Altmetrics and

ACM Web Science Conference 2012 Workshop
Evanston, IL, 21 June 2012

Richard Price, USA


In this talk, I’m going to discuss how thinks about altmetrics. has 1.4 million users, and alternative credit metrics are key to our vision for how to accelerate research.

The significance of alt metrics

Two key characteristics of the future of scientific communication are:

  • instant distribution (no publication time-lags)
  • rich media (sharing data-sets, code, comments)

I will talk about how altmetrics are key to the emergence of both of these characteristics.

Methods of establishing alt metrics

The quicker altmetrics are embedded into the psychology of the academic community, the sooner the above two benefits will materialize (instant distribution and rich media).

The reasons that citation counts have emerged in the last 5-6 years as a legitimate credit metric are:

citations are well-understood concepts in the scientific community; people know what they mean
citation counts are now publicly accessible, and verifiable, on Google Scholar.

These are lessons for the further adoption of other credit metrics in science. The metrics need to be:

  • well-understood units (not hidden algorithms behind metrics like ‘impact points’)
  • publically verifiable via a trusted source

Jason Priem has suggested to me that early research in the bibliometrics space showing that citations were correlated with other metrics that people cared about helped establish the credibility of citations.

Fuel for establishing alt metrics

The fuel that is driving the adoption of altmetrics is the intense competition for jobs and grants. Academics are keen to establish that their work is having impact, and there is an incentive to use any metrics that reflect impact.

On the hiring/grant side, evaluation is extraordinarily difficult. More data is almost always helpful.

Users benefiting from altmetrics on

I will discuss a number of users on whose careers have been impacted by using altmetrics data on

Some of the instances of impact I will discuss are:

  • Job promotion prospects
  • Getting a book contract
  • Being invited to a conference
  • Being cited more
  • Being contacted more online about one’s research

Quantifying the impact of alt metrics

It’s helpful for those in the altmetrics community to be tracking the impact of altmetrics, vs the historical credit metrics, such as publication venue etc.

One way of measuring the impact of altmetrics is to run surveys with the following questions:

For hiring & grant committees: do you ever factor in altmetrics when considering an applicant?
For applicants: do you ever include altmetrics when applying for a job or a grant?

Running the surveys every quarter would help shed some light on the adoption of altmetrics in the academic community.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.