the Consolidator Grants program of the European Research Council (who just funded my BIODESERT project), I had to present a section on “Early achievements track-record”. Within this section I included key publications with the number of ISI Web of Science® [Google Scholar] citations (excluding self-citations) they have accrued, as well as with their altmetrics. For the two publications presented above, here is how I did it (note that the numbers correspond to the moment I prepared this application, in May 2014):

1) Maestre, F.T. et al. 2012. Plant species richness and ecosystem multifunctionality in global drylands. Science 335: 214-218. IF = 31.027; 62 [101] citations. This article has received three evaluations from Faculty1000 members, has an Altmetric score of 49 and has been featured in more than 100 newspapers, blogs and online news outlets.

2) Delgado-Baquerizo, M.*, F.T. Maestre et al. 2013. Decoupling of soil nutrient cycles as a function of aridity in global drylands. Nature 502: 672-676. IF (2012) = 38.597; 2 [8] citations. This article has an Altmetric score of 149, and has been featured in more than 100 newspapers, blogs and online news outlets. * graduate student I have supervised

Finally, as part of the nomination package for the “Miguel Catalán” prize for scientists under 40 years, awarded annually by the Regional Government of Madrid (“Comunidad de Madrid”), I had to comment on three relevant scientific articles I have published. I included altmetrics when describing the “impact” of these publications as I have shown above in the example of my Humboldt Research Award application (the full application for the Miguel Catalán prize was written in Spanish, so I will not reproduce it here).

I found particularly useful using altmetrics for those papers/research products (such as databases) that have been published recently, as they provide a nice way to showcase the “impact” of research outputs before they start to accrue citations. Whether there is a correlation between altmetrics and citations is a matter of ongoing research and discussion, with poor correlations observed so far (Thelwall et al. 2013, Costas et al. 2104 and Peters et al. 2015), but high scores of the Almetric “donut” indicate that your research is being noticed (and thus is likely to be used in the future) by the research community.

Perhaps more importantly, it is becomingly increasingly crucial that our research gets the widest dissemination as possible, regardless whether your lab budget comes from a public or private funder. Indeed, the dissemination beyond the traditional scientific “circuit” (articles, scientific meetings, workshops…), and particularly among the general public, is now a requisite for funding agencies and foundations worldwide. Social media provide excellent opportunities to disseminate our work beyond our peers, and thus almetrics provide a very nice way of measuring the “impact” of scientific activities among a wider audience. I do not see altmetrics as a replacement of more traditional measures of “impact”, such as the number of citations or the h-index, among other reasons because there are many scientists that have not fully embraced social media (including myself, as for example I am not a Mendeley reader yet….). However, the capabilities of altmetrics make them a good complement to these more traditional “impact” metrics.

If you have suggestions about how to use altmetrics in your research proposals or reports, please send me a tweet (@ftmaestre) or e-mail, I would love to hear them.

 

References

Costas R, Zahedi Z, Wouters P (2014) Do altmetrics correlate with citations? Extensive comparison of altmetric indicators with citations from a multidisciplinary perspective. arXiv:1401.4321. doi: 10.1002/asi.23309

Dinsmore A, Allen L, Dolby K (2014) Alternative Perspectives on Impact: The Potential of ALMs and Altmetrics to Inform Funders about Research Impact. PLoS Biol 12(11): e1002003. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002003

Peters I, Kraker P, Lex E, Gumpenberger C, Gorraiz J (2015) Research data explored: Citations versus altmetrics. arXiv:1501.03342.

Thelwall M, Haustein S, Larivière V, Sugimoto CR (2013) Do Altmetrics Work? Twitter and Ten Other Social Web Services. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064841

This blog was first published on April 1st, 2015. Please see the note at the end for further details.

Altmetric are excited to announce that from the end of April 2015 we will be deploying brand new technology to enable the tracking of published articles, datasets, images and other research outputs discussed at major conferences. The new technology will capture mentions made by academics as part of their hallway and lunch queue conversations.

WATERCOOLER (Wide Area TravElling Reference COOLectER) is an inconspicuous, autonomous aerial drone capable of up to two hours of uninterrupted droneindoors flight. It is based at the conference’s Altmetric booth, where pamphlets and free pens are also available.

Commenting on this new development, Altmetric Founder Euan Adie said: “It’s brilliant that we are now able to track mentions of research outputs in this innovative way. We’re looking forward to offering our users and authors of the research further insight into who is talking about their work not just online but in the real world, and anticipate the drones being a very discreet and welcome addition to the conference experience.”

An omnidirectional microphone subtly lowered directly above targeted researchers engaged in scholarly discussion captures spoken mentions of outputs (Harvard reference style only), which are then processed in close to real time. For convenience researchers may also simply recite the output’s DOI.

detailsThe new mentions will be added to a ‘Conversations’ tab on the Altmetric details page. Users will be able to click through to the online biography of the person who made the original mention as well as see an excerpt of the relevant conversation. Mentions made by a more senior academic (over 10 years of experience) will contribute 15 to the score, between 5-10 will add 10, and under 5 years experience will add a 5.

Academics may opt out of WATERCOOLER tracking by wearing a wide brimmed hat or by conversing only under tables or in cupboards.

Jean Liu, Product Development Manager at Altmetric adds, “We know that many of our users are specifically interested in the attention that their work gets amongst the scholarly community, separate to the engagement it sees with the wider general public. We hope that by providing this additional data source, our users and the authors of the work will be able to more easily exchange ideas or clarify key points raised in the research.”

The initiative will launch at major research conferences from April onwards.

*We like a good chuckle in the office – April fools! 

Panther Chameleon at Zürich Zoo, Switzerland. Credit: Marc Staub, originally posted to Flickr as IMG_8957.

One of the High Five papers this month finally describes HOW chameleons change color! Hint: They do not change color to match their surroundings. Panther Chameleon at Zürich Zoo, Switzerland. Credit: Marc Staub, originally posted to Flickr as IMG_8957.

Welcome to the March 2015 High Five here at Altmetric! In this blog post, my second for Altmetric, I’ll be leading you on a tour of the top 5 peer-reviewed scientific articles this month according to Altmetric’s scoring system. On a monthly basis from here on out, my High Five posts will examine a selection of the most popular research outputs Altmetric have seen attention for that month.

 

Paper #1. Reading Rats’ Minds

The faintest possibility of “mind-reading” struck a chord with readers who shared this study on Twitter this month.

“It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: researchers slice a brain into thin little sections and, just by measuring the properties of specific neurons, they can determine what an organism learned before it died. In fact, this sort of mind reading has become a reality. In work published today in Nature, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) describe how postmortem brain slices can be “read” to determine how a rat was trained to behave in response to specific sounds. The work provides one of the first examples of how changes in the activity of individual neurons encode learning and memory in the brain.” – Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, posted on psypost.org

EurekAlert! ran the headline “Scientists map memorable tunes in the rat brain: NIH-funded study helps understand how brain remembers everyday sensations.”

“For decades scientists have been trying to map memories in the brain,” said James Gnadt, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), one of the NIH institutes that funded the study. “This study shows that scientists can begin to pinpoint the precise synapses where certain memories form and learning occurs.” – EurekAlert! press release

Writing for The Daily Beast, Charlotte Lytton reported that “Researchers have mapped rats’ memories, and humans could be next. Scientists may have cracked the code of memories by successfully tracing how they are imprinted on the brain. An experiment charted the nerve cell changes that occurred within rats’ brains as they made decisions—a process that could prove life changing if replicated in humans.”

Of course the actual study involved observing rat brain slices – not exactly a simple one-step removed from probing the formation of neural synapses in humans.

Shared by mostly members of the public, as well as other scientists, in the US and Europe, this study was largely mentioned on Twitter and in various news outlets.

 

Paper #2. A Computer That Teaches Itself Games

If the possibility of mind-reading catches readers’ attention, so does the possibility of machines teaching themselves to play video games – and then beating us humans in gameplay. In a study in Nature this month, researchers from Google DeepMind demonstrated the application of deep reinforcement learning in a computer system that “learned” how to play video games. The study was even the subject of Nature magazine’s cover graphic this month.

The study inspired a long list of news articles, popular science and tech magazine stories and blog posts this month.

Artificial intelligence bests humans at classic arcade games, by John Bohannon, Science

 

Google machine learns to master video games, by Rebecca Morelle, BBC.com

 

Google’s new AI plays Atari games as well as you can, or better, by Fancie Diep

 

 

“YOUR top score is about to be trounced. Google has developed artificial intelligence software capable of learning to play video games just by watching them.” – NewScientist

 

“Using a bio-inspired system architecture, scientists have created a single algorithm that is actually able to develop problem-solving skills when presented with challenges that can stump some humans. And then they immediately put it to use learning a set of classic video games.” – Shalini Saxena, Ars Technica

 

“You literally give it a new game, a new screen and it figures out after a few hours of game play what to do.” – Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind, quote from BBC

 

“It’s definitely fun to see computers discover things that you didn’t figure out yourself.” – Vlad Mnih, DeepMind engineer, quote from Popular Science

But Paul Rodgers at Forbes offered some down-to-earth context for the performance of this new artificial intelligence.

“A computer that taught itself to play almost 50 video games including Space Invaders and Pong is being hailed as the pinnacle of artificial intelligence. But it is unlikely to spark the Terminator-like Armageddon predicted in recent months by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk (who provided early funding for the project) and physicist Stephen Hawking. Despite mastering more than half the classic Atari 2600 games, the program – deep Q-network (DQN), developed by DeepMind Technologies – struggled with more difficult challenges, such as, well, Pac-Man.” – Rodgers, Forbes.com

Writing in The Conversation (with his article also used for an IFLscience feature), Toby Walsh also offered limitations of this new artificial intelligence and future directions and challenges for deep learning. The DeepMind computer finds long-term planning in video games, like solving mazes, more difficult. This is because the system doesn’t have the ability to use long-term memories for decision making like humans do.

How DOES DeepMind learn to win? Neuroecology blog author Adam Calhoun has insights here.

This study was shared more by scientists and science communicators on Twitter than our first top five paper of the month.

 

Paper #3. An Incredibly Young Mammoth Black Hole

Our next “High Five” paper attracted international news and social media attention. Published in Nature by Wu and colleagues, the study describes the discovery of a particularly large “ultraluminous quasar” (powered by a super-massive black hole).

“Astronomers have identified a mammoth black hole weighing as much as 12 billion suns. It’s not the biggest black hole ever found, but it’s astonishingly young. The giant appears to have swelled to its enormous size only 875 million years after the big bang, when the universe was just 6 percent of its current age. That’s a surprise, astronomers report Wednesday in the journal Nature, because giant black holes are thought to grow relatively slowly by vacuuming up gas and even stars that venture too close.” - Michael D. Lemonick, National Geographic

 

“How can a quasar so luminous, and a black hole so massive, form so early in the history of the Universe, at an era soon after the earliest stars and galaxies have just emerged? And what is the relationship between this monster black hole and its surrounding environment, including its host galaxy?” - Xiaohui Fan, study co-author, quoted by Duncan Geere on Wired.co.uk

A massive black hole that is unexpectedly big and unexpectedly young – what is more shareworthy? It’s a perfect fit with the news value for unexpectedness and “wow” factor. Read more about the discovery at Science News, Science.com, NewScientist and Nature.com.

“Wu and his colleagues spotted the black hole using the Lijiang Telescope in Yunnan, China. The object appeared as a bright, red, point-like source. The brightness and spectrum of its light revealed it to be an ancient quasar: a large black hole that occupies the centre of a galaxy and causes interstellar gas to overheat and shine brighter than any star as it spirals into the hole’s gravitational sink.” - Davide Castelvecchi, Nature.com

Quasar. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser // CC BY 4.0

Quasar. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser. CC BY 4.0

 

Paper #4. Ice Cream’s Hidden Ingredient Makes Mice Sick

The next High Five paper of the month is a prime example of “science news you can use.” It is certainly useful for me, as an atopic individual prone to chronic allergies and asthma. It hit a chord online, according to Altmetric social media share numbers, with members of the public, scientists, healthcare professionals and science bloggers alike.

Publishing in Nature magazine this month, Benoit Chassaing and colleagues reported that at relatively low concentrations of two commonly used dietary emulsifiers, wild-type mice demonstrated induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome. The effects were more pronounced in mice predisposed to gut inflammation disorders (like inflammatory bowel disease).

Credit: Mycroyance, via Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Credit: Mycroyance, via Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Common additives in ice cream, margarine, packaged bread and many processed foods may promote the inflammatory bowel diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease as well as a group of obesity-related conditions, scientists said on Wednesday. The researchers focused on emulsifiers, chemicals added to many food products to improve texture and extend shelf life. In mouse experiments, they found emulsifiers can change the species composition of gut bacteria and induce intestinal inflammation.” - Will Dunham, Reuters

The study garnered attention in the US News and & World Report, Science News magazine, Discovery news, Science and Nature.

“Food additives may keep snacks fresh and tasty looking, but they can wreak havoc on the gut. These additives disrupt the intestine’s protection from bacteria and boost inflammation in mice, scientists report online February 25 in Nature. The new research “underscores the fact that a lot of things we eat … may not be as safe as we think they are,” says Eugene Chang, a gastroenterologist at the University of Chicago.” - Science News magazine

 

“Food additives that are commonly used to thicken and stabilize processed foods may disrupt the bacterial makeup of the gut, causing health problems, a new study in animals suggests. In the study, mice that were fed two chemicals that are commonly added to foods gained weight, had altered blood sugar and developed intestinal problems. The chemicals were “emulsifying agents,” chemicals that hold together mixtures that include both fat and water, which would otherwise separate.” - Discovery news

Many articles offered readers lists of foods that contain emulsifiers, including typically ice cream, condiments, candy and bread that stays soft due to dough softeners.

“The ingredients that lend a smooth, stable consistency to ice cream, chocolate bars, and other packaged snacks may promote certain chronic inflammatory diseases. That’s the claim of a new study, which finds increases in metabolic disease and intestinal inflammation in mice fed two common emulsifiers used in processed food. The authors are a long way from confirming similar effects in humans, but they suggest that these ingredients cause damage by disrupting the barrier between the immune system and the microbiome—the collection of microbes that inhabit our bodies. [The research] group is now preparing a more ambitious study that compares the microbiomes of people who completely avoid emulsifiers for several weeks with those on a standard Western diet.” - Science

I wouldn’t mind partaking in that study myself! Which further goes to show that this research resonated with people on an everyday level, as we all wonder whether our diets are keeping us healthy or keeping us sick.

Ed Yong also covered the Nature study for his National Geographic blog Not Exactly Rocket Science. Yong does a fantastic job laying out how the experiments were conducted and what the implications are for humans – and what we don’t know yet. The FDA is still maintaining its position that it “does not have sufficient evidence to alter its previous conclusion that polysorbate 80 and carboxymethyl cellulose [the emulsifiers under study in the Nature paper] are considered safe under their intended conditions of use in food.”

 “We’re certainly eating less processed food since we’ve been doing this work. It took a lot of effort, but we did find one type of ice-cream in the supermarket that’s emulsifier-free.” – Study author  Andrew Gewirtz, quoted in Not Exactly Rocket Science

 

Paper #5. Tiny Color-Shifting Crystals are the Chameleon’s Secret

The last study on our list is my personal favorite: Photonic crystals cause active colour change in chameleons, published open access in Nature Communications.

Via Nature Communications

Via Nature Communications

 

In this new study, researchers identify the source of chameleons rapid color change, and it isn’t pigments. It’s tiny crystals of guanine, or nanocrystals. Unexpected? Quite!

The secret ingedient is…crystals? By Sarah Hird, Nothing in Biology Makes Sense

 

The secret to how chameleons change color: Nanocrystals, by Neel Patel, Wired.com

 

Chameleons don’t change colour, they use smart mirrors, by Andy Coghlan, NewScientist

 

“For a long time, scientists thought the color change—which only occurs in males—was controlled by pigment-containing organelles. But it turns out the mechanism actually has more in common with physics and nanomaterials than with biology: It’s driven by a set of tiny crystals embedded in the reptiles’ skin.” – Neel Patel, Wired.com

“Milinkovitch and his colleagues have demonstrated the presence of two layers of light-reflecting cells in the chameleon’s skin, a superficial layer with a regular lattice of guanine crystals in the cytoplasm and a deeper layer with a less organised array of larger crystals. The chameleon’s optical wizardry results from subtle shifts in the orientation of crystals in the upper layer and the combined effect that both layers have on light.” – Henry Nicholls, The Guardian

Nanocrystals

Above are electron microscope images  of the superficial layer of nanocrystals in chameleon’s skin. Crystal orientation in the relaxed state of the chameleon (left) is tighter and more triangular than the crystal orientation when the chameleon is excited (right). The scale bar is 200 nanometers. For comparison, a strand of human hair is around 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide, depending on how course your hair is.

By changing the spacing between these nanocrystals, the chameleons can alter which wavelengths of light their skin absorbs and reflects. – Bethany Halford, C&EN

“One nanometer is about as long as your fingernail grows in one second.” – Nano.gov

In other words, the nanocyrstals that create the chameleons color-shifting skin are tiny – really tiny.

“These [chameleon] colors are generated without pigments, via a physical phenomenon of optical interference. They result from interactions between certain wavelengths and nanoscopic structures, such as tiny crystals present in the skin of the reptiles.” – Michel Milinkovitch, professor at the Department of Genetics and Evolution at UNIGE, via Nanowerk article. Source: University de Geneve

In another research study this month, a group of researchers actually created a color-changing film that mimics the chameleon’s skin. Christie Wilcox has a great blog post about that here.

Chameleons are known for their vibrant color changes. While the old wives’ tale that they change color to match their surroundings isn’t true, they are capable of remarkable shifts in hue, a trait which has fascinated scientists for years. – Christie Wilcox, Science Sushi

Not only was this study a chance to share colorful pictures (it helps that the figures in the paper are reusable under a Creative Commons license), it was a chance to share a bit of nano science underlying a familiar biological color-change phenomenon, which apparently we didn’t know the underlying cause of until now. I’m not surprised this study made quite the rounds in the media and on social media this month!

Panther Chameleon at Zürich Zoo, Switzerland. Credit: Marc Staub, originally posted to Flickr as IMG_8957.

Panther Chameleon at Zürich Zoo, Switzerland. Credit: Marc Staub, originally posted to Flickr as IMG_8957.

For this post in our researcher blog series, we decided to examine some interesting examples of researchers integrating the data into their workflows. We also reached out to the six academics who created these examples, to review their usage and collect some feedback (positive or otherwise) about their experience of the data.

Three out of the six researchers we talked to said they had first heard about Altmetric from other academics, either on Twitter or through internal communication within a university. This is interesting as it suggests that one academic’s knowledge of a tool can potentially change the behaviors of their peers, whether that’s all the other researchers in their faculty, or all their followers on social media. In last month’s blog post we briefly talked about how academics can use Twitter and altmetrics to keep up-to-date with research trends. However, perhaps it’s also worth noting that conversation surrounding research management tools can itself start a trend, and that being active in such networks can open up a whole world of informative and timesaving possibilities for researchers. Two other academics said they recalled seeing the data displayed on publisher’s websites, and this had inspired them to learn more.

 

How have researchers used Altmetric data online?

Egon Willighagen

Egon Willighagen’s ORCID profile with Altmetric publications data added

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 17.10.18

James Grecian’s online list of publications with badges embedded

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 17.01.31

Steve Davis’ publications page with Altmetric logo and links to “Selected Press” stories extracted from the Altmetric data

All the researchers we spoke to had investigated the Altmetric data for their articles, and a few had taken further steps to embed the data in their online profiles. Looking at these examples, it’s clear that adding the data to publication pages or merging it with a unique ORCID ID can add another dimension to your digital identity as a researcher. Because the colours for sources such as Twitter and Facebook correspond to the platforms’ logo colours, the donut is both an aesthetically pleasing infographic and a way of showcasing the online attention papers have received in one easy click. For Steve Davis, adding the data to his online profile saved him time and allowed him to display attention from a range of sources simultaneously, rather than through manual recording; “I have in the past curated my own list of news outlets and blogs that have covered my work in order to track what kind of reaction it was getting”. Davis also said the data prompted him to think about social media monitoring, which he had not been doing previously. James Grecian said he found Altmetric provided “a useful way to curate and link to the media articles that mention my research”, and also commented that he found the badges easy to use.  Egon Willighagen found the Altmetric/ORCID app saved time as he “did not have to look up the statistics manually…it uses my ORCID profile to get the DOIs and aggregate stuff”.

 

What did the researchers discover as a result of using the data?  Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 17.03.51

Researchers who had used the bookmarklet said the data had helped them in other ways. Vincent Scalfani (assistant professor and science librarian at the University of Alabama) said he had used the bookmarklet to view the attention for a short autobiographical commentary he released about his childhood and career progression and was pleasantly surprised about how much attention it had received. He theorized; “as this article is more of a commentary and not a research article, it will likely not receive many (or any at all) official literature citations”. This is a fascinating insight as it testifies to the idea that altmetrics can offer an indication of real-time attention beyond citation counts. It’s also interesting to think about how this feeds in to the idea that altmetrics can capture the impact of more reflective personal pieces as well as write-ups of scientific investigations. Thus, for Vincent, the data solved the problem of awareness, by providing him with readership information for a non-traditional research output. Steve Portugal of Royal Holloway University “used the data in grant applications as additional evidence for the general interest and impact” to strengthen his academic profile in the eyes of funders. Steve reported that the data meant he could showcase his impact and better understand the value of online communication channels such as Twitter when trying to promote research and grow an online network. He said one of the reasons why social media sites like Twitter are valuable for researchers is that “explaining your work to a general audience is an excellent exercise in communication skills”. Brian D. Earp (University of Oxford) added Altmetric statistics to his online CV, in the hope that “those who look at my CV will get a sense that that my papers are in fact being read and downloaded, and how they’re doing along those dimensions compared to other papers in the same journal, or of a similar age etc”. For Earp then, the data became a benchmarking and contextualisation tool as well as a way of showcasing impact.

 

Further use cases: how did the researchers use the data to target an audience? 

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 17.09.07   In the image opposite, you can see Jean Peccoud’s attractive and sophisticated laboratory website, which uses the Altmetric API as a way of “providing dynamic and valuable content to the visitor of my site”. Jean said the data helped him “figure out what to read”, by allowing him to gage the level of online attention for papers. Although we never try and suggest that the Altmetric data provides a measure of quality this use case is interesting; Jean used the data to develop a reading list, then added it to one of his web pages, thereby allowing his peers to discover the data for themselves. It was interesting that although the researchers gave a range of responses when asked how the data had helped them, their answers were quite consistent when they described the initial aims they had in mind when they started to play around with the information. Egon Willighagen summarised his motive for using Altmetric as follows; “getting  insight on how my research (not just papers, but including those) is used and what people say about it is important to me, and helps me make strategic decisions on where my research funding chances lie”.  All six of them said they wanted a way of showcasing the attention their papers had received, whether to get the attention of grant funders (Steve Portugal), the notice of a tenure committee (Vincent Scalfani), or the general interest of people visiting their online publication lists.

 

Other feedback

We also wanted to hear about the downsides, so we asked the researchers one more thing; whether they felt there were any limitations with the data or things they hoped to do with it in future. One of the really interesting responses came from Jean Peccoud: “the score sometimes feels a little like black magic”, while Steve Davis mentioned “the unpredictability of what the service picks up and what it doesn’t”. Vincent Scalfani also said that more documentation on this issue might be beneficial for researchers, posing the idea of “an overview to explain what is being measured, what the data sources are, and how Altmetric fits into measuring research impact”.  In our next post in this series, we are intending to lay out the logic behind the score and sources more clearly, so hopefully we’ll be able to address some of those questions then. For now, anyone can visit our support resources pages for some slightly more detailed information on how we collect and rank mentions from different places.

In summary then, these responses can tell us a lot about how researchers are using Altmetric right now, and about how they would like to see the tools and support resources develop in future. The feedback suggests the data is useful as you can see who has been talking about your research, and then take ownership of this information by adding it to important documentation and incorporating it into your digital identity. It also seems like researchers welcome the realisation that their research doesn’t exist in a vacuum; that they can compare their Altmetric statistics with similar articles in the same academic discipline.

As always, we’d love to know what you think about this post, so please feel free to comment with any feedback/questions you may have. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to request an API key, and visit this page for more information about embedding the Altmetric badges. Thanks for reading!

You’re an Academic Librarian or Research Officer and support researchers making their research freely available online via open access. A major part of this process is enabling researchers to deposit open access versions of their work in your institutional repository or research publications system. So how do you encourage your researchers to deposit full-text papers? Do you focus on advocating the societal benefits of increased access to research during presentations and training? Perhaps you share repository download statistics to demonstrate usage? Or implement tools to encourage high open access deposit rates? Do funder open access policies also feature high on your agenda?

Let’s talk about funder open access mandates for a moment. Internationally, there’s a big focus on open access compliance across Higher Education institutions: with the UK HEFCE Open Access Policy kicking off in 2016, a number of funding agencies internationally are also adopting similar policies. Many funding agencies allow an embargo period before a research output is available via open access. For example, the recently announced Canadian Open Access policy requires outputs to be made available via open access in an institutional repository within 12 months of publication or published in a journal that offers free access within 12 months. Such policies create an additional driver for institutions to enable researchers to deposit their work within given timeframes.

Researchers, however, are faced with an increasing number of mandates, so it’s important to encourage OA deposit in a way that gives something back to researchers.

Here are our ideas about how you can use Altmetric tools to encourage researchers to make their work freely available online by depositing in your institutional repository, and what’s in it for them:

Install the free Altmetric Badges in your institutional repository

We offer free embeddable Altmetric Badges for institutional repositories. This helps researchers track attention to specific papers – so if a paper has been deposited in your repository, researchers can monitor attention to that output via the repository record. This might be displayed alongside other metrics, such as repository downloads or citation counts. See this example of an embedded Altmetric badge in a University of Glasgow Enlighten record.

 Let us know your repository domains so we can make sure we’re tracking your IR content – just email support@altmetric.com.

Altmetric for Institutions: Syncing with your Publications System

You can also sync your publications system or institutional repository with Altmetric for Institutions. When we populate Altmetric for Institutions, we often use your publications system as a data source. This is an extra incentive for researchers to deposit the metadata and full-text of their papers: by simply depositing metadata, it will appear in Altmetric for Institutions, and researchers can then track the attention to all of their papers in one place. Badges can also be embedded in Research Information Management or Current Research Information Systems (CRIS), see our example on the left of Altmetric badges in Symplectic Elements, helping raise awareness of altmetrics in existing workflows.

Register for a free Librarian Altmetric Explorer account

If you’re an Academic Librarian, you can also register for a free Altmetric Explorer account. Although these free accounts don’t have all of the functionality of our full instutitional platform, you could analyse the data for all the papers to which we’ve ever tracked attention or compare the altmetrics of a small set of your own open access papers with those behind paywalls. Do you see any trends? Are there any open access success stories to share across the institution?

Open access altmetrics advantage?

Here at Altmetric, we think our tools can help institutions encourage open access compliance and we’re particularly interested in the correlation between open access papers and altmetrics attention. In Euan’s recent blog post, we found that open access papers from a set of Nature Communications articles generated significantly more tweets and Mendeley readers when compared with articles behind paywalls. We also know that open access journals perform well when looking at average attention per article, e.g. papers from PLOS ONE, the BioMed Central series and Scientific Reports. 37% of papers in the Altmetric 2014 Top 100 list were available via open access. So there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that open access papers attract more attention across the sources we track but we’d love to see more research in this area.

We want to hear how you have used Altmetric to encourage researchers to share their work via open access. Have you embedded the badges in your repository? How do you share altmetrics best practice with your researchers? Get in touch!

BenAltmetric Product Specialist Ben McLeish recently attended an Altmetrics workshop hosted at the Carol Davila University Bucharest. Here he reports on what took place and what he took away from the day: 

On February 18th 2015 Carol Davila University Bucharest held an event dedicated to the emerging field of alternative metrics. The event was organized and introduced by Cristina Huidiu, one of Carol Davila’s librarians and a metrics expert all by herself. You can catch up on comments from the event on the #altmetricsWHO hashtag on Twitter.

The four-hour overview of the now burgeoning and varied field included appearances by Mike Taylor of Elsevier who is mid-PhD on the subject, Peter Porozs, also of Elsevier, who was there to present an overview of SciVal’s latest developments, and Victor Velter, a Romanian government official who has been active in the field of scientometrics for some twenty years. Victor spoke at great length (although, unfortunately for me, in Romanian) on his view of metrics and scholarly work. I was also in attendance to give an overview of Altmetric’s own institutional offering.

By way of introducing the event, Cristina gave an overview of what traditional scholarly metrics are. Article citation counts, impact factors and the h-index were all explained along with many others. Mike then gave an illuminating talk on the field of alternative metrics. He explained what they are, and what his work at Elsevier has allowed him to research in the last few years. I followed him, and took the audience through what Altmetric has been doing to gather data from news, blogs, social media, grey literature and the many other sources, and aggregate these at not only an article level, but at an institutional level. Mike

Even though the adoption of altmetrics for institutional research evaluation is presently in its early stages in Romania, the questions from the audience following my talk were well-focused.

“Alternative metrics are only alternative to the existing methods of quantification – these aren’t complete replacements for traditional metrics.”

How, asked one audience member, are we to allow altmetrics to gain traction as an accepted method of research evaluation when authors are still required to publish in high-impact journals (which are high-impact on account of their traditional metric of impact factor and article citation counts)? I explained that it’s important to remember that alternative metrics are only alternative to the existing methods of quantification – these aren’t complete replacements for traditional metrics. Instead, we are filling a gap between publication and the ultimate citations and impact factors which will only be available in years to come. This gap exists now, and so altmetrics are already useful to tell a story about the broader impacts and conversation surrounding a piece of research.

“We are filling a gap between publication and the ultimate citations and impact factors which will only be available in years to come.”

Peter Porosz of Elsevier began his SciVal talk with a very entertaining video of Hungarian visual artist Istvan Banyai, whose animated piece “Zoom” is a meditation on shifting context. Check out the 5 minute animation on Youtube.

One of the most powerful aspects of altmetrics is the ability to gather more information about the context of a discussion surrounding an article, rather than just flat numbers devoid of detail. We have previously blogged about articles gaining unwanted attention, demonstrating how high Altmetric scores don’t confer higher quality to a piece of research; in fact it can sometimes be quite the opposite. This angle of context really helped the audience understand that altmetrics are more than just numbers, they are the organized effort to present and allow interpretation of metrics which are produced when users interact with research online.

The event gathered a lot of very positive feedback from those who attended. It is always a real delight to see growing interest in the scholarly community to new forms of engagement with the public, and with distributed and open data.

If you are organizing your own event, be sure to let us know so we can spread the word!