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Altmetrics: A librarian’s outlook on potential applications

By Jenny Delasalle, Freelance Consultant and Librarian | May 27, 2014

Altmetrics on the University of Pittsburgh’s institutional repository
Altmetrics are here
Librarians cannot ignore altmetrics. They are turning up in subscription products that we buy and open access sources and tools we recommend. Librarians need to assess the potential for altmetrics to properly support researchers, particularly the younger generation. 
Researchers are noticing the altmetric buttons, badges and scores embedded in articles and asking what they are, whether to pay attention to them, and how to use them. There is an opportunity here for librarians to provide guidance in user education or information skills sessions. 
Because librarians have connections across their universities, they can help to steer appropriate use of altmetric scores beyond the library. Some librarians are involved with the research office, providing support for writing grants and outcome reports to funders, or with central administration, carrying out performance measurement and quality assessment activities. Librarians can advise on whether to purchase products and tools that use altmetrics and on how to showcase university research using altmetrics. 
Should altmetrics appear in institutional repositories? 
The answer to this question depends on what the library wants to accomplish and how the data are intended to be used.  Altmetrics in the institutional repository could provide insights to help inform collection development and to encourage depositors to send more material. 
Which article-level measures could be implemented in an institutional repository? Options include:
Page views, downloads, citations
Saves on Mendeley, Delicious, CiteULike, etc.
Shares through Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, Mendeley, etc.
If these types of measures appear in a repository, it’s a good idea to place share buttons on the article records and on the articles in the repository.  Lack of activity should be discreet, so that if there is no activity, the buttons will not display. We might consider allowing authors to decide whether they would like the altmetric score to be visible on their article records.
The following example from the University of Pittsburgh’s institutional repository shows that 29 readers on Mendeley have interacted with this paper.  Clicking on the number in the live record takes you to a list of the Mendeley readers.  Likewise clicking on the “cited by” from Scopus or Microsoft Academic Search provides additional contextual information. 
Figure 1: University of Pittsburgh’s institutional repository with altmetrics using Plum Analytics

Another example, this time from the University of Warwick e-prints repository, shows how has been used.  The classic donut depicts the score and the information below it adds data and puts it in context. And the tabs to the right – Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – allow an even deeper exploration. Altmetrics are more than a score: context is what makes them valuable.

Figure 2: Altmetrics on the University of Warwick’s e-prints repository
Spaces to watch …
Crowdsourcing projects or citizen science-type methodologies involve reaching out to a broader community for investment of cash, expertise or resources. This approach is becoming increasingly popular in academia. Contextual information in altmetrics can help measure, investigate and evaluate interest in an institution’s research to identify and understand the right crowd(s). 
Working with publishers and societies, Kudos is helping authors and institutions maximize impact and visibility of their publications. It features a collection of lay summaries, impact statements, short titles and multimedia items, and partners with others to provide altmetric data. 
ORCID encourages researchers to sign up for a unique identifier, allowing authors to create linkages and enable a comprehensive overview of their work. Researchers can use tools from ImpactStory or to see for themselves what the altmetrics of their papers and other outputs are. 
In summary
Liaison librarian, research support specialist or institutional repository manager — librarians have different roles and will have a different perspectives on altmetrics. The commonality among them is that they all need to consider the potential of altmetrics and begin to pilot some applications within their institutions.

This article is based on Jenny Delasalle’s Library Connect webinar presentation Altmetrics: Why it’s relevant to a librarian.

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Altmetrics: A librarian’s outlook on potential applicationsby Jenny Delasalle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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