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Making article-level metrics easy

21st June 2012
By Euan Adie

The following post comes from Euan Adie, founder of Altmetric, the newest addition to the Digital Science family, announced today. Euan also doubles as a product manager at Digital Science working on our data tools. You can follow him at @stew or the project at @altmetric


We’ve got a simple sounding mission at Altmetric – to track and analyse the online activity around scholarly literature.

If I’m honest the main reason I started working on the system is because I think aggregating scholarly metadata is cool (what? No, I don’t get out much). You should care about it too though:

– If you’re a scientist you should have a quick and easy way to see which papers your peers are talking about and where.

– If you’re an author you should be able to identify and respond to comments about your work.

– If you’re a patient you should be able to put any relevant research you find in context.

– If you’re an editor you should be able to track the trends and hot topics in your field of interest.

– If you’re a publisher you should be able to curate and host the conversation around the content you publish and make it available to your readers.

Altmetric is designed to help with all of above.

It began with some prototypes (one of which won Elsevier’s Apps for Science competition, which paid for hosting and licensing costs) and with help from some awesome advisors took shape over about a year of evenings, weekends and holidays. Digital Science have always been supportive of Altmetric and I’m really pleased that they’re now supporting it a bit more formally.

Here’s how it works. Altmetric tracks three types of data sources:

– Social media like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and blogs

– Traditional media – both mainstream (The Guardian, New York Times) and science specific (New Scientist, Scientific American). Many non-english language titles are covered.

– Online reference managers like Mendeley and CiteULike

We pull out mentions of scholarly articles or datasets from these data streams, aggregate them, clean them up and then normalise all the resulting data – we track twenty thousand unique papers a week, but some people link to the PubMed abstract, some to the publisher site, some to, etc. – before making it available to researchers and publishers though an API, embeddable badges and an analytics tool called the Explorer.

You check out our badges on sites like Biomedcentral, Frontiers or Scopus and in apps like Utopia Docs.

The free bookmarklet fetches and displays data from the Altmetric database for whatever article you’re currently viewing. It usually needs a DOI to work, so if it doesn’t find out automatically try selecting one on the page before hitting the button.

The Explorer is a paid product and aimed primary at editors, press officers and bibliometrics researchers. It allows you answer questions like “what neurology papers have researchers been sharing this week?”

(on a tangent, that first article – Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers – is pretty interesting).

“which news outlets have been linking to articles in Nature journal this week?”

“which journals published by the Royal Society of Chemistry got the most attention online in the past six months?”

If you’re interested in exploring any of these further I’d love to hear from you!

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