Altmetrics in action: researcher case studies

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Thu Sep 3 2015

Author: Guest contributor

About this series: Through August and September we are publishing a series of posts authored by some of the team at Altmetric, a data science company who provide such attention data to authors, publishers, institutions and funders. The posts will discuss, amongst other topics, using altmetrics within your C.V.s and grant applications, and how journal editors can make use of the tools. This particular post is authored by guest bloggers Cat Chimes and Fran Davies. 

Use case 1: Including altmetrics data in a grant application to showcase the broader influence and dissemination of your work

Researcher profile: Fernando T Maestre is a Professor in the Biology and Geology Department of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, in Móstoles (Madrid, Spain). Fernando’s research uses a wide variety of tools (field observations and experiments, laboratory work and modeling) and is being carried out at multiple scales, from single-site studies in semiarid ecosystems of Spain to large-scale field studies with sites located all over the world.

Situation: Fernando wanted to better demonstrate the engagement and attention surrounding his work when submitting research proposals, in order to help better demonstrate to potential funders the value and influence of his research. Previously he had mainly included more traditional bibliometrics, citation counts in particular, and he was keen to expand on this to increase his chances of being awarded funding.

The result: Fernando decided to go ahead and include some altmetrics data in two of his research proposals, and also in a prize nomination. As part of the proposals he was required to provide information about a selection of his publications, so once he’d chosen the articles to be included he took a look at their related Altmetric data to see what interesting things he might be able to highlight from that. Crucially, Fernando was careful to not just include numbers with no context:

This study has also been widely discussed in the social media, as indicated by an Altmetric score of 50, which makes it scoring higher than 98% of its contemporaries and includes it into the top 5% of all the articles tracked by Altmetric (more than 1,660,000; see for details). In addition, this work has been featured by newspapers, magazines, web pages and blogs from around the world (see for a selection of news).”

Altmetric-Score_9.3.15_1-1024x592 © ©SpringerNature

Fernando has used the ‘score in context’ information from the summary tab of his details page, and then gone on further to highlight specific mentions from the sources that he considers important – as well as providing a direct link for the reviewers to explore further themselves.

Quote: “I found particularly useful using altmetrics for those papers/research products (such as databases) that have been published recently, as they provide a nice way to showcase the “impact” of research outputs before they start to accrue citations.”

Both of his funding grants and his prize application were successful, and Fernando is keen to continue to use altmetrics data to help tell the story of his research.

Quote: “The capabilities of altmetrics make them a good complement to these more traditional “impact” metrics.”

Use case 2: Using altmetrics to identify new and interesting content

Researcher profile: Professor Terrie Moffitt is the Knut Schmidt Nielsen Professor at Duke University and is part of Duke Psychology and Neuroscience Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Specialising in the interplay between nature and nurture in the development of problematic behaviours, she manages a team of twelve researchers at Duke and is also Associate Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development study in New Zealand.

Situation: Part of Terrie’s role at the institution involves lecturing and holding seminars with early-career PhD researchers. She’s always on the look out for new and interesting content to read and share with her groups, and wanted to find a way to more easily identify hot-topic content that her students might not otherwise come across.

The result: Terrie was introduced to the Altmetric Bookmarklet by one of her students, and began exploring the Altmetric data she found via that and the donut badges on publisher sites for the articles in journals she regularly read. She started to compare the different types and volume of attention that each article was receiving, and to pick out items of interest.

Using the Altmetric score as a quick visual summary of the amount of attention an article had seen meant that she didn’t have to click through to each details page, and could instead pick and choose depending on what the visualisations indicated.

Altmetric-donuts_9.3.15_2 © ©SpringerNature

Further down the line, Terrie spoke to her colleagues in the library and the research office to ask them for access to the Altmetric database, which enables her to browse and compare the attention data for large sets of articles all at once, simplifying the process of identifying articles that have a lot or an unusual type of attention, no matter what journal they are published in.

Quote: “Being able to make their own secondary reading lists from the articles they find will hopefully enhance student motivation.”

Having insight into the additional online activity and engagement around individual publications has also provided Terrie a more interactive way of discussing research engagement with her students and colleagues.

Use case YOU: How do YOU successfully use altmetrics? Let us know in the comments.


Author: Guest contributor

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