Altmetric

Basic information

How to use this tool for use/reuse assessment

Altmetric provides a suite of tools for collecting data that can show the impact of digital resources. Products include Altmetric Explorer, Altmetrics Badges, and the Altmetric Details Page API.

Altmetric Explorer, a subscription service, allows automatic monitoring and reporting of online activity surrounding digital objects. While largely targeted at universities looking to measure the impact of faculty research, it can be used to track impact of other digital library resources with canonical links, Handles, and other kinds of persistent identifiers.

Altmetric requires four things to be able to track engagement with a scholarly resource:

  • A domain name (e.g. collections.libraries.indiana.edu)
  • A scholarly object (e.g. digitized photograph)
  • A persistent identifier (e.g. a Handle)
  • A link or mention of the scholarly object in a source that Altmetric tracks (e.g. a link to the photograph on Twitter).

For most data sources, Altmetric works by monitoring the source for links to a specified domain name like a digital library website. Any time a link to said domain is shared in an Altmetric data source, Altmetric follows the link and looks for specific meta tags on the webpage. If the webpage meta tags include a persistent identifier like a Handle (among other metadata), Altmetric can verify that the page shared contains a scholarly object. Altmetric then indexes the mention of the scholarly object, associating it with other mentions to the same scholarly object. Note that Altmetric data sources like news and public policy mentions that require text mining cannot be used to detect mentions for digital library content, because the algorithms used to detect mentions of scholarly content do not accommodate textual features typical of citations to digital library records.

Altmetric Badges include the Altmetric Attention Score and donut, a visual badge attached to digital objects, quickly and concisely shows the amount and type of attention a digital object has received. Sources of “attention” include news, blogs, social media, Wikipedia, and citations. Current research outputs assessed include books, book chapters, journal articles, presentations, theses/dissertations, reports, conference proceedings, reviews, data sets, working papers, gray literature, clinical trials, and more. Some free tools are also available, such as Institutional Repository badges, Altmetric Explorer for academic librarians, and Altmetrics API.

Altmetric Badges can be used on item record pages for digital library content to quickly and concisely show the amount and sources of online attention a digital object has received. Sources of “attention” include news, blogs, social media, Wikipedia, and more. Current research outputs assessed include any scholarly object with a persistent identifier, including books, book chapters, journal articles, presentations, theses/dissertations, reports, conference proceedings, reviews, data sets, working papers, grey literature, clinical trials, and more. 

Digital libraries interested in using Altmetric Explorer to track engagement with their online content should have two key technologies in place for the service to work: persistent identifiers minted for each item record to be tracked, and properly formatted site meta tags that  share basic item record metadata. These requirements allow Altmetric to accurately track engagement for online scholarly resources in a manner that is relatively immune to link rot and misattribution.

Ethical guidelines

Practitioners should follow the practices laid out in the “Ethical considerations and guidelines for the assessment of use and reuse of digital content.” The Guidelines are meant both to inform practitioners in their decision-making, and to model for users what they can expect from those who steward digital collections.

Additional guidelines for responsible practice

According to Altmetric’s privacy policy, they will collect a wide range of user data depending on the service, including personally identifiable data about users such as name, email address, and “other basic contact details/professional information.”

Altmetric’s privacy policy also states “When you use Altmetric, we may collect information about that usage and other technical information, such as your IP (Internet Protocol) address, browser type and any referring website addresses. For example, we collect IP addresses from all visitors to our Altmetric Details Page in order to determine whether or not it should be fully ‘unlocked’ for the visitor (e.g. because they’re part of an organizational site license). We may also combine this automatically collected log information with other information we collect about you and use it to keep a record of our interaction and to enable us to support, personalize and improve Altmetric. We may also collect this type of information using cookies and other similar technologies – please see our cookie policy for further details.”

Strengths

Altmetrics

  • Tracking can be set up for a centralized web domain or any number of subdomains, allowing for tracking of many digital collections under a single institutional subscription.

  • Automated reports based on user-defined searches are available. These reports can be emailed or shared using a dedicated link, which can save time in comparison with manual data collection techniques.

  • Subscriptions are available at the institution or department level, which can potentially allow for cost-sharing with other university units interested in tracking engagement with different kinds of scholarly objects (e.g. journal articles and books).

  • A subscription API allows Altmetric Explorer users to create custom dashboards for reporting.

  • Provides reliable user support.

  • Free badges are provided for repositories with academic institution affiliations to showcase attention for an individual profile or publications page.

Citation analysis

  • Users can export data to a CSV spreadsheet for further analysis through other programs.

  • The dashboard provides easy access for analyzing the scholarly output of a specific author or department.

Weaknesses

Altmetrics

  • Altmetric tracks only public social media posts, thus mentions of digital library content in private Twitter posts or on non-public Facebook pages cannot be tracked.

  • Altmetric uses manually curated lists of blogs, public policy documents, and news media websites to track mentions in these sources. Therefore, mentions in sources that are not tracked by Altmetric will not be indexed by the service.

  • Several Altmetric data sources like LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Sina Weibo have been deprecated over time, meaning that longitudinal study of attention across all Altmetric data sources may not be possible in all Altmetric sources.

  • Altmetric requires persistent identifiers to track impact, and the required identifiers are less likely to be available for cultural heritage-based digital objects and collections. 

  • Common digital library platforms like CONTENTdm typically do not use website meta tags that include basic item record metadata in the format Altmetric requires.

  • Changes to digital library websites that alter the base URL or meta tags can cause problems for Altmetric’s ability to track mentions.

  • It requires a site license via IP-authentication via the institution or organization.

Citation analysis

  • The search results may be substantially limited compared to dedicated citation analysis tools like Mendeley or Google Scholar.

  • Altmetrics focuses more on engagement data than traditional citation impact metrics.

  • The search results may be substantially limited compared to dedicated citation analysis tools like Mendeley or Google Scholar.

  • Altmetrics focuses more on engagement data than traditional citation impact metrics.

Real world examples

  • 15 Types of Data to Collect When Assessing Your Digital Library
    Overview of qualitative and quantitative methods for assessing use/reuse of digital libraries, including tool recommendations.

    Konkiel, S. (2016, September 8). 15 Types of Data to Collect When Assessing Your Digital LibraryAltmetric Blog. 

  • Alternative assessment tools and techniques for digital collections
    Whitepaper outlining alternatives to citation metrics, or altmetrics, and how they can be used to assess use/reuse of digitized special collections and institutional repositories. Includes an overview of Google Alerts and Mention.

    Konkiel, S., Dalmau, M., & Scherer, D. (2015). Altmetrics and Analytics for Digital Special Collections and Institutional Repositories [White paper]. Figshare. 

  • Best Practices for Tracking Altmetrics For Your Digital Library Content
    Discusses the need for permanent identifiers and/or DOIs for assessing digital objects using Altmetric.

    Konkiel, S. (2019, October 10). Best practices for tracking altmetrics for your digital library contentAltmetric Blog.

  • Metrics Toolkit
    “The Metrics Toolkit is a resource for researchers and evaluators that provides guidance for demonstrating and evaluating claims of research impact.  With the Toolkit you can quickly understand what a metric means, how it is calculated, and if it’s good match for your impact question.” Not specific to digital objects or collections, but may have some applicability.

    Metrics Toolkit. Accessed June 5, 2020. 

  • Altmetric Badges at the Biodiversity Heritage Library
    Implementation of Altmetric Badges to “monitor and showcase the online activity surrounding their content.

    Engineering, A. (2017). Biodiversity Heritage Library
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