Altmetric Blog

The making of the Altmetric Top 100 2015

Cat Williams, 14th December 2015

It’s Top 100 time of year again! Uncovering stories about how academic research has been received and presenting those findings in visually engaging ways is central to everything we do at Altmetric, and our annual Top 100 list of the most shared and discussed articles is no exception to this. First launched 2 years ago, the list provides a great overview of the research articles that really caught the attention of a broader audience in 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 12.09.55


The 2015 list

The most popular paper of this year detailed the discovery of a new antibiotic that inhibits the growth of a range of drug-resistant bacteria, offering hope for efforts aimed at combatting antibiotic resistance. Recreating Van Gogh’s masterpieces, risky Christmas gifts, plastic pollution in our oceans, and the return of the autism debate also all caught the attention of the public and mainstream media.

Some highlights from this year’s list:

  • 42% of the top 100 articles were published under a gold open access license
  • 65 of the articles feature contributions from US based authors, and 31 listed UK based authors
  • Between them, the articles featured in the list were mentioned in over 5,000 news items, 93,000 tweets, and referenced on Wikipedia almost 300 times
  • Medical and health related studies once again dominated the list, although there was a noticeable amount of climate and environmental science that received a large amount of attention

Scoring attention

The list is determined based on the articles that rank the highest according to the Altmetric score; our automatically calculated weighted measure of attention. The score is designed to provide an indicator of the volume and reach of the attention a research output (in this case, an article) has received, and is useful for identifying how much an article is being shared and discussed as soon as it’s published.

The “score in context” section on each details page, which can be accessed by clicking on the colorful donut of each article, tells you how highly an article has scored in relation to other articles from the same journal, and other articles of a similar age.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 14.45.08


Don’t forget that the score doesn’t tell the full story – be sure to take a good look through the actual mentions on each details page to get a better understanding of why each article has received a lot of attention!


How the data were collated

We queried the Altmetric database on the 16th of November 2015 to get a download of the most mentioned articles. This list was reviewed by the Altmetric team, and we removed items that fell outside what qualified for inclusion (news and comment in particular). Using the DOI of each item we then queried Crossref and the GRID database to gather the institutional affiliation data – including location information. Any missing information was populated via a manual online search, and may still not be perfect, so do let us know if you spot any errors or omissions.

Access types (e.g. was it published under a gold OA model?) were determined by manually checking publisher websites, and subject categories were agreed on by the Altmetric team and assigned by hand.

All of the data are now available to download on figshare.


Building the site

This year’s top 100 website has been designed so that the metrics make sense at a glance, but also has lots of added filtering functionality to help users explore the data and isolate key themes. The article list can be filtered by country, academic discipline, journal, and institution, and can also be divided into paywalled versus open access papers

We’ve also included an interactive map for the first time, showing all the institutions the authors of the papers are affiliated with, giving users a great visual representation of where in the world the articles included received academic input from.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 14.47.03



We’re really pleased with how the final product came out, but it wasn’t always easy to get there! Although some of the process was done automatically, gathering the complete institutional affiliation data for some of the articles proved to be a very lengthy process, in some cases copying and pasting hundreds of institutions from publisher PDFs.

Another challenge was in identifying Open Access content – we were only concerned with gold OA, not articles that have been made free to view since. With no industry standard for tagging and displaying the access model on an article page it was sometimes tricky to determine!


Some thank yous!

Lastly, a huge thanks to everyone who helped see this project through: Matt MacLeod at Altmetric who built the site, Altmetric Founder Euan, Simon Porter and the Data Science team at Digital Science who provided the GRID data and helped with the manual curation, and Laura Wheeler and Lisa Hulme who coordinated PR ahead of the launch, as well as the whole of the Altmetric team who have all pitched in to help along the way.


12 Responses to “The making of the Altmetric Top 100 2015”

Laura Wheeler (@laurawheelers)
December 14, 2015 at 12:00 am

The making of the @Altmetric Top 100 2015! #altmetrictop100

Digital Science (@digitalsci)
December 14, 2015 at 12:00 am

The making of the #AltmetricTop100 2015 via @altmetric

Jean Peccoud (@peccoud)
December 15, 2015 at 12:00 am

[@altmetric blog] The making of the Altmetric Top 100 2015 - It’s Top 100 time of year again! Uncovering storie...

Scott Matthewman (@scottm)
December 15, 2015 at 12:00 am

Some of the details behind the compilation of this year's #AltmetricTop100

Ben McLeish (@BenMcLeish)
December 15, 2015 at 12:00 am

The @altmetric Top 100 articles: behind the scenes.

December 15, 2015 at 12:00 am

The Top 100 articles according to the Altmetric score. 42% were gold open access! Check it out! #OA #altmetrictop100

[…] Sourced through from: […]

December 16, 2015 at 12:00 am

The @altmetric #Top100 list for 2015 is out. Take a look at the most shared and discussed research of the year:

Nicola Di Girolamo
December 17, 2015 at 12:00 am

Great resource!
Just one thing: paper number 46 is not listed as "open access" while it actually is. Furthermore the correct journal should be British Journal of Urology International, instead that British Journal of Urology.

Congratulations for the good work!


January 12, 2016 at 12:00 am

The Making Of The 2015 Altmetric Top 100 - Behind The Scenes - @Altmetric @catherinelucy

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