Altmetric Blog

Altmetric in 2012: Year-End Review

Jean Liu, 18th December 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, the time has come to reflect on what has been an exciting first year for Altmetric. Though founded in the middle of 2011, we released our first products – the free bookmarklet, the Altmetric Explorer, and our API – in February.

Altmetric started off as a side project and ended up as a start-up bootstrapped by an app competition, some great feedback from our early users, and kind support from Digital Science, who later went on to make a formal investment. In the blog post accompanying the Digital Science press release in June, the mission of Altmetric was made clear: we aim “to track and analyse the online activity around scholarly literature”.

A growing team

Over the past year, the Altmetric team has grown to 9 members (some of whom work for Digital Science and split their time between us and other projects). With a talented group of developers at our core, we have also begun to expand our alt-metrics data research activities, presenting our findings on this blog in the“Fieldwork” and “Interactions” series of posts.

The Altmetric team (December 2012) – pictured from left to right:
Gavin Sandie / @gavinsandie (infrastructure engineer)
William Roe (data engineer)
Euan Adie / @stew (founder)
Aldo de Pape / @aldodepape  (business development manager)
Alan Hyndman (digital marketing executive)
Jean Liu /@portablebrain (data curator and blog editor)
Ernesto Priego /@ernestopriego (data researcher and blog writer)

Absent from the photo are Carlos Vilhena / @carvil_ (software engineer) and Martin Bachwerk / @PaperCritic (developer).

Delivering Altmetric data

The Altmetric API permits alt-metrics about articles to be fetched for use in apps and other projects. All of our own products (the embeddable badges included) use the API, which currently serves around 7 million requests a month.

This year saw Altmetric integrated with several exciting scientific web-based services, including Symplectic Elements, ReadcubeUtopia DocsSciCombinator (read our introductory post about it), rOpenSci, and most recently, Ex Libris Primo (see the Ex Libris Initiatives blog post about the addition of Altmetric). We did some integration work ourselves as well, creating a third-party app that sits in the sidebar of article pages in Scopus.

We’ve also made the occasional data dump available; see Tony Hirst’s “science literati” visualization and James Cheshire’s Mapping Academic Tweets graphics for some cool uses of these.

Many of us come from STM publishing backgrounds, and offering useful services to publishers remains our core focus. BioMed Central were the first to experiment with using Altmetric data on their site and were followed by Libertas Academica, QScienceNature Publishing Group, Cambridge University Press, and several others.

Our other offerings cater to the needs of various groups, including individual researchers and librarians. For researchers, the free bookmarklet allows individual article level metrics to be viewed, providing an instant view of the level of public engagement with scholarly work. All of our data is free for institutional repositories (just let us know if you’d like details!) and access to the Altmetric Explorer by individual librarians is also free.

Conference presence

With alt-metrics gaining increasing attention and acceptance among academics, numerous engaging discussions about alternative metrics in scholarly research took place this year at conferences in the UK and the USA. Members of our team made appearances at various events, including Science Online (January), Society for Scholarly Publishing 34th Annual General Meeting (May), Altmetrics 2012 (June), SciFoo Camp (August), ALPSP: To Measure or Not to Measure seminar (September), SpotOn London 2012 (November), Online Information (November), The LSE Policy Group’s The Future of Academic Impact (December), and the STM Innovations Seminar (December).

At each of these events, we were privileged to network with key figures in alt-metrics and bibliometrics, share ideas with people in adjacent fields, and provide our take on the benefits and criticisms of alt-metrics in publishing and research. High points included the talks and sessions of SpotOn London 2012 (see our summary blog post and metrics Q & A) and the lively panel discussions at The LSE’s The Future of Academic Impact (see our summary)


What to expect in the upcoming year

Many cool new things are on the horizon for 2013. Among our various priorities, we’re preparing to launch a re-designed version of our website, expand the research we’ve been undertaking through the blog, and most importantly, improve the precision of our metrics. One of our current projects deals with tracking and measuring “second-order citations” (e.g., tweets that link to a news story or blog post about an article, rather than the article itself), while another involves creating a smart way to capture the exact scholarly article that is being described in news stories that don’t provide a direct hyperlink. In addition, we’re working on curating the best possible news and blog sources for our database.


The alt-metrics of Altmetric

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us and shared their comments, criticisms, ideas, and suggestions. As always, we’d love to hear what you have to say, so don’t hesitate to drop us a line at or send us a tweet at @altmetric. Who knows, your message might even get featured on the 2013 year-end review blog post…

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