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Researcher Skills Toolkit

Alternative metrics

Alternative metrics are also useful because they can provide real time usage of publications – whereas citations can take months or years to appear. Within hours of publication, tweets can announce a new research output, followed within days by news outlets reporting on the research, comments being added to online sites and blogs, and Wikipedia articles citing the research.

Benefits of using alternative metrics:

  • Provide an indication of societal impact, that is, the impact of research beyond academia - for example, by the public, policy makers, and the government
  • May accumulate more quickly than citation-based metrics. This is important for disciplines where citations grow more slowly.
  • Provide an earlier indicator of the potential impact of research
  • Track the impact of research outputs beyond the traditional journal article. This is particularly important for those disciplines where the journal article is not the primary mode of research output.

Considerations for using alternative metrics

  • Like citation-based metrics, the amount of attention a research output attracts does not necessarily reflect the quality of the research
  • Alternative metrics measure quantity, but they do not indicate the ‘sentiments’ of the mentions
  • Like citation-based metrics, alterative metrics can also be manipulated to increase attention
  • There is scepticism on the value of, for example, a brief tweet, as a venue for academic exchange of ideas
  • A research output’s popularity with the general public does not necessarily indicate the quality of research.
More information

Check Beyond the metrics - Five ways to use altmetrics for academic success for ideas on how researchers can make use of altmetrics in ways that go beyond counts and metrics.

Locating alternative metrics



Altmetric Explorer

Altmetric Explorer tracks mentions of research outputs (publications and datasets) in social media, news media, blogs, Wikipedia, and engagement on scholarly platforms, plus citations in patents and policy documents.

It is also possible to generate analytical reports for individual outputs, authors, groups of researchers, or schools.

Usage statistics

Usage statistics track the number of times an output has been viewed or downloaded. Check the following sources for statistics.

  • Journals, books and curriculum resource websites
  • Institutional repositories, such as NOVA
  • Some databases – e.g. - ScopusWeb of Science
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