Altmetric Blog

Altmetrics and the REF part 2: Using the Altmetric Explorer for preparations for your REF 2021 submission

Guest Author, 14th June 2019

In the second in the two-part blog post, Juergen Wastl, Director of Academic Relations and Consultancy at Digital Science, explains how the Altmetric Explorer for Institutions can assist preparations for REF 2021.

In our blog post published yesterday we looked back at REF 2014 and provided a view on how altmetrics could have assisted in REF 2014 submission preparations. In this blog post we look at how the Altmetric Explorer can support the preparations for REF 2021.

The Explorer for Institutions is an intuitive platform that enables you to monitor the online activity surrounding academic research. Browse by author, group or department for your own institution, benchmark against peer organisations, report on the outcomes of outreach activity, and integrate the insights the data provides into evaluation and review processes.

Here’s what Explorer for Institutions can do for you:

Saving time: Aggregating data from different sources takes a lot of time, sometimes weeks. A DOI, or lists of DOIs, for each individual researcher, UoA, organisational unit or any other grouping that you can think of can be saved conveniently in one place,  and revisited any time, giving up-to-date results.

Flexible reporting and analysis: Dashboards, visuals and bespoke reports can be shared easily in a range of formats. Reports and visuals can be gathered at any time. It is easy to perform a quick scan of the mentions for a selection of outputs. Perhaps you can identify leads to some future impact case studies there. Looking at your entire institutional or UoA scholarly output, you may find figures and statistics that could support your institutional or UoA environment statement.

Better understanding and comparison:

An instant institutional view of altmetrics can inform the Environment statement. With the Altmetric Explorer for Institutions you can enhance your understanding not only of a discipline within your own institution, but also that of other institutions. For example, if you want to check an institution’s ‘climate change’ footprint on social media or policy documentation, the institutional Explorer allows you to do that.

A way to get into contact with Academics:

Many academics do not know where to find out about alternative metrics, or think that they are irrelevant in academia. Talking to academics in the context of REF, and in particular Impact, is a challenging task. Pointing researchers to the variety of methods of engagement with their research outputs is a useful way to start a conversation with them.

Will Altmetric data and tools help you prepare for REF2021?

Altmetric data and tools can help you efficiently answer questions around the impact aspect of an institution’s REF preparations:

  • Quickly find research that is worth pursuing around impact based on various sources (from mention to research), especially in cases where the research output hasn’t specifically come up or been mentioned in the context of impact. Analysing the entire corpus of an institution (or a sub-organisational part of it, or an artificial grouping such as a UoA) to potentially find research in your institution or UoA that hasn’t made its way to the REF offices and administrators yet
  • Use the Altmetric Explorer to find potential new leads (from research to mention) based on existing research brought forward in the analytical set of the Explorer. This can assist in the additionality aspect of old REF 2014 Impact case studies in particular.

Altmetric tools could prove a very valuable, efficient and time-saving tool to help gather evidence, point the way towards areas not thought about yet, and provide leads for new angles of investigation in the write up of Impact case studies in the run up to the REF 2021 submission.

If you are interested in learning more about the Altmetric Explorer for institutions, please drop us a line at

Our custom reports

Our consultancy team can provide custom reports that deliver data and detailed insight into your institution’s performance that will help you form your submission for REF2021 and maximise your outcomes. From helping you discover and identify quality research outputs and their context, gather impact corroboration and evidence, and inform your submission strategy, we offer in-depth insights on outputs (including Open Access compliance where necessary), impact and environment.

If you are interested in obtaining any of these reports for your institutions or have other requirements, please get in touch via

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