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Research Metrics

A guide for research impact tools, databases, and metrics

Alternative Metrics

What are alternative metrics?

New technologies like social media and public repositories allow researchers to measure impact beyond the traditional h-index and impact factor. Alternative metrics make an estimate of impact through social media mentions, blog posts, media outlets, shares, saves, and downloads.

Altmetrics look at a variety of inputs, which vary depending on who is doing the measurement and how they have chosen to weigh each input relative to one another (and these complex weighting formulae are usually not disclosed). Typical inputs include activity on social networks and social bookmarking sites, mainstream media and blog coverage, and whether anyone has left any comments on the article.

Reference: Crotty, D. (2017). Altmetrics. European Heart Journal, 38(35), 2647-2648

. . . that dog-eared (but uncited) article that used to live on a shelf now lives in Mendeley, CiteULike, or Zotero, where we can see and count it. That hallway conversation about a recent finding has moved to blogs and social networks–now, we can listen in. The local genomics dataset has moved to an online repository; now, we can track it. This diverse group of activities forms a composite trace of impact far richer than any available before. We call the elements of this trace altmetrics

Reference: Priem, J., Taraborelli, D., Groth, P., & Neylon, C. (2010). Altmetrics: A manifesto.

Why are alternative metrics important?

Alternative metrics give authors an immediate way to measure impact. Alternative metrics can provide supplemental measures of assessing impact, dissemination, and reach.

See our selected tools for alternative metrics. Try a few of the tools and decide for yourself whether alternative metrics add value to your impact.

Books in the Catalog

Handbook of Bibliometric Indicators


"Written with the aim of providing a complete and unbiased overview of all available statistical measures for scientific productivity, the core of this reference is an alphabetical dictionary of indices and other algorithms used to evaluate the importance and impact of researchers and their institutions."

-from Wiley Online Library

Altmetrics for Information Professionals


"The main goal of this book is to introduce altmetrics—what they are and how they can be used—to information professionals at academic libraries and other organizations involved and interested in research evaluation and science policy, as well as to students in these areas."

-from Altmetrics for Information Professionals

Further Reading

Alternative metrics. (2012). Nature Materials, 11(11), 907.

Bornmann, L., & Marx, W. (2016). The journal Impact Factor and alternative metrics: A variety of bibliometric measures has been developed to supplant the Impact Factor to better assess the impact of individual research papers. EMBO Reports, 17(8), 1094–1097.

Bornmann, L., Marx, W., Gasparyan, A. Y., & Kitas, G. D. (2012). Diversity, value and limitations of the journal impact factor and alternative metrics. Rheumatology International, 32(7), 1861–1867.

De Gregori, M., Scotti, V., De Silvestri, A., Curti, M., Fanelli, G., Allegri, M., & Schatman, M. E. (2016). Does a research group increase impact on the scientific community or general public discussion? Alternative metric-based evaluation. Journal of Pain Research, 9, 391–395.

Donato, H. (2014). Traditional and alternative metrics: the full story of impact. Revista Portuguesa de Pneumologia, 20(1), 1–2.

Konkiel, Stacy; Madjarevic, Natalia; Rees, Amy (2016): Altmetrics for librarians: 100+ tips, tricks, and examples. figshare. Paper.