Mmmmmm….who doesn’t love a deliciously bad for you donut?!
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were another kind of donut entirely? Something with the visual appeal of a donut, but which would feed you interesting information about academic articles? Sounds like gibberish, but it’s not. Enter: Altmetric.
Now that we’re hooked and hungry, what exactly is Altmetric? In the most general sense, it’s a tool meant to bolster or complement citation-based metrics by including data from alternative sources such as social media outlets.
Many of you savvy students know there can be power in analyzing how many times an article has been cited (i.e. looking at citation counts); BUT, how do we begin to consider the ways an article is being cited by or mentioned in non-traditional sources?
We all know that, today, researchers, professionals and the public alike take to Twitter, blogs, Facebook, newspapers, and other media outlets to express thoughts and opinions on every topic under the Sun.
So wouldn’t it be nice to see if an article has been mentioned, for example, on Twitter? Not only that; wouldn’t it be nice to see how many times an article has been mentioned on Twitter, by whom, and in what context?
Altmetric can track this type of information and presents it as a nice color-coded donut, displaying how many times and through which outlet a work was mentioned. Their simple bookmarklet tool, discussed below, can be used to this end and is completely free. Each donut will look a bit different depending on the number and types of sources which mention the article (light blue = Twitter; yellow = blogs; etc.).
Pretty cool, right?!
For those who respond ‘heck yeah!’ jump on down to the ‘Altmetric Bookmarklet’ section. For those who say ‘but why?!’, read on!
This is a good question. First, we can probably agree that any article metric, even a citation count, is not necessarily a measure of the article’s impact or quality. However, we generally accept that it can be a nice way to know which articles seem to be talked about frequently in their field.
The problem? The scholarly publishing cycle is not the fastest mechanism in the world. You may read an article, cite it in an article you write, then have your work published 2 years later. But, you may also read the same article, take to your blog or Twitter with ease, and comment on it within an hour of reading it.
It’s these latter mentions–the way a work is being immediately engaged with via social media–that can be hard to measure but offer interesting information on the way a paper, idea, or research is being used. Altmetric is attempting to fill this gap by tracking how articles are mentioned in these harder-to-measure spaces.
*Disclaimer: Fielding does not have an institutional Altmetric subscription; however, the Altmetric Bookmarklet lets you take advantage of much of their data for free!
The ‘bookmarklet’ is basically a little button you add to your browser’s bookmarks bar, like so:
Altmetric has a webpage which explains everything you need to know about adding the bookmarklet to your browser and using it: http://www.altmetric.com/bookmarklet.php Or the visual learner may appreciate watching their 45-second getting started video below:
Once you’ve got the button in your toolbar, you can simply click on it (while viewing the webpage for an article) to see if they’ve collected any data:
Alright, so the Twitter count is kind of interesting, but is that it? No way! Click the spot which says ‘click for more details’ to get to the good stuff.
The top of the details page will provide you with some summary information, and, more importantly, the option to sign up to receive alerts any time this article receives additional mentions!
The middle and bottom portions of the detail page allow you to see the demographic breakdown of mentions by type (*note, a ‘twitter demographics’ section, a ‘mendeley readers’ section, etc.). Particularly interesting is that you can see a geographic breakdown of where these users were, but also a breakdown of whether the ‘tweeter’ was a practitioner, scientist, etc.:
Now, your librarian’s favorite part of all this, seeing these mentions in context! Back at the top of the screen, you will see that we landed on the ‘Summary’ page. But, in this example, you will also see a ‘Twitter’ tab. If this article had other types of mentions, you would also see tabs for things such as ‘Blogs’, ‘News’, and so on. Clicking on the tab for a particular source will display the actual mention in context:
The top of the page will explain the number of tweets, number of users, and potential number of followers who viewed those tweets. Below, you can see the tweet itself and the way in which the article was mentioned: were they singing praises? Retweeting someone else’s posts? Taking issue with the work? The details are right there.
A Few Things to Know…
This tool is pretty awesome, but there is always fine print. You will see on the Altmetric site that they do have a few caveats regarding the bookmarklet, as is the case with any tool.
For one, the tool only works on pages/articles which contain certain types of information, such as a DOI number. This means it functions best with more recent works.
Also, it only works on articles which use certain types of metadata. This explanation could get tedious and boring, suffice to say that it works well with some stuff and not others.
For library users, it may be worth noting that Altmetric seems to work best on the actual webpage for an article. From your librarian’s tests, it works well on database pages created by the publisher (such as: SAGE, Springer, Taylor & Francis, etc.). However, it is not the best at reading pages within vendor databases (such as: ProQuest or EBSCO). If you really want Altmetric data for an article here, it may be best to find the article through the publisher’s website and use the toolbar there.
Bottom Line: There will certainly not be altmetric data available for everything. In fact, chances are there will be a great number of articles for which there is no data. Not necessarily because the toolbar doesn’t work, but because not all works are mentioned in social media, the article was published too long ago, etc.
It might be interesting to see a few screenshots of other donut examples to give you a sense of how they change. Enjoy these images below!
This article includes Twitter and Facebook mentions:
This article, from Nature, shows a lovely donut representing mentions via various formats like news outlets, blogs, Twitter, Google +, and more!
We hope you enjoy exploring this new tool! Happy Searching!