Altmetrics- an important tool for measuring research impact

With the social media wave gripping scientific publishing, the way a research article has an impact on future studies has been defined today by an innovative tool: altmetrics. The conventional tools to assess the impact of scholarly publications, such as journal impact factor, peer review process, h-index, etc. are now being considered as redundant even as there is metamorphosis in the world of academic publishing.

With most scientists propagating the “online/internet of things” channel for publication, academic social networks have gained significance. Mendeley is one such academic social network cum reference manager that has become a repository of 40 million research articles, thereby exceeding the US government’s initiative for biomedical articles, Pubmed. With this novel approach, the previously uncited articles are now gaining effective visibility and are being shared by collaborators all across the world.

Definition and scope of Altmetric

In the new-age world of academic social network, Almetrics is the tool defining the impact of a research article across various online channels. In many collaborative platforms, scientists are now sharing ‘raw datasets” and “experimental study design” before manuscript preparation to journals. In recent times, we have seen a number of “semantic publication units” which contain just a passage of the citable article, not the entire article. Altmetrics constitutes the impact created by all these composite traces of online channels.

Impact of altmetrics on peer review

Previously it was a slow process that included overburdened researchers from advanced countries. Today, we can see the impact of a research article simply by collecting the number of shares, reads, and bookmarks of the article in an academic social network or repository. This means the peer review process can be completed within just one week through the crowd-sourced platform. Many Open Access journals, such as PLOS, PeerJ, BMJ Open, are now considering this innovative approach to accelerate peer review process.

A comparison of altmetrics with conventional tool

Altmetrics is a correct measure of the impact created by the article. In case of Journal Impact Factor, it only gives an indication of the journal’s average citation for each article, thereby restricting its impact within a reference frame of a journal. In contrast, altmetrics gives a summary of the impact created by the article within various online platforms: academic, non-academic, uncited articles, and articles published without peer review. Although traditional researchers argue that altmetrics cannot reflect the quality of the article in terms of novelty, we argue that JIF is a tool that can be manipulated in a very extensive manner.

What does altmetrics truly reflect in various categories

1) The attention received by the article on online channels: There are complex algorithmic tools in-built to determine the reach, share, and popularity of the article. For example, the metric tool will let you know its shares or mentions on news websites, Twitter, etc. through the “impression” tab. Pageviews and Downloads are tools that can help you understand if the article is well-received or not.

2) Dissemination of an article in terms of quantitative measure: These tools will let a researcher know if the article is being shared or discussed in a community of researchers or in the public sphere. For example, these tools will let you know mentions of the article on news websites and authoritative blogs.

3) The impact and influence created by the article: Altmetrics are tools that gather data of the article for leveraging the impact. With qualitative analysis of the data, one can understand the following:

·        General comments of various researchers on the article, constituting constructive feedback.

·        The various journals, magazines, and academic networks where the article is being cited in different parts of the world

·        How many people have read the article on various online channels

·        Whether or not the article is being reused in other research publications.

In summary, altmetrics enable qualitative data analysis of research publications. They are faster than the conventional citation-based metrics, with the perennial shift of researchers from the print media to online channels of the internet.

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