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Research impact guide: Altmetrics

What are altmetrics?

Altmetrics are measures of attention and conversation surrounding research outputs that supplement traditional bibliometric measures. They allow researchers to better understand how their work is being discussed, shared, saved, read, and reused by other scholars and the public.

Altmetrics are sourced from many web services including:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Wikipedia
  • Mendeley
  • research blogs
  • media outlets
  • policy documents

They allow researchers to track any published research output with a unique identifier such as a DOI including articles, datasets, software and multimedia presentations.

Many altmetrics are closely tied to open access as they rely on freely available information from the web, so if your research is available through open access journals it is more likely to be discovered by these different products.

How can altmetrics be used?

Altmetrics are useful for helping researchers build a narrative about their research for grant applications and promotions and for developing effective dissemination and engagement strategies.

Altmetric scores are indicators rather than measures of impact. They shouldn’t be used to benchmark or compare between researchers or across disciplines. Rather, they draw attention to outputs that have a high level of attention and allow researchers to dig down and explore how people are engaging with their research.

They are especially useful for:

  • early career researchers and researchers in disciplines where citations alone do not provide a full picture of research impact
  • researchers with non-traditional research outputs
  • researchers who have significant engagement with the public in non-scholarly venues

There is a huge array of altmetrics tools emerging into the market at the moment. Some are built into publication platforms, like the PLOS journals, others are stand-alone products.

A key tool is the altmetric donut. It is useful because it:

  • calculates an altmetrics score for any publication with a DOI
  • is built into a number of systems like Scopus and UNSW's publication management system, ROS
  • is available as a bookmarklet that you can add to your browser to use on any webpage with a DOI

(Adapted under CC BY from The Ultimate Guide to Altmetrics (for researchers))

Further information

altmetrics: a manifesto, posted on

Discussions about altmetrics on the Impact of Social Sciences blog

Altmetric for Institutions

Altmetric for Institutions allows researchers, funders and universities to use the Altmetric Explorer to track, analyse and leverage research at the article level, reflecting online attention often long before citations appear.

How can individual researchers use Altmetric for Institutions?

  • explore the spectrum of attention to your research before citations appear and beyond traditional journal metrics. Track the way different audiences are engaging with your scholarship on the open web.
  • demonstrate the broad reach of an article that was produced from your research
  • manage your scholarly reputation. Track who is talking about your research and what they are saying by exploring the data behind the numbers.

To access Altmetric Explorer’s full functionality, create an account using your email address. When logged in to this account, you can:

  • browse UNSW outputs, and the conversations around them by author, department, journal subject, or custom category (such as a particular grant funded project)
  • monitor real-time feeds of all tracked mentions of a publication
  • export lists of publications and their related altmetrics
  • track conversations, as they happen, via email alerts

Altmetric for Institutions is able to track mentions of any research output that has a unique identifier such as a DOI, arXiv ID or PubMed ID. It relies on author affiliation data supplied by ROS, therefore it is important to keep ROS up to date and ensure DOIs are included in your ROS publication records where possible.

For further information, visit the Altmetrics for Institutions FAQs, or the Altmetric Knowledge Base, or contact your Outreach Librarian.


Altmetrics is the term used for a range of non-traditional impact measures that track online activities. 

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