Altmetrics – support for science communication

In recent years, new target groups and other ways of reaching old audiences have become increasingly important to scientists. Altmetrics were developed as a supplement to classic bibliometrics, in order to measure the impact of research beyond the strictly scientific sphere.

On this page you will find a brief introduction of altmetrics and also some tips on how to improve your altmetric impact. 

What is altmetrics and how does it work?

Altmetrics were developed as an alternative to the citation counts to measure the impact of research done within academia beyond scientific community. Citations are criticised for only measuring the impact of scientific publications on science and not on other aspects of society such as education, economy, culture, etc. Therefore, altmetrics were proposed to fulfill that purpose.

Altmetrics aggregators collect all online traces and mentions that an article may leave behind. This could be tweets mentioning a paper, Wikipedia articles citing scientific papers, full-text views of scientific articles on the web, downloads to reference management systems, references in policy documents, as well as news articles in public media etc.

Docirative image illustration different digital sources.
Illustration: Getty Images

Altmetric sources

Usage – clicks, views, downloads, library catalogues, video plays

Citations – citation indexes, patent references, clinical guidelines, policy documents

Social media – tweets, posts, hashtags, likes, shares

Mentions – blog posts, news stories, comments, reviews, Wikipedia

Captures – bookmarks, favourites, reference manager saves

Introductory film on altmetrics

Who provide altmetrics?

There are currently two main suppliers of altmetric data: Altmetric (Holtzbrinck Publishing Group) and Plum Analytics (Elsevier). Most of the major scientific publishers offer participating writers and readers information about the impact of altmetrics for journals as well as individual scientific articles.

Altmetric and Plum Analytics cover almost similar altmetrics and present their analyses using various educational colour coding and symbols. However, Plum Analytics measures clinical citations that are  especially useful for medical research, collecting all mentions of medical research in clinical guidelines found in databases such as PubMed, DynaMed or NICE Guidelines. Some publishers, like PLOS, directly provide number of saves, views, shares and downloads of each article on their journal website. In the case of PLOS, they also cover different social media metrics that are mainly derived from the altmetric.com database. The pages below list different types of altmetric provided by the two companies and also PLOS journals.

PlumX metrics

Altmetric metrics

PLOS metrics

How can one track altmetric counts of research articles?

Altmetric company provides a free tool called Altmetric it! to track altmetric details of single articles. You just need to download the tool, bookmark it and when you are on an the article page, you can get its almetric mentions through clicking the 'Altmetric it!' button in your bookmark list. Follow the instructions on the link below.

Donwload and install Altmetric it!

What are the applications of altmetrics?

To measure the societal impact of research

Certain research funders have started asking for communication plans in their calls for proposals and expect feedback on the societal impact of research projects, and how research results have been shared with journalists and the general public. Altmetrics can be a simple and tangible way to view the results of the dissemination of knowledge and interaction with the surrounding community. 

To expand networking

There are various forms of altmetric platforms that some are extensively used by researchers for research communication purpuses. Engaging on such platforms can help researchers to find partners in their own or adjacent areas of research. In a column in Nature (2019), Dr. Jet-Sing Lee at Kyoto University in Japan, well describes this application of social media: "It can increase productivity and lead to new opportunities and important connections. Ideas and discussions are still generated over coffee, but sometimes, a tweet might be enough."

To communicate science faster and wider

Altmetrics is still young and has its limitations, but it can serve as a science communication tool to spread research beyond the scientific community faster and wider. It can also serve as a source of inspiration for researchers to interact with the surrounding community and test new ways of spreading their research to the outside world. Altmetrics can therefore be seen as part of the concept of open science.

Below we have collected tips on how you can disseminate information about your research – and increase your altmetric impact. 

Woman with binoculars.
Credit: public domain

Make your work searchable and shareable

Today, more and more interactions concerning scientific results take place online – and the options for monitoring and measuring these are almost infinite. Step one of reaching out in such a way as to make an altmetric impact is to ensure that the different search engines used in altmetrics pick up digital citations of your scientific work.

You can do this by linking to a page where the work’s unique ID, such as DOI, PMID or ISBN, is specified. For this to work, the link must be directly in the body of the text, for example in a blog post, tweet or article reference on a web page. 

Consider the possibility of allowing open access to your scientific articles. If people have the opportunity to read the whole articles, the chances are greater that they will comment on and share them with others on the web.

More about open access on the KI Library website

Use social media and blogs to share your research

There are many social media platforms where researchers can share links to their latest scientific work. Write a short and interesting introduction in just a few sentences. Preferably do this in such a way that it is accessible to a lay audience as well as colleagues in your field of research. On social media it is often a good idea to use a nice picture to draw attention to the content.

Also remember that most social media platforms favour personal accounts, dialogue and real social relationships over organisational accounts and push-information. To improve your reach and impact it could be a good idea to collaborate with your colleagues and share information about each other’s studies. Feel free to inform about your affiliation to Karolinska Institutet and tag us in your posts. Another way to build relationships with followers is to become active in groups on various topics in social media.

Please note, that KI has specific guidelines for how to use social media for your work.

If you want to go a step further than Twitter or ResearchGate to communicate about your research, a blog might be a good idea. The same guidelines apply as for other social platforms if you want to blog as part of your work at KI. Also note that it may be quite demanding to bring readers to your blog and retain their interest. 

An alternative to blogging yourself can be to make contact with other research bloggers in your area who are already established – start a dialogue and tell them about your own work. Google 'science blogs' and start browsing.

There are many web sites about blogs, here are a few:

Lifehack – The newbie guide to blogging

Nature – Why science blogging still matters

List of Swedish science bloggers

Specialised platforms for researchers

There are also a large number of online platforms which are more focused on sharing scientific articles, conference abstracts, presentations, research posts etc. It is not certain that every publication will set an immediate altmetric trace. Altmetric search engines monitor tens of thousands of sources but still have their limits.

However, the more people who come into contact with your research in one way or another, the greater the chance that more people will read, discuss and share your articles. Specialised platforms can also be a good way to monitor trends and come into contact with exciting ideas and new partners. Choose one or two that you like and can learn properly. Make sure to update your personal information on a regular basis.

Some common specialised platforms:

Mendeley – tool for scientific writing and networking with other researchers.

Figshare – repository for the storage and dissemination of research data and results.

Academia.edu – social network service for sharing and discussing research.

ResearchGate – international meeting place for sharing and discussing research.

Slideshare – service within the framework of LinkedIn that stores and shares presentations/lectures.

Wikipedia globe.
Credit: Wikipedia.

Wikipedia

Is your own research topic described on Wikipedia? It is possible to update or create entirely new articles. Do not forget to enter a scientific reference, preferably one of your own articles and a link. Wikipedia also has a number of sister projects for different aspects of open knowledge.

More about contributing to Wikipedia

About altmetrics on Wikipedia

Video and other moving material

Some journals offer researchers to publish a supplement to their scientific article in the form of a video abstract. Embrace the opportunity! It is possible to accomplish a great deal with a standard camera phone and free film-editing software. Take a look at what other video abstracts look like – what is good and what could be done better? Do not forget to link back to a website with the publication's ID number if you share the video through social media, for example. 

Find out more about video communication at KI

The Conversation

The Conversation is a politically unaffiliated international online platform for journalistic popular science articles. The platform is based on the principle that academic researchers write their own new articles, analyses and op-eds within their own fields of expertise – with the help of The Conversation’s own professional journalists and editors. As a member organisation in The Conversation, Karolinska Institutet offers extra support for our researchers to publish in this forum.

More about writing for The Conversation

Profile page on ki.se

Karolinska Institutet offers all employees a personal profile page on ki.se. This allows you to log in with your KI ID and publish a summary about your research. On the profile page, it is also possible to link to scientific articles in PubMed, for example.

More about the KI profile page

KI News and press releases

The Communications and Public Relations Office is dedicated to sharing information about KI’s research, for example by publishing news articles on the website news.ki.se and sending press releases to journalists.

An alternative to distributing press releases via the Communications Office is to make personal contact with one or two journalists who you think is doing a good job and may be interested in what you have to say. Guidelines and tips for media relations at KI can be found on the staff portal. Ask our press officers if you are unsure.

General information on media relations at KI

News and press releases on scientific publications

Contact

For questions about altmetrics, please contact the KI University Library on kib@ki.se

For questions about communication, please contact the Communications Office on either news@ki.se or pressinfo@ki.se