Basics and Resources: Altmetrics

Altmetrics are “alternative metrics” to measure the influence and reach of scholarly output on the Web through peer-review counts, influential news sites and blog posts, citation manager bookmarks such as Mendeley, Wikipedia citations, and social media mentions on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Why understand altmetrics?
Altmetric Score

Altmetrics go beyond the traditional citation metrics to take into consideration how scholarly output such as journal articles and research datasets are being cited and shared by others on the Web in order to measure influence. They are meant to complement tradition metrics, not replace them.

Altmetrics counts (and scores) are updated much more quickly than traditional citation counts so are especially helpful with “hot topics” getting mainstream attention where citation counts can lag by months and even years.

The Basics

Altmetrics are basically counts of mentions and links to scholarly journal articles and datasets from reputable news sites (and aggregators) and blogs, peer-reviewed sites, reference managers, and major social media sites.

Major academic publishers began adding altmetrics to their platforms beginning in 2012.

We are also seeing altmetrics incorporated into several library products. Two of the most prominent companies, Digital Science’s Altmetric and EBSCO’s Plum Analytics, provide altmetrics to library and academic vendors for integration into products such as discovery services and institutional repositories.


The company Altmetric, founded in 2011, uses a weighted score where a news article counts 8, a blog post is 5, and a Wikipedia link is 3. Sources counting less than 1 point include social media sites Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube at 0.25 point and LinkedIn at 0.5.

ProQuest Altmetric About this Attention Score

Elsevier added Altmetric scores to Scopus in 2012 and to ScienceDirect in a pilot project in late 2013, but in 2015 switched to their own altmetrics system for ScienceDirect and Scopus.

Wiley added Altmetric badges to journal articles in the Wiley Online Library in 2014.

In October 2015, ProQuest announced the addition of Altmetric badges to ProQuest databases. On the abstract page of some scholarly journal articles in ProQuest databases will be displayed an Altmetric badge with basic details of the article’s reach on the Web. Users can click through to see the complete details page. (You can also see the corresponding version.)

At the same time, ProQuest announced the addition of Altmetric to 360 Link, its link resolver product.

Next, ProQuest announced in 2016 that Ex Libris had added Altmetric badges to its Summon discovery service for free. Libraries using Summon simply need to turn on the feature. Search results will show an Altmetric score, if available. Hovering over this button (see below) shows more detailed counts. Users can click through to see the complete details page. This same information can be displayed in the expanded “Preview” section of each search result.

Summon Search Results Altmetrics

PlumX Metrics

Plum Analytics’ PlumX Metrics integrates with institutional repositories and categorizes metrics into five separate types:

  1. Citations – PubMed Central, Scopus, patents
  2. Usage – clicks, downloads, views, library holdings, video plays
  3. Captures – bookmarks, code forks, favorites, readers, watchers
  4. Mentions – blog posts, comments, reviews, Wikipedia links
  5. Social media – posts, likes, shares, tweets

Unlike Altmetric, PlumX does not give a weighted score. At the bottom of the abstract and information page, PlumX displays a count of these metrics by category with a link to see details.

PlumX Institutional Repository Summary

Dimensions Badge

Launched in January 2018 by Digital Science, Dimensions is a scholarly research database that focuses on discovery and analytics. Dimensions contains “more than 1.4 billion citations, supporting grants, datasets, clinical trials, patents and policy documents” in its database.

Mike Thelwall in his article “Dimensions: A Competitor to Scopus and the Web of Science?” states that “the scholarly database component of Dimensions seems to be a plausible alternative to Scopus and the Web of Science for general citation analyses and for citation data”.

For cited articles, in addition to an Altmetric attention score, Dimensions assigns a Dimensions Badge score. Rather than assigning points like Altmetric does, the Dimensions Badge score is a count of total citations that a published item has by other items in the database such as journal articles, book chapters, preprints, or monographs.


Our Research offers two open access products for researchers to determine the reach of their scholarly output with altmetrics. Impactstory is for individuals who want to learn the impact of their research output. Access is by signing in with a Twitter account. PaperBuzz is an “open source of altmetrics data, based on Crossref Event Data” and provides a count and listing of “events” (mentions) by searching for scholarly articles by their DOI.

Paperbuzz Result Altmetrics


Here are some great online resources to learn about altmetrics:

Altmetrics: a Manifesto – Definitive post from

#altmetrics – Twitter hashtag.

Impactstory blog – Link to blog post “4 things every librarian should do with altmetrics” (2014).

Mendeley Altmetrics Group – A group to “discuss new approaches to the assessment of scholarly impact based on new metrics.”

NISO Altmetrics Initiative – Project to create standards and best practices for altmetrics.

Here are some good articles about altmetrics:

Against the Grain – “Altmetrics in the wild: Using social media to explore scholarly impact” (2016)

arXiv – “Altmetrics in the Wild: Using Social Media to Explore Scholarly Impact” (2012)

Here are some popular books about altmetrics:

Altmetrics by Robin Chin Roemer and Rachel Borchardt

This title is actually an issue of Library Technology Reports from ALA Tech Source.  The report “outlines both the promises and major obstacles faced by the field of altmetrics” as well as covers the librarian’s role in providing education and support of altmetrics. Published in 2015.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics edited by Andy Tattersall
Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics

This book gives an overview and the theory behind altmetrics.  It looks at the ways libraries can utilize altmetrics and educate researchers.  Published in 2016.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Altmetrics for Information Professionals: Past, Present and Future by Kim Johan Holmberg
Altmetrics for Information Professionals: Past, Present and Future

This scholarly book looks at key altmetrics research innovations.  It presents the data sources used.  Finally, it looks to the future to determine alternative metric trends.  Published in 2015.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.