Novel and Experimental Uses of Altmetrics

This post is contributed by Euan Adie, Founder of Altmetric.

After a session covering some practical uses of altmetrics data at 4:AM, Andrea Michalek from Plum Analytics/Elsevier chaired a set of talks by researchers looking at novel and experimental uses of Altmetrics. Interestingly these felt to me a bit like talks that sat in-between the more ‘study of altmetrics’ type sessions at the Altmetrics ’17 workshop and the talks given so far at 4:AM. All three involved taking raw data, adding extra attributes and data sources and visualizing it in different ways – but as part of an exploratory process to figure out what data was most useful.

First up was Waqas Khawaja from the NUI in Galway. He described how, with help from Scopus, his group was trying to answer questions about how research is disseminated from the original output out through news, government documents and other grey literature. They started by focusing on two key areas: Tamilflu and the HPV vaccine. After picking keywords they set up a text mining pipeline that looked for authors and institutions, and ran 1.4TB of the data they’d scraped from the web matching their keywords through it.

Waqas showed the results: some impressive network visualizations that tied together relevant data on blogs, news and in policy documents. He explained that their next steps would be to look across time: would it be possible to tell, for example, that blog mentions led to news later on, or vice versa?

Aravind Raamkumar Sesagiri from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore was up next. ARIA is a fairly comprehensive set of research metric datapoints that include altmetrics, citations and HR data from Nanyang. Using an interface that takes its cues from Windows 10’s tile based layout, users are able to view stats on individual researchers and, using an admin interface, roll data up to the school, college and whole university level. Aravind pointed out some metrics of particular interest: one was a subset of citations from the top 200 universities worldwide – to represent citations from “top” researchers (perhaps controversially – but this didn’t come up in questions afterwards ;)). Another one was the impact factor quartiles for the journals that different researchers had published in.

Finally Rajiv Nariani of York University – just up the road from the venue – took the stage to talk about his experiences using altmetrics to highlight academic work. He explained that he first become interested in the idea after noticing that an academic at York who had published in the Lancet had a lot of citations, but also a high Altmetric Attention Score for his article. He reached out and asked the author if they were aware of this, and was pleasantly surprised by the reaction. Rajiv outlined a way of scaling this activity up: as a librarian he has access to the free Altmetric Explorer tool so was able to pull out the top 100 articles with York authors and then contacted them individually, letting them know about the score (“you’re famous!”) and asking each one to fill out a questionnaire. The results were interesting: very few respondents were aware of the score before Rajiv contacted them. When asked how they spread the word about their research many replied that they completed their Google Scholar profiles and used ResearchGate.

Rajiv wrapped up with some good blue sky suggestions for future work, by altmetrics platforms and others. One was helping comms offices at Canadian universities to translate research into more general audience friendly news stories – perhaps a bit like The Conversation does in Australia. Another interesting idea was whether or not linking news stories more closely to articles might help students understand their content a bit better.