Altmetrics: maybe not so “alt” any more?

The recent release of a National Information Standards Organization (NISO) white paper on altmetrics marks a turning point in the development of these research impact measurement tools. The fact that consideration is being given to develop some standards for altmetrics means that they are moving closer to being an accepted part of the academic and publishing landscape. The press release announcing the release of the white paper is available here, and the paper itself is here.

Some of the recommendations in the white paper include developing a definition of alternative metrics, identifying the types of research outputs that are most suitable to have metrics applied to them, and identifying the role of¬†alternative metrics in research evaluation. Although I can see the merit in developing standards around the use of altmetrics, I’m a little concerned that the standards may become too prescriptive and limit the usefulness of altmetrics. Part of the appeal of altmetrics is that they can be used to describe a wide range of research outputs, so introducing definitions of what is and what isn’t an altmetric may limit their growth.

The white paper also notes that awareness of altmetrics is still low amongst researchers, and I think this is something that librarians can help to address. If we are approached by a researcher who has questions about measuring research impact, we should mention altmetric tools such as ImpactStory, as well as the traditional measures of impact such as citation counts. This is probably most relevant for librarians who work with researchers in the social sciences and humanities, who are not well-served by traditional metrics, but may find that there are suitable altmetrics available for their research outputs.

It will be interesting to see the final version of this report, and the standards that come out of it.


My foray into ImpactStory

Inspired by @infoliterati‘s foray into, I decided to set forth and delve into ImpactStory. I first heard about this service at the Research Support Community Day in Brisbane, where Pat Loria discussed it in his presentation. ImpactStory is a website which measures research impact using various alternative metrics, such as the number of readers on Menedeley who have saved a copy of your article, how many people have blogged about your research, and the number of times that your SlideShare presentation has been tweeted about.

It’s easy to set up your profile – simply provide the url of your research “products” that you would like to track e.g. journal article, and ImpactStory collects the data. As an example, here’s my ImpactStory profile. You can embed your profile on a website if you wish. It’s also possible to measure the impact of other people’s research. For example, I added the details of some publications from one of Macquarie’s highly-cited authors and was able to see the measures of impact for those. This could make it a valuable tool for Liaison/Research Librarians to be able to provide a service to researchers to show them how their research is being discussed.

We mention ImpactStory on our Research Metrics LibGuide, so I think it’s important to understand how the site works so that I can advise researchers how to use it. All I need to do now is prepare some more research “products” to add to my profile.