Inspired by the engaging discussion at last week’s 2:AM conference, we thought now might be a good time to take a step back, refocus on the bigger picture, and remind ourselves why we are doing this altmetrics ‘thing’.
The main reason? To help academics see who is saying what about their work, to ensure that they are aware of the attention it’s receiving, and to help them use this information to further their research and its eventual broader impacts.
With that in mind, we’ve put together some top tips that anyone can use to get started interpreting their altmetrics data:
1. Don’t focus on the numbers
It’s very easy to get caught up on this one from the word go. Altmetrics open up a world of numbers – from the number of people who have tweeted your work to the times it has been stored in a Mendeley library. At Altmetric we also assign each article a score, intended as an indicator to help identify the volume of attention an output has received. What’s important (and most valuable) is to look beyond them to see who is actually talking about and sharing your work, what they’re saying, and why.
You can view all of the attention that Altmetric has collated for your work (and that of others) by clicking on the donut visualisation or badge wherever you come across it on publisher or institutional websites. Clicking on this will take you to the details page for that item, from where you can browse all of the original mentions and are linked directly to the source.
2. Pay attention to the mentions that matter to you
When evaluating the attention that your research has received, you’ll want to analyse it in context of what you were hoping to achieve by publishing it. If, for example, you wanted specific communities or regional groups to read it, you might be interested in the Twitter and Mendeley demographic maps that show you where in the world people have been talking about and saving for the article.
Likewise, if you were intending that the work be widely circulated amongst patient interest groups or practitioners, being able to identify which blogs it has been discussed in might be of interest. Altmetrics are not a measure of impact in themselves, but they can help you determine where you have achieved reach or influence, and how that might have been a step towards a bigger goal.
3. Use this as an opportunity to engage with a wider community
We’ve heard many times from researchers who are exploring their altmetrics data for the first time how they are surprised to find their work being picked up in unexpected places. A benefit of Altmetric is that is enables you to stay up to date with the latest activity surrounding your work (you can sign up for email alerts to be notified when it gets new mentions) so that you can easily uncover and take the opportunity to engage with discussions as they happen. This might be useful for correcting any misinterpretations of your work, growing your network, or just adding your views to current thinking in your field.
4. Think about how this information can strengthen your CV or funding applications
Ok, you’ve established that 10 people have tweeted your work, 3 news outlets have covered it, and it’s been referenced in Wikipedia twice. So what? Get yourself credit for that! Funders, review and hiring committees are always on the look out for extra evidence of the broader dissemination and influence of research, and altmetrics data can be really useful for this.
Again, don’t just focus on the numbers, but really draw out why the attention your research has got is worth highlighting – for example did key thought-leaders share it amongst their networks? Did it spark an engaged debate amongst non-academic commentators who would not normally have the opportunity to become part of the discourse? Altmetrics can help you uncover all of this and answer that one crucial question: tell us how you are making a difference.
5. Use them to inform new strategies for future success
Altmetric can pick up attention to anything that’s published with a scholarly identifier (and even some things that don’t have one). This includes articles, datasets, reports, grey literature, and other research outputs. At present we’ve picked up attention for over 4 million outputs – meaning that it’s easy for you to explore the altmetrics data for lots of other research in your field too.
To get easy access to this download the Altmetric bookmarklet, our free browser plugin. Just the click of a button will show you the collated record of all of the attention we’ve seen for that research, meaning you can quickly see where the research of your peers is getting attention from or having an influence. You might be able to identify, for example, some high-profile tweeters or bloggers who you can start to engage with to make them more aware of (and more likely to share) your research.