What are altmetrics?

Altmetrics, or alternative metrics (also referred to as article-level metrics), go beyond the traditional means of measuring the impact of scholarly works via citations by analyzing mentions in social media, blogs, news outlets, and more.  Unlike traditional metrics that can take years to show impact, altmetrics allow for almost immediate analysis of impact.

Altmetrics should be used to complement traditional metrics and not used alone. When using altmetrics, exercise caution as sharing does not equal quality. For example, a particular article could be shared due to its poor or biased research. Plus, altmetrics often focus on what is popular at the moment so historically seminal works may be missed. It is also easy to cheat with altmetrics through the use of buying Tweets, likes, or mentions. 

Altmetrics tools

Plum Analytics

PlumX Metrics provide insights into the ways people interact with research. Metrics are displayed using the Plum Print which places activity into five categories: Usage, Captures, Mentions, Social Media, and Citations. Hovering on any Plum Print provides detailed information on each of these categories. The example below indicates that most activity has occurred in the category of Usage followed by Social Media. PlumX Metrics are available on many library databases including EBSCO products and Elsevier products including Scopus.

Plum Print showing various areas of impact


Altmetric provides an Altmetric Attention Score that measures how much and the types of attention a work has received using a graphic “donut.” The Attention Score is a weighted score that looks at volume, source, and author. A mention in a newspaper will receive more weight than a tweet. Each color in the Altmetric donut represents a different source of attention. For example, red indicates mentions in news sources and yellow indicates blog activity. In the example below, the research has received most mentions in news outlets. See the Altmetric Attention Score for more details on these numbers. You will find Altmetric scores in SummonAltmetric’s bookmarklet provides article-level metrics for any article you are currently reading.

Altmetric donut showing various areas of impact

PLOS: Article-Level Metrics (ALM)

Part of the Public Library of Science (PLOS), ALM provides both academic and social metrics for its open source journals. ALM draws information from several sources including views in PubMed, saves in Mendeley, citations in Scopus and Web of Science, and mentions in different social media platforms.