Altmetrics: Now and Next

Written by Heidi Becker, Planning & Evaluation Associate, The John Templeton Foundation

In an information-packed session chaired by Catherine Williams (Altmetric), our panelists gave us a landscape of current and upcoming work in altmetrics.

First up was Euan Adie (Altmetric) who gave us the “10,000 foot view” from Altmetric of the past year. Among the trends he highlighted included academic twitter’s growth year over year and the rise of pre-prints. Another trend perhaps alarming to this audience is that publisher meta-data is getting worse. Without the meta tags, it’s difficult for Altmetric and others to make connections and track mentions.

In markedly better news, however, signs are there that awareness and uptick of altmetrics is on the rise. More researchers, publishers, funders and governments are aware of and are using this data, and their approach has been quite sensible. The fear that using ‘tweets for tenure” has not been borne out in practice.

(Author’s aside: I was delighted to learn that Euan recognizes himself as “the donut guy.”)

Following Euan, Heather Piowar and Jason Priem (ImpactStory) who discussed the importance of transparency and open source code, and provided a sneak peak at their new project PaperBuzz, based on CrossRef event and Unpaywall user data. The aim is to help tell you “what’s buzzing this week” by topic or scholarly/non-scholarly audiences, based on open data and code. What are the things people are talking about online and what they’re reading based on open access data. While the sources do not currently provide as much data or data as high in quality, the expectation is that this will continue to change and improve moving forward.

Next up was Daniella Lowenberg (California Digital Library) discussing the “Make Data Count” project. Begun in 2014, this project aims to bring metrics to the data level. Researchers were surveyed about which metrics were most important to them, and based on the survey, the project is now tackling how to best structure data presentation to enable tracking similar to journal articles. The project is in process of producing a draft for posting as a pre-print to get feedback from the community. The project aims to make usage trackage easier and engage researchers across communities, iterating recommendations as they learn from the process.

After Daniella, Polly Allen (Plum Analytics/Elsevier) spoke about Altmetrics and societal impacts – raising attention to issues involved in tracking actual impact (using as an example clinical citations). Polly also made important points regarding the use of big data in general and the biases that are still contained within it, despite the presumption by many that data removes such biases. She encouraged us to fully think through what success means and the societal implications of using any metric, while celebrating the wealth of information that remains to be explored.

Jean Liu (Altmetric) then provided an absolutely adorable narrative about Altmetric for books entitled The Donut’s Quest, detailing the challenges of tracking altmetrics for books. Tracking is surprisingly difficult because there are multiple domains where books live online. Nevertheless, Altmetric has seen an enormous amount of attention paid to books and continue to work to track it.