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Alternative Metrics

This guides provide an introduction and overview of alternative metrics and how to use the tool Altmetric Explorer.

Limitations of altmetrics

There are a number of limitations to the use of altmetrics:

  • Altmetrics don’t tell the whole story: 
    As described above, altmetrics are a complement to, not a replacement for, things like informed peer review and citation-based metrics. Think of altmetrics as just one tool of many you’ve got in your toolbox for understanding the full impact of research.

  • Like any metric, there’s a potential for gaming of altmetrics: 
    Anyone with enough time on their hands can artificially inflate the altmetrics for their research. That’s why providers like Altmetric Explorer have measures in place to identify and correct for gaming. Don’t forget to look at the underlying qualitative data to see who has been talking about the research, and what they’ve been saying.

  • Altmetrics are relatively new, and more research into their use is needed: 
    Though we’re learning a lot about how often research is shared online, we don’t yet know a lot about why–more research is needed. Until we know more, use and interpret altmetrics carefully. You may also consult the report, Outputs of the NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics Project published by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). You can read more about this initiative here

  • Data are not normalized:
    It is not advised to compare between sources and data sets for altmetrics, as different providers collect different kinds of data. Instead, we suggest using altmetrics to tell a story about your research - see the Use Cases & Case Studies tab for more information.   

  • Known tracking issues:
    Altmetrics can be difficult to collect, for example bloggers or tweeters may not use unique identifiers for articles; altmetrics work best with items that have a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). 
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