RLS: Research Impact and Data Sharing
Alternative Metrics Primer
What is altmetrics?
Recent trends in open access, scholarly communication, and open data movements have given rise to new ways of measuring the impact of research. These new methods, termed "altmetrics" or alternative metrics, are ways to measure the impact of your scholarship beyond the traditional measures such as number of citations or journal impact factor. Almetrics seek to tell the "story" of how your research is found, discussed and applied once it has been made available. This article from SPARC breaks down all of the various issues related to this new area.
Altmetrics are still very new and there is no one standard way in which this information is analyzed and evaluated. There is also a debate regarding the reliability of altmetrics when pointing to sources such as blogs and websites that may not yet be considered mainstream as indicators of quality of research and can be subject to manipulation and commercialization. It will take a more longitudinal approach to collecting data in this manner before it becomes synthesized into faculty tenure processes in higher education as a widely accepted measure of a researcher's influence in his or her respective field.
What about Impact Factor?
Typically, the higher impact factor, the more prestige or influence is associated with a particular journal. The more times an article is cited, it is typically considered more prestigious. Impact factors measure the average number of citations received per article published a particular journal during preceding two years. It has been used to compare the importance of different journals when considering avenues for publication and also to judge the importance of a scholar’s work for tenure or other related processes. We do not contend here to discuss the merits of these activities, merely explain them.
While Thomson Reuters’ Web of Knowledge database provides this information, there are limitations to impact factors. The way in which an impact factor is determined is not entirely transparent. Citation quantity does not necessarily point to importance if, for example, an article was cited 100 times but it was deemed to be erroneous or otherwise unusable and it was used as an example of what NOT to do, then certainly quantity of citations in this regard would not be an indicator of quality. In addition, it is not easily reproducible, varies between disciplines and can be manipulated. Finally, while it may provide some information about the journal itself, it is difficult to extrapolate this value down to the article and author levels.
There are some additional metrics which attempt to look at a more individual level. Again, these may or may not be useful and one would have to calculate all of these elements and put the data together from several sources in order to gain a more complete picture of his/her research:
- H-Index was developed by J.E. Hirsch and attempts to measure the scientific productivity and impact of a researcher. It can be found in various resources such as the Scopus database and Google Scholar
- Google Scholar metrics "provide an easy way for authors to quickly gauge the visibility and influence of recent articles in scholarly publications." They are limited however to the last 4 years and exclude several items including patents
- A complete list of metrics can be found on the NCSU Libraries website