Altmetric FAQs

How does Altmetric work?

To be able to track the online attention for a specific output, there are 3 things needed:

  1. An output (journal article, book, dataset etc)
  2. An identifier attached to the output (DOI, Scopus ID etc)
  3. Mentions in one of the sources that they track.

Once Altmetric have picked up a mention of the research, they collate it together with any other online attention and display it in the details page, along with its own unique donut and automatically calculated Altmetric Attention Score.

Altmetric process

What identifiers are tracked?

Altmetric only tracks direct attention: that is to say only posts that contain one of the identifiers below are tracked. If a post does not contain a link, then it will not be tracked since Altmetric doesn't know which mentions belong to which outputs. Identifiers Altmetric will recognise include:

  • DOI – assigned to individual articles at the point of publication, and by platforms such as figshare (ORDA).
  • ISBN – books hosted on publisher domains and google books
  • PubMedID – typically associated with health sciences research
  • arXiv ID – Physics, Mathematics & Computer Sciences
  • ADS ID – Astrohpysics data system
  • SSRN ID – Social Sciences outputs
  • RePEC ID – economics research
  • Handle.net identifiers – often used in institutional repositories
  • URN (Uniform Resource Name) identifiers

These identifiers also help Altmetric to recognise different versions of the same output. For example, a journal article might be originally made available on a publisher platform and given a DOI, and then later hosted on PubMed or an WRRO and given another unique identifier there. Their system cross-checks these to match them together, ensuring that the details page always displays a collated record of attention for all versions of the research item.

Often news stories will refer to an output e.g. "a paper by Myers' lab published in this week's Nature" but won't contain a hyperlink, which Altmetric requires. Sometimes news stories will link to an associated editorial, perspective or research highlight instead of directly to the article. Altmetric won't pick this up (the editorial will be scored highly rather instead of the actual research).

How I can ensure that my outputs are tracked?

Always include a direct link to the outputs that you reference in social media or blog posts. You can include a link to the journal in a variety of different formats, which include but are not limited to:

  • A link to the DOI URL. e.g. http://dx.doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-158-11-201306040-00002
  • A link to the journal article on its publisher website. e.g. http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1691733
  • A link to the PubMed version of the article. e.g. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23732711
  • A link to the article on arXiv. e.g. http://arxiv.org/abs/1409.2251
  • A link to datasets or objects hosted on ORDA, using the DOI URLs, e.g. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1167458.
What sources does Altmetric track?

Altmetric track a range of sources for mentions of research outputs. This includes policy documents, mainstream media, blogs, online reference managers, post-publication peer-review forums, social media and other online sources including Wikipedia and YouTube. This list is growing all the time.

Altmetric sources

Learn more about the sources that Altmetric tracks

How does Altmetric track attention to Books?

First, your book needs to be hosted by one of the publishers that Altmetric tracks. This is a growing list that includes Taylor and Francis, Elsevier, Springer, Cambridge University Press, and Wiley, as well as Google Books. After that, Altmetric works in the same way as for any other output – scanning the sources that they follow for links to the publisher's page.

Altmetric has begun to investigate how they might go about tracking book reviews – both in scholarly journals and in broader publication venues. There are many challenges associated with this work, not least that often many books will be mentioned in one review, and that the book's ISBN is rarely included. To begin with they've now started tracking book reviews from a handful of sources including the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, Chemistry World, the London Review of Books, the LSE Review of Books and newspapers like The Guardian and The Irish Times. They'll be gradually ramping up the number of places they collect from over the next few months. A new 'book reviews' tab has been added to the details pages. The tab will appear when Altmetric has found a review for the book.

Why has this mention of my paper been missed?

There are a few reasons why mentions of outputs are not always automatically picked up by Altmetric:

  • The mention did not include a working link to a page with the research output identifier (e.g. the DOI), so it couldn't be picked up automatically - this sometimes happens with blog posts, or if a link has been added to a news story after it is first published (they are only scanned once).
  • The text mining system (used for news only), was not able to match a research output to the story by identifying the journal title and author name.
  • Altmetric wasn't tracking the source when the mention was published. To track a source they need to be able to add a working RSS feed to their database. To match research outputs to articles from that source, the pages need to be publicly available, and not behind a login screen or paywall.
  • The mention included a link to another news story or press page about the research, rather than to the research itself. This is often the case with Tweets and Facebook posts. These are known as second order citations, which they don’t track at the moment.
  • The mention was in a comment, rather than in the original post or article.

Altmetric policy is to manually add missed attention to the details page. Attention that they would not have picked up automatically will be added to the misc tab, which to prevent bias does not contribute to the overall score. If you have noticed some missed mentions for your research, complete the online form. They check the surveys regularly, so you should see the mentions appearing on your details page within a day or two.

If you tell them about a news or blog that has a working RSS feed that they can track automatically in future, they'll add it to their database. Any future mentions of research from those sources will appear on the news or blogs tab as appropriate, subject to them containing the necessary information or links as detailed above. 

What is the Altmetric donut and score?

The Altmetric score and donut are designed to help you easily identify how much and what type of attention a research output has received. You might come across them in your myPublications records, on publisher websites, or on publisher, library or repository websites.

The Altmetric donut is a visual representation of the attention that an output has received. Hover the cursor over the donut to see a summary of the engagement. Each source is colour coded:

Altmetric score

The Altmetric score, in the centre of the donut, provides an indicator of the attention surrounding an output. It represents a weighted approximation of all the attention Altmetric has picked up for a research output and is calculated according to three facets:

  • Volume: The score for an output rises as more people mention it.
  • Sources: Each source category contributes a different base amount to the final score.
  • Authors: How often the author of each mention talks about research influences the contribution of the mention.

The number alone can of course not tell you anything about what prompted the attention, where it came from, or what people were saying, but it does at least give you a place to start - "is there online activity around this research output that would be worth investigating further?". You can always click on the donut to visit the details page for the research output, to see the original mentions and references that have contributed to the score.

Remember - the score never tells you quality. It measures attention. A high number or low number only make sense within a deeper dive into the data that Altmetric provides.

Learn more about the Altmetric donut and score

Putting the Altmetric Attention Score in context

The Altmetric Attention Score is not normalised, so it doesn't have a scale per se (though a score of 0 indicates that they haven't tracked any attention). To put the score into context you should use the Scores tab within the details page, which can tell you where the current score fits in with others from the same journal or across the whole dataset. Of course, the most important thing you can do is actually read the posts that went in to making it up - the score is really only useful in conjunction with others.

What's a good Altmetric Attention Score?

You can't really say that a score is 'good' as it measures attention - which could be good or bad. For example the 'arsenic life' paper famously debunked by blogger Rosie Redfield (amongst others) got a lot of attention online, but not necessarily the kind of attention you'd want as an author. Furthermore the average score for journals varies: an article in Science or Nature will typically score much higher than one in a smaller journal, not least because more people have read it and are thus more likely to share it. A good score for one journal might be a low one somewhere else. Bearing those two things in mind - in general if an article scores 20 or more then it's doing far better than most of its contemporaries. 

What can the data tell you?

The Altmetric score alone is not enough to understand the data. Reading the mentions for a research outputs helps you understand the type of attention has received, whether the attention is positive or negative, or if the paper has gained traction in a particular country. You’ll never be able to gain this level of insight by looking only at the Altmetric score. Altmetrics can help you to further understand successful research dissemination, support researchers making the case for grant funding or promotion and provide a broader, more coherent understanding of the potential impact of research on society.

Altmetric reasons

Remember that the numbers don't tell you…

Altmetric not reasons

How do people use altmetrics?

Support funding applications: find evidence of broader impact and engagement to demonstrate in funding applications, and showcase the attention their research is generating to encourage further support.

Showcase influence: funders and review panels increasingly want to see evidence of the broader influence and impacts of your work. Altmetric data can help you demonstrate this - for example was your work commented on by a thought-leader in your field, did it receive media attention in specific geographies, has it been referenced in public policies?

Drive marketing and communications activity: determine what effect your outreach activities are having, and monitor interest and dissemination of your research in key markets around the world. Identify hot topic articles that are receiving the most attention, and drive marketing and communications activity by building upon early engagement.

Reputation management: monitor early engagement and be aware of who is talking about your research, and what they're saying. Engage where appropriate and ensure that work of is accurately reported and communicated.

Identify the most effective channels: One of the benefits of the data Altmetric provide is that it can be used to benchmark against other research published in your field, meaning you can see where the work of your peers is gaining traction - useful for informing best-practice strategies for future outreach activity. Check out the 'score in context' tab of your details page to see how the attention surrounding your research compares to others.

Seek out collaborators: You might find that your work (or other research in your field) is being talked about in unexpected places! Dig into the details page to see who is talking about your work and what they're saying – you might even uncover some potential future collaborators.

Inform strategic planning: understand who is talking about your research and where it is having most impact. Identify areas for improvement and support research portfolio strategy decisions.

How can I suggest new sources to be tracked?

Altmetric are always adding new sources of attention in order to track a broad range of online conversation and discussion surrounding research outputs. They are happy to review suggestions for new blogs, news outlets, policy documents, etc. to be tracked. If you would like to suggest a source to be tracked, complete the online form or email your suggestion to support@altmetric.com.

How do I ensure that my blog posts are tracked?

Altmetric's list of blogs that are scanned for mentions of scholarly articles is manually curated. If you are a blogger and want your blog posts to be tracked and recognised by Altmetric, you should take the following steps:

  1. Tell them about your blog: Chances are, if your blog is new or not part of a larger blogs network, they might not be tracking it yet. Send them an e-mail at support@altmetric.com and if your blog isn't already being tracked, their data curator will consider your blog for inclusion in. They track blogs via their RSS feeds so do make sure that your site's feed is available and functioning properly. Feel free to suggest any blogs that you think they should be tracking!
  2. Always include direct link links to the outputs that you reference. You can include a link to the journal in a variety of different formats, which include but are not limited to:
  • A link to the DOI URL. e.g. http://dx.doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-158-11-201306040-00002
  • A link to the journal article on its publisher website. e.g. http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1691733
  • A link to the PubMed version of the article. e.g. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23732711
  • A link to the article on arXiv. e.g. http://arxiv.org/abs/1409.2251
  • A link to datasets or objects hosted on ORDA, using the DOI URLs, e.g. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1167458.
How are Twitter demographics determined?

Altmetric categorises users from Twitter based on their posting history and profile information. Where Twitter data are available for an article, counts for each user category and geolocation data are included in the Demographics tab of article details page.

To generate a geographical map of tweeters, they geolocate users based on information in their profiles on Twitter. The geo key is a straightforward breakdown of where in the world users who share an article come from.

To compile a table of twitter demographics, they look at keywords in profile descriptions, the types of journals that users link to, and follower lists to assign each profile a category:

  • Member of the public - somebody who doesn't link to scholarly literature and doesn't otherwise fit any of the categories below
  • Researcher - somebody who is familiar with the literature
  • Practitioner - a clinician, or researcher who is working in clinical science
  • Science communicator - somebody who links frequently to scientific articles from a variety of different journals / publishers
I know this article was popular so why is the Altmetric Attention Score so low?

When was the article published? Altmetric started collecting content from most publishers during the second half of 2011. 

Where was the article popular? Was it popular with bloggers? They keep a manually curated list of blogs that we track for article mentions. They add to it frequently but usually can't import more than a few weeks’ worth of older posts - so it could be that they just didn't track any of the relevant blogs until a little time after the paper was published.

What were the relevant posts linking to? Altmetric only tracks direct attention: that is to say links to the actual output. Often news stories will refer to a paper e.g. "a paper by Myers' lab published in this week's Nature" but won't contain a hyperlink, which Altmetric requires. Sometimes news stories will link to an associated editorial, perspective or research highlight instead of directly to the article. Altmetric won't pick this up (the editorial will be scored highly rather instead of the actual research).

Has the attention all been in the past 24h? Altmetric captures attention in as close to real time as possible but it can sometimes take up to a day for posts to filter through to the Explorer.

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