Short for alternative metrics, altmetrics are a measure of web-based scholarly interaction. They aim to measure such things as how often research is tweeted, blogged, downloaded or bookmarked. Altmetrics are a recent addition towards attempts to measure the impact of scholarly and scientific published papers. Impact measurements are important to scholars seeking funding for research as they are used to demonstrate the affect and reach of the research back into the scientific and wider communities.

See the Altmetrics manifesto, posted on, for further explanation about the development of this approach to measuring scholarly impact.

Traditional methods include Citation Metrics (Wikipedia link) which looks at how often an article is cited in other articles, books, or official publications, and Journal Impact Factor (Wikipedia link) which measures the yearly average number of citations to recent articles published in that journal. These methods come with long established concerns which are recognised by the journals themselves.

Altmetrics seeks to complement traditional impact factors by measuring mentions of the articles or papers in the variety of online communications we now use. This includes mentions of articles and papers in news reports, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, references in policy and government,  Wikipedia citations, reference manager readers such as Mendeley and Zotero… etc.

Citation has been the widely accepted metric of impact of a scientific publication for decades. Besides citations, the impact of an article could be reflected and quantified by some alternative metrics, including article views, Mendeley readerships and Altmetric scores, etc. There were lots of studies on the relationship between citations and other metrics to examine the reliability of different metrics. Significant correlation between views and citations is confirmed by previous studies, but some researchers also found that the correlation between altmetrics and citations is low. from Xianwen Wang

Altmetrics scores are presented in both a textual and visual form. The visual image of a colourful donut is designed to provide a quick and easy way to see how much and what type of attention a paper or article has received.  By clicking on the donut you are taken to a details page that provides information on the mentions and references that have contributed to the score. Information on how Altmetrics derives its attentions score is provided on the Altmetric donut and attention score webpage.

Install the Altmetric bookmarklet to your browser!

Altmetric explorer is a web-based platform that allows anyone in the Macquarie community to track, search, and measure the online conversations about their research. It tracks mentions in major news sources, blogs, government policy documents, Wikipedia, and social media from July 2011 onwards.

You can use Altmetric explorer to explore mentions in those sources for:

  • all publications with authors affiliated with the Macquarie University, or
  • for specific authors, or
  • Faculties, Departments, or Schools, or
  • subject areas

Instructions are provided here on the Altmetric Bookmarklet page which is to click on, hold, and drag the blue ‘Altmetric it!’ button to your bookmark bar. To do this you will need to make sure that your bookmark bar is showing on your browser, if you are unsure how to do this a quick Google search for ‘how to show the bookmarks bar in (browser name)’ should provide you with quick instructions.

The Bookmarklet makes it easy for researchers to get started with altmetrics – simply drag the button below to your bookmarks bar, navigate to a journal article page, and hit “Altmetric it!”

altmetric bookmarklet instruction image

Try it out!

All set? Great, take it for a spin! Here are some example articles to try it out on. Just visit them, then click on the “Altmetric it” bookmark you just added:


  • The Bookmarklet only works on PubMed, arXiv or pages containing a DOI with Google Scholar friendly citation metadata
  • Twitter mentions are only available for articles published since July 2011

For a detailed exploration of altmetrics in the higher education setting, visit Tracking your Research from Macquarie University.

Professional Social Networks

A professional social network service is a social media platform that is focused solely on interactions and relationships of a professional nature.


LinkedIn began in 2010 as an online CV platform where jobseekers would create a profile and post their resumes to gain the attention of potential employers. In April 2017 500 million users were using the platform for employment and professional networking.

LinkedIn describes itself as ‘the world’s largest professional network’. Its aim is to ‘connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful’. LinkedIn users create a professional profile and connect with others working in the same or a related field. They can also ‘follow’ individual researchers or universities/departments. As LinkedIn is aimed professionals in any line of work, it allows you to interact with other users outside of the confines of academia and often with a more employment-focused slant. Users can identify their own skills and strengths, and other users can elect to ‘endorse’ these, though it’s worth reading John Naughton’s critique of this in The Observer (Naughton, 2012).

Users create a profile and provide information on their employment history, skills, and CV details. Users can then ‘friend’ known colleagues and professional contacts to improve networking in their field and also to build reputation and vouch for each other as skilled professionals.  Connections can also be developed by participating in groups and discussions.

The University of Edinburgh Careers Service has a page with information on how to get started with LinkedIn and provides an example student profile, links to relevant LinkedIn groups, information on the alumni tool, and a case study of one student’s LinkedIn experience.

Go to LinkedIn is a platform for academics to share research papers, network, and track the research of academics they follow. Users create a profile, can network and connect with colleagues and peers, put up a CV, and can upload their papers and articles (or just provide a list of publications if they choose not to upload).

Academia’s stated mission is ‘to build a completely new system for scientists to share their results, one that is totally independent of the current journal system’. But it’s not just for scientists. Registered users from all disciplines can create a profile in which they identify their ‘research interests’ and use these to follow other users and ‘tag’ their uploaded papers. You can also follow the profiles of other scholars, which is useful to keep up to date with people’s publications. can be especially useful for research students. Not all universities provide their higher-degree students with online profiles, while many other researcher databases rely on publications as a way of constructing a profile. The simplicity and flexibility of allows you to create posts on your general research activities and upload ‘grey’ literature such as conference papers, reviews or opinion pieces. This is useful for all researchers but perhaps particularly valuable for those at the start of their careers. also includes some analytics tools, which can also tell you how many people have viewed your profile, where they are from, what keywords they used to find you (though Google’s encryption settings are now reducing the effectiveness of this), and who is following your own work.

It currently has over 44 million users, who have contributed more than 16million papers across almost 2 million research interests.

Go to


ResearchGate is a platform for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. It was created by two researchers, physicians Dr. Ijad Madisch and Dr. Sören Hofmayer, and computer scientist Horst Fickenscher,  who wanted to improve the experience of collaborating with a friend or colleague on the other side of the world.

It is the largest academic social network in terms of active users, and currently lists over 12+ million members.

As with users can create profiles, upload CVs and papers, and create networks. Additional features include private chat rooms where researchers can share data, edit shared documents, or discuss confidential topics. It also provides a research focused job board.

Go to ResearchGate

Jordan, Katy (2017): Number of users at and ResearchGate. figshare.



Mendeley is a free reference management tool and we will be looking at this aspect of Mendeley in a later post. However, it also incorporates a profile function that can help you organise your own research, collaborate with others online and discover the latest publications. It interfaces with Facebook, and you can sync your Mendeley library to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Google Scholar Citations

Google Scholar Citations primarily helps researchers to monitor who is citing their work. There is also an option to publish a ‘user profile’ page. This appears at the top of a Google search for a researcher’s name and shows a list of publications and co-authors. It also includes options to follow an author’s articles or citations.

Try this


Create an account on LinkedIn (you can always delete it later) and look at some examples of particularly active users. Sean Cubitt, Professor of Film and Television at Goldsmiths, University of London is a good example, but there are many others (see Foote, 2013).

Check out the profile of Richard Price, the founder of for a very thorough profile. See if you can find any of your colleagues and researchers working in your area.

It’s worth setting up a full profile on one of these sites (or both, if you’re keen!), if you don’t already have one. Both tend to rank very highly in Google searches, and will make you and your research more visible online. Building an online profile is as much about ‘pulling’ people to your content as well as ‘pushing’ information out there, and about active participation. A completely static profile might never be viewed or followed up. If you’ve already set up a profile on these platforms, you might want to focus on this: how many ‘hits’ are you getting and how much interaction do you have with others? Spend a few minutes thinking about the kind of people it would be useful to connect with and why. Both platforms are able to find contacts from other accounts: for example your email, Facebook or Twitter accounts but be sure that you want to link these accounts! Decide who you want to connect with, but take it a step further and see what issues or goals you might want to contact them about, and send a message or ask a question.

Reflection and integration into practice

All of these tools provide networking opportunities and allow you and your work to be seen by a wider audience. There are pros and cons for each, so it’s worth doing some research before committing to any one tool.

Julia Gross and Natacha Suttor of Edith Cowan University in Perth have provided a good overview of different online research networks (Gross and Suttor, 2013). They conclude with the following salient advice:

Make effective decisions about the platform(s) you adopt, based on who you want to connect with and what you want to do on the platform. No platform is mutually exclusive: each has different strengths and each has different user demographics. ‘Find your audience where they naturally occur.’

Explore further

A brief history of altmetrics,  Prof Mike Thelwall (June 2014)

Altmetrics are the central way of measuring communication in the digital age, but what do they miss?, Nick Scott, LSE Impact Blog, (December 2012)

Should you share your research on, Menachem Wecker (February 2014)

Do academic social networks share academic’s interests?,  David Matthews, Times Higher Education (April 2016)
Duffy, B. E., & Pooley, J. D. (2017). “Facebook for Academics”: The Convergence of Self-Branding and Social Media Logic on Social Media + Society, 3(1), 2056305117696523.

Veletsianos, G., & Shaw, A. (2017). Scholars in an increasingly open and digital world: imagined audiences and their impact on scholars’ online participation. Learning, Media and Technology, 1-14.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *