Altmetric Blog

The value of visualisations

Josh Clark, 21st February 2017

The team here at Altmetric are always looking for new and creative ways to display our data to show its versatility and better meet the needs of our customers. Often these are created as custom visualisations which enable users to take a totally different approach to interrogating the attention insights we’ve collated. In this post I’ll take you through some of the previous projects from our team in London.

Each of the different visualisations allow users to quickly view the attention for publications in a specific subject or published in a specific journal. The aim of these is to allow the user to report on the wider impact of published content in new, visually beautiful ways that also let them easily compare how their articles are performing.

Cancer Research UK Bubble Map

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This visualisation was created to display a specific set of articles supported by Cancer Research UK. Each ‘bubble’ included in the visualisation represents a different article, the size of which is dependent on the amount of attention that has been tracked by us.

The articles included can be sorted into different colours depending on where they have been mentioned and grouped into categories, such as ‘Altmetric Attention Score’, ‘Publisher’ and whether there has been a blog post written about the article.

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In the view above the articles have been filtered so that they are coloured to represents the number of tweets that each article has received and also grouped by the number of sources they have been mentioned on. This allows the user to easily navigate to see the articles with different types and amounts of attention and report on this in a unique and visually engaging way.

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The site also features the ability to hover over each ‘bubble’ to reveal the title and publication information about the article. Users can also click through from the bubbles to the associated Altmetric details page to explore the mentions collected for the article.

National Cancer Institute Attention Explorer

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This eye catching site, made for the National Cancer Institute, groups a selection of subject specific articles into three views: ‘Journals’, ‘Cancers’ and ‘Attention by year’. The Journals tab uses bubble visualisations to group the different articles into larger bubbles which represent the Journal they were published in. The Cancers tab uses the same bubble grouping with the articles grouped by the type of cancer the article focuses on.

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The ‘Attention by Year’ view gives a cumulative amount of attention for the papers in each type of cancer and gives the percentage amount of attention they’ve received across all cancers in the chosen year – it’s really interesting to see how this changes over time! Users are then able to click through each subject area to be taken through to the filtered search of all the articles tracked in that subject within the Altmetric Explorer.

PLoS Impact Explorer

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Built way back in 2011 to help demonstrate how Altmetric data for a single journal can be displayed, this bespoke database included all titles published by PLoS and tracked by Altmetric. The site featured the Altmetric donut visualisation for each paper, which users could hover over to see a summary of the number of mentions the article had received. Users could also click the donut to be taken through to the details page for each article. The site also had the ability to filter by when the articles were last mentioned, and in which PLoS journal they were published.

One of the stand out features of this site was that under each article there was a brief list of the most recent tweets that mentioned each article. The PLoS Impact Explorer is unfortunately no longer maintained (hence we haven’t linked to it here) but it was a great little experiment in the early days of Altmetric.

Of course the Altmetric Top 100, our annual list of articles that have received the most attention online, is also not to be missed! The look and feel of the site has evolved every year since we first released it in 2013, and 2016 was our best yet!:

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Got ideas for a visualisation you’d like to see?

If you’d like more info or to discuss options for building a visualisation or interactive tool for your organisation please email us at and one of our team will be in touch.

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