The term “altmetrics” refers to a type of data that is used to measure the online influence and reach of a variety of scholarly resources, from articles to books to multimedia and more. Altmetrics can include any data sources from the web where scholarly resources are shared and engaged with, including social media, comments, blog posts, public policy documents, and social bookmarking services. These data sources can be monitored for discussions of digital library objects to garner information about their online influence and engagement. Altmetrics data are complementary to citation data, which measure the influence and impact of scholarship in the peer reviewed literature; web analytics (including usage statistics), which measure traffic to and consumption of web-based resources; and alert services, which monitor social media and the broader web for keywords and links to non-scholarly content like brand names.
While initially envisioned as alternative methods for measuring the impact of traditional scholarly publications, altmetrics can be used to track engagement with nearly any online scholarly resource with a persistent identifier or stable URL. As a method to assess use/reuse of digital content, they can be employed to measure the influence of digital objects in scholarship as well as non-academic fields.
Commonly used tools include:
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.
The collection of scholarly engagement data at scale has raised privacy concerns in the past. All altmetrics services either scan only publicly available data (e.g., public tweets), anonymized private data (e.g., private Facebook shares), or some combination of the two. These services are required to follow the European data privacy law, GDPR, as well as terms and conditions for third party websites from which altmetrics are sourced. Social media users whose posts are indexed in altmetrics services may be unaware of how and to what extent their data is shared in unintended contexts.
Konkiel, S. (2019, October 10). Best practices for tracking altmetrics for your digital library content. Altmetric Blog.
Konkiel, S. (2016, September 8). 15 Types of Data to Collect When Assessing Your Digital Library. Altmetric Blog.
Konkiel, S., Dalmau, M., & Scherer, D. (2015). Altmetrics and Analytics for Digital Special Collections and Institutional Repositories [White paper]. Figshare.
Metrics Toolkit. Accessed June 5, 2020.
Yang, S. Q., & Dawson, P. H. (2018). Altmetrics and Their Potential as an Assessment Tool for Digital Libraries. 2018 5th International Symposium on Emerging Trends and Technologies in Libraries and Information Services (ETTLIS), 351–354.
Haustein, S., Bowman, T. D., Costas, R. (2016). Interpreting “altmetrics”: viewing acts on social media through the lens of citation and social theories. In C. R. Sugimoto (Ed.), Theories of Informetrics and Scholarly Communication (pp. 372-405). Berlin: De Grutyer Mouton.
Documenting the Now develops tools and builds community practices that support the ethical collection, use, and preservation of social media content.
Contributors to this page include Elizabeth Kelly and Stacy Konkiel.