Most scientists are familiar with a cited reference search (looking for articles that include a previously written article as a reference or citation) and with journal impact factor (a measure of how many citations in the literature are to articles from a particular journal). What may be less familiar to researchers is the concept of altmetrics. Altmetrics may be defined as “non-traditional metrics proposed as an alternative to more traditional citation impact metrics, such as impact factor.” In the context of scientific publishing, altmetrics most often are applied as article level metrics, and measure the impact of an article by how many mentions appear in social media (Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, blogs, etc.) or in the news media, how often the article is viewed or downloaded, or how many times it is saved (bookmarked or included in a site like Mendeley). Altmetrics are one way of measuring the immediate impact of an article since the more traditional citations take some time to appear in the published literature. There is currently considerable discussion about the value of altmetrics, and some controversy about their use in evaluating research, but there has been a growing interest on the part of funders and publishers. BioMedCentral, Nature Publishing Group and Elsevier have integrated article level metrics into their websites, and some funders have begun to show interest in altmetrics as a way to demonstrate impact of funded research.
There are a number of sites (some commercial ventures) that calculate altmetrics in various ways, including ImpactStory, Altmetric.com, Plum Analytics, and CitedIn. If you want to explore altmetrics for yourself, you can install a free bookmarklet from Altmetric.com to get an altmetric infographic and data on any article.
If you want to read even more about altmetrics, here are few articles that provide additional details and discussion:
Altmetrics: A 21st-Century Solution to Determining Research Quality – Stacey Konkiel
Keeping Up With… Altmetrics – Chin Roemer and Rachel Borchardt.
NISO Vets Research on Altmetrics – POSTED BY Judy Luther, Jul. 10, 2014 on The Scholarly Kitchen blog
Altmetrics: A Manifesto – Jason Priem, Dario Taraborelli, Paul Groth, Cameron Neylon