Altmetric Blog

How Altmetric has increased policy tracking

Charlotte Perry-Houts, 11th May 2021

If you care about the real-world impact of a piece of research, a reference in a report by the World Health Organization or an African Union proceedings is a gold mine. Altmetric tracks policy sources that range from UN organisations to small local think tanks. We are constantly adding new sources to our tracking. Since the beginning of 2020 our policy database has grown from 83 major sources from 23 countries up to 224 sources from 55 countries at the time of this writing – and counting!

In order to add a new policy source a developer writes a custom scraper that retrieves all of the relevant PDFs from a location like the World Health Organization’s publications list. From there, we extract the full text and key metadata from the document and search for links and publication identifiers that we can match with articles, books, data sets and other research outputs. Finally, since many policy reports contain full reference lists (and not necessarily links or identifiers), Altmetric tries to match references with article metadata from Crossref. Our goal is to accurately match as many references as we can from policy documents.

Over the past year, Altmetric has focused heavily on growing our policy database in a way that emphasises global coverage. One major development last year was the addition of 83 sources based throughout the continent of Africa. This includes working papers, reports and policy briefs from the African Economic Research Consortium. This is a Kenya-based non-profit that does research, capacity building and policy outreach on economic policy-making in Africa. It also includes publications by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. This is a South African organisation focused on building fair, democratic and inclusive systems throughout Africa; based on lessons from South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy.

This and other efforts have greatly improved our global policy coverage but there is still more ground to cover. Below is the map of Altmetric’s policy attention at the beginning of 2020:

This is the map today (April 2021):

Other highlights in the past year have been the American Civil Liberties Union, the Australian Government Department of Health, the World Meteorological Organization and all five United Nations Economic Commissions headquartered across the globe.

Improving our global policy coverage is an ongoing priority at Altmetric. Stay tuned for more updates!


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