Altmetrics

Altmetrics is a way to measure and display the reach of journal articles. Although it claims to measure their impact, it is really just recording their popularity, as there is no easy way to drill down to see the resulting real world change that may have occured. I looked at a research article from the Lancet called ‘Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China’. Unsurprisingly it had a very high altmetric score of 10061 and had been mentioned widely across the various media platforms around the world. A high score doesn’t guarantee a high quality article: it may indicate unique, new, useful information; it may indicate it has been written in a way members of the public can more readily understand; or it could just be down to luck that it has been picked up and shared more than another research paper of equal or greater quality. Twitter mentions are a great way of mapping the global reach of an article, but there is no indication of whether the Tweets are negative or positive – they could all be saying the article is a load of rubbish and it would still get a high score. Thankfully you can gain a bit of context by clicking the media tabs to see the most recent tweets, News articles, Youtube videos etc, to get a feel for the tone of the discourse. Altmetrics does have it’s limitations, but it it seems the most comprehensive and user freindly tool we have for tracking impact at the moment.

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