Embrace the Rainbow Donut
A new tool measures the reach of individual articles published in scholarly journals.
You may be wondering, what is that donut-shaped rainbow-colored thing? Let's take a closer look. JACR now includes information on how articles are performing on the social web. These new measures are called altmetrics. While traditional metrics focus on things like peer review and citations, altmetrics take into account things like Twitter, Facebook, science blogs, and mainstream news. On JACR's altmetrics page, you'll see the top-rated articles, each with bars of colors of varying sizes.
Click the article or the bars to delve into the altmetrics for a given article. For the top result at the moment, you'll see the following explanation of the various colored bars:
From there you can find more information about each of these mentions.Altmetrics data is also available on the article page on jacr.org. If we look up the top altmetrics article on the journal website, we find a tiny rectangular symbol with a number next to it below the list of authors on the left-hand side. This badge indicates that there is additional information about the metrics for the article.
Click on that badge to see a breakdown of the altmetrics for the article.
Now look at the colorful donut. The donut colors correspond to different types of non-traditional citations. The number in the donut hole represents a weighted score that factors in some sources more heavily than others based on their impact. A breakdown of the score is indicated below the donut. The tabs to the right-hand side of the donut provide a more granular breakdown of citation sources.
In comparison to more traditional journal metrics, you may be tempted to think that altmetrics are alternative metrics for a journal, i.e. nontraditional citations. Close, but not quite. The term "altmetrics" actually refers to article-level metrics. Altmetrics provide a quantitative measure of the reach of individual articles across a spectrum of online communication channels, both scholarly and nonscholarly. The greater the reach of an article, the greater the potential impact.
Whether you realize it or not, altmetric data is being collected on recent scholarly publications. If you read scholarly journal articles, these measures are another source of information on the impact of a given article. To access this altmetrics quickly, try adding the free bookmarklet to your browser toolbar. Next time you look up an article, such as on PubMed, you can see if altmetrics are available.
If you recently authored scholarly publications, you shouldn't ignore altmetrics, especially if such measures of reach become as important as the impact factor of the journals you publish in. For purposes of advancement among research scholars, altmetrics savviness may be imperative. We are in a new era of scholarly publication. Instead of passively waiting for citations to accumulate, authors must actively promote their articles, such as by social media, to boost their altmetrics score. In this new paradigm, authors are their own public relations and communications department. Think of a tweet about an article as a press release.
You might be concerned that scholarly publishing just got a little Kardashian-ized. The science of study design and statistical analysis meets the art of self-promotion. But I have the feeling that altmetrics are here to stay. So, authors, take a deep breath and resolve to find your inner narcissist, even if that's just not normally your style. Learn to embrace the colorful donut. It's not only perfect for gluten-free and low-carb diets; it also represents a new paradigm of measuring reach and potential impact of the scholarly articles you read and write. Tell us about your experiences and use of altmetrics in the comment box below or answer our quick survey questions. P.S. If you are interested in the topic of Breast Density Legislation, listen to last week's JACR podcast debate.
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