Altmetric Blog

Getting to grips with altmetrics: an introduction for journal editors

Cat Williams, 28th January 2016

Over the last few years the topic of research metrics and evaluation has been increasingly discussed amongst researchers, funders and those in academic institutions.

At the same time, publishers large and small have been quick to add these data to their platforms, in many cases by means of embedding the Altmetric donut badge you may have come across some of the journals you read.

So what does the evolution of these new metrics mean for academic journal editors, and how can they ensure that their publication benefits from their application? In this blog post we’ll provide an overview of the basics of altmetrics data, and offer some top tips for getting started.


What does the data show?

Altmetric tracks where individual research outputs are discussed online in a variety of non-traditional sources, including in public policy documents, mainstream and social media, academic forums, and other sites such as Wikipedia and The Conversation. All of these ‘mentions’ are collated together and compiled into what we call the ‘details page’; the collated record of attention for an individual output.

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On journals with the Altmetric donut badges embedded in their article pages, readers and authors can click on the donut to be taken to the details page for that output – where they can explore all of the original mentions of that research, and click through to the original sources where the mentions were made.


How are these data collected?

With hundreds of unique policy, media and blog sources, Altmetric scans a huge list of sites in real time looking for links to domains that are on our whitelist (such as a journal publisher domain).

We follow these links to determine which piece of research the mention refers to, and match that up based on the identifier we find on the resulting page (the identifier might be a DOI, a PubMed ID, SSRN ID, or even just the unique URL of the page).

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This tracking happens in real time, meaning as soon as an article is published we begin to pick up any mentions, and new mentions appear on the details page shortly after they’ve been made.


How can my journal benefit from this?

Altmetrics offer lots of opportunities for journal editors and their teams. Here are some of the key ways we’d suggest you might get started with the altmetrics data for your publication: Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 17.08.22

  1. Identify what’s getting attention, and why? The Altmetric details page show you all of the original mentions for an article, so from any given issue you can see which articles have attracted the most attention, and where it came from.
  2. Determine your approach to outreach and engagement. Do you have content you’d like to make more visible? Take a look at the altmetrics for competitor titles and see what’s working for them – a great starting point for building your own outreach strategy!
  3. Measure the effects of your efforts! You might find that Tweeting at a particular time of day produces more re-tweets, or that being featured by a particular blogger draws a lot of attention that an article wouldn’t otherwise get. Figure out what success looks like, and focus your activities on building relationships with those channels.
  4. Ensure your content is being interpreted correctly. Being able to see (via the details pages) who is saying what about the articles you publish, as soon as they’re available online, means you can keep an eye on the conversation and respond to any misunderstandings or mis-interpretations in a much more immediate way.
  5. Use altmetrics insights to inform your future content strategy. Not all research is going to receive large amounts of attention online, and there will be lots of different reasons for that. Along with downloads and citation counts, altmetrics can be a powerful tool for informing future editorial strategy – particularly in determining what audience you are currently (or trying) to reach with your articles.

And lastly, don’t forget to…

Celebrate your successes! The transparency and timeliness of altmetrics offers a great advantage for identifying the articles that really have an impact amongst a wider audience, enabling you to further demonstrate the value of your content to authors, editorial boards and other stakeholders.



2 Responses to “Getting to grips with altmetrics: an introduction for journal editors”

Rafael Santos
February 1, 2016 at 12:00 am

I noticed on Frontiers today that if you click on share on LinkedIn but do not actually submit the post in the pop-up window, Altmetrics is still recording the share. This makes it susceptible to gaming. Something to correct.

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