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After You Publish: Metrics and Altmetrics

Bibliometrics, metrics, altmetrics, impact factors, h-index, field weighted citation impact...

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Bibliometrics are tools used to give a quantitative measure of the impact of a piece of research, or a researcher's body of work, or a research institute's research output, etc.  Often these tools are broken up into "Metrics" and "Altmetrics".

The generic term metrics or traditional metrics are used in bibliometric reports or bibliometric research to refer to measures like citation count, h-index, journal impact factor, etc.  These are measures of how many researchers could have seen and/or used the research in question.  Traditional metrics usually require a wait of a couple of years before they are worth calculating, because it takes time for other researchers to do, write up, submit, and publish articles that cite the article in question.

Altmetrics, alt-metrics or alternative metrics are used to describe measures like number of shares on social media, number of mentions in news stories, how many downloads, etc. These are measures of interest, awareness and possible impact in the wider world.  Altmetrics are usually very fast, involving a flood of attention when the article in question is first published, and then slowing down as discussion moves on to newer topics. 

Metrics, usually traditional, are often used in academic settings for hiring, promotion, tenure etc.  You may also be asked for metrics (again, usually traditional) for research grant applications and in other circumstances where someone is deciding between multiple researchers. 

Both traditional and alternative metrics have their weaknesses as tools for measuring the importance and impact of a research study, a researcher or a research institute.

Traditional Metrics

Butler JS, Sebastian AS, Kaye ID, Wagner SC, Morrissey PB, Schroeder GD, et al. Understanding Traditional Research Impact Metrics. Clinical spine surgery. 2017;30(4):164-6.

Fire M, Guestrin C. Over-optimization of academic publishing metrics: observing Goodhart's Law in action. GigaScience. 2019;8(6).

Stephan P, Veugelers R, Wang J. Reviewers are blinkered by bibliometrics. Nature. 2017;544(7651):411-2

​Wilson V. Research Methods: Bibliometrics. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. 2016;11(1(S)):50-2.

Alternative Metrics

Baheti AD, Bhargava P. Altmetrics: A Measure of Social Attention toward Scientific Research. Current problems in diagnostic radiology. 2017;46(6):391-2.

Cabrera D, Roy D, Chisolm MS. Social Media Scholarship and Alternative Metrics for Academic Promotion and Tenure. Journal of the American College of Radiology. 2018;15(1):135-41.

Williams AE. Altmetrics: an overview and evaluation. Online Information Review. 2017;41(3):311-7.

Wilson V. Research Methods: Altmetrics. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. 2016;11(1(S)):53-5.

Zahedi Z, Costas R. General discussion of data quality challenges in social media metrics: Extensive comparison of four major altmetric data aggregators. PloS one. 2018;13(5):e0197326.

Both Traditional and Alternative Metrics

Knowlton SE, Paganoni S, Niehaus W, Verduzco-Gutierrez M, Sharma R, Iaccarino MA, et al. Measuring the Impact of Research Using Conventional and Alternative Metrics. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 2019;2018;98(4):331-8.

Thuna M, King P. Research Impact Metrics: A Faculty Perspective. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research. 2017;12(1):1-25.

Wimmer EN, Rethlefsen ML, Jarvis C, Shipman JP. Understanding Research Impact: A Review of Existing and Emerging Tools for Nursing. Journal of Professional Nursing. 2016;32(6):401-11.