Applied Altmetrics: Researchers in Action
Altmetric are running a series of great webinars designed to educate different research stakeholders about the benefits and value of altmetrics as an analytical tool.
The most recent webinar was titled ‘Applied altmetrics: Researchers in action’ which, as the title suggests, provided an opportunity for researchers to learn how they can put altmetrics into action and integrate the data into their existing workflows.
Sara Rouhi, product specialist at Altmetric, kicked off the webinar which a brief overview of both the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of altmetrics.
Sara made it clear that Altmetric track the attention that research gets, not the quality of research and highlighted that this attention can be positive, negative or neutral. Sara also made the important point that context is crucial. All Altmetric mentions take place within a particular context and the mention data is often most valuable when that context is taken into account. It is also worth noting that Altmetric collect data for a variety of research outputs, not just articles.
The point was also made that altmetrics are best viewed as a complement to traditional metrics, not an alternative. These additional metrics produce useful data on a much quicker time-scale than citations. This allows researchers to get a sense of the value of their research without having to wait for citations. Mentions are tracked in a wide range of non-traditional sources, for example Wikipedia, policy documents, mainstream news and social media. This means that altmetrics can be used as indicators for a broader form of impact than citation data allows. Much of the discussion and debate around research now takes place online. Altmetrics tap into that data in order to monitor the dissemination of research within communities. Researchers can use Altmetric to drill down and discover who is mentioning their research and what it is that they’re saying. Funders are also taking an active interest in altmetrics as a tool for the evaluation and assessment of research impact.
The second half of the webinar featured two researchers who presented their own first-hand experiences of using Altmetric and the value of the data for them.
First up was Dr Steven Roberts, Associate Professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Steven shared his story of using Altmetric data, alongside other metrics, as part of a submitted tenure package. He also spoke about using the Altmetric embeddable badges on his lab’s website, for both published articles and pre-prints.
In Dr Steven’s opinion “altmetrics change behaviour for the better”. His view is that altmetrics provide valuable information about the efficiency and effectiveness with which scientists share their ideas and their data. This information can then be used to help improve the reach of their research outputs.
The second researcher to talk was Dr Terrie Moffit, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Duke University. Terrie described how her interest in Altmetric developed from writing grant proposals. Her problem was that she needed a way to demonstrate that her research would be likely to meet the NSF’s Broader Impact Criterion.
To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?
Part of the solution to her problem was Altmetric. Terrie spoke about the usefulness of being able to discover the content in which her research has been mentioned, especially for policy documents, which are difficult to search manually.
Terrie concluded by saying that before using Altmetric she didn’t know (1) how broadly her work was being disseminated (2) the difference in interest by source and (3) that all this data could be aggregated to save her time.
For more info on the applications of altmetrics for researchers check out this recent post on Altmetric’s blog