Altmetric Blog

How to use altmetrics to communicate the potential impact of your work

Patty Smith, 16th January 2020

Have you ever wondered how to use altmetrics to enhance a CV or grant application? Or perhaps you would like to use altmetrics to describe your potential research impact on a website or in a presentation but aren’t sure how to do it. This blog post will walk you through some ideas on how you can incorporate altmetrics into a narrative format to communicate the attention your work is receiving online. 


Establishing Context

Whether you’re using bibliometrics or altmetrics to discuss the potential impact of your work, it is best to provide your reader with context instead of just listing the number of citations or the Altmetric Attention Score. Both of these types of metrics are indicators of the volume of attention a research output is receiving, but they’re not normalized and the expected citation and attention rates differ widely across disciplines. A metric like the Relative Citation Ratio (RCR) is a good option when providing bibliometric context. 

But what about altmetrics? How can you provide context to your reader beyond the Altmetric Attention Score? Good news! There are numerous ways you can establish context so your reader understands the breadth of attention your research has received. 


Using Percentiles

If you’d like to use the Altmetric Attention Score to describe your work, consider consulting the ‘Attention Score in Context’ tab located on each output’s Altmetric Details Page. This tab will provide you with additional context about what your Attention Score means compared to other papers that Altmetric tracks. 

Take a look at the Altmetric Details Page below. You’ll see that this output is scoring higher than 99% of its peers also published in this source. Instead of saying, “This paper has and Attention Score of 1490,” consider saying the following, “My paper is in the top 1% of PeerJ papers tracked by Altmetric.”

If you are trying to summarize your body of work using altmetrics, you can calculate the total percentage of your papers that have Altmetric attention. Consider limiting to papers published after 2011 because this is when Altmetric began tracking data, so most attention occurs post-2011. For example, “Of my papers published after 2011, 60% of them have received attention, including mentions in 200 news stories and 15 policy documents.”


Going Beyond the Numbers

A major advantage of using Altmetric is that the data is auditable and you can actually dig into how people are using your research and what they are saying. If you don’t know where to start, try starting with News, Policy, and Patent mentions. 

  • News mentions are a great indication that your work is reaching wider audiences, including the public, advocacy groups, funders, and more. 
  • Policy mentions provide evidence that your work is making a difference beyond academia. For example, if you work in biomedicine, policy mentions can demonstrate that your research is changing practice and patient care. 
  • Patent mentions provide insight into how your work is leading to innovation and the commercialization of research. 

Let’s see examples of each of these in action.

News Mentions for the paper Obesity Discrimination in the Recruitment Process: “You’re Not Hired!” 

This paper has been featured in 32 news stories from 24 unique news outlets including Medium, Forbes, PBS, and BBC News. Click on any of the news headlines to view the full story and discover how this work informed the news article, and then write a narrative summarizing the attention:

“My work on obesity discrimination during the hiring process has garnered widespread attention in the mass media, including 3 stories on BBC News and 2 in Forbes, revealing the widespread appeal of this work from the general public to business-focused audiences. Additionally, this attention demonstrates that the results of my work are directly reaching the people that this discrimination impacts, reinforcing the public interest in my work and the importance of continued research in this area.”

Policy Mentions for the paper The influence of hospital ward design on resilience to heat waves: An exploration using distributed lag models 
This paper is a great reminder to look beyond the Altmetric Attention Score and actually dig into the mentions, regardless of how high or low the score might be. Here is an example of how you could describe the real-life application of this work:

 “This research informed the ‘Hospitals’ section of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center Heatwave Guidelines for Cities. Per our research, this guideline recommends reviewing building orientation, materials, exterior shading, and structural density in order to increase resilience during heatwaves and decrease the internal temperature of the buildings during periods of extreme heat. ”

Patent Mentions for the paper A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Surgery for Temporal-Lobe Epilepsy 

This paper has been mentioned in 6 patents and 4 policy documents. Here is an example of how you could describe influence this work has had on policy and new innovations:

“This work has been established as foundational knowledge regarding best practices for surgical treatment of temporal lobe epilepsy, as evidenced by citations in 4 international policy documents including the World Health Organization and citations in patent applications to expand treatment options using BOTOX treatments.”


Learn More

Hopefully, this has given you some ideas on how you can communicate your potential research impact in different ways. To learn more about describing your work in a narrative format, watch the webinar How to improve grant application success with Altmetric tools and data


  1. Chase, M., Schlossberg, S., Griffin, C., Bouché, P., Djene, S., Elkan, P., Ferreira, S., Grossman, F., Kohi, E., Landen, K., Omondi, P., Peltier, A., Selier, S. and Sutcliffe, R. (2016). Continent-wide survey reveals massive decline in African savannah elephants. PeerJ, 4, p.e2354.
  2. Flint, S., Čadek, M., Codreanu, S., Ivić, V., Zomer, C. and Gomoiu, A. (2016). Obesity Discrimination in the Recruitment Process: “You’re Not Hired!”. Frontiers in Psychology, 7.
  3. Iddon, C., Mills, T., Giridharan, R. and Lomas, K. (2015). The influence of hospital ward design on resilience to heat waves: An exploration using distributed lag models. Energy and Buildings, 86, pp.573-588.
  4. Wiebe, S., Blume, W., Girvin, J. and Eliasziw, M. (2001). A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Surgery for Temporal-Lobe Epilepsy. New England Journal of Medicine, 345(5), pp.311-318.

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