Altmetrics and the Art of Being Found - ACS Axial | ACS Publications

Altmetrics and the Art of Being Found

AAlt Metrics[1]ltmetrics are changing the way we measure value in academic work. Read our article to find out more about the impact these modern metrics can have on your library.
Altmetrics (or alternative metrics) are new quality measurements for scholarly and academic interactions online. They allow us to see how far research travels through social media networks, or how many times it is read or downloaded, as well as how often content is reused in other online resources such as blogs or data repositories. This gives a detailed and nuanced picture of the impact of academic content that goes well beyond bibliometric indicators such as citations, and one that can complement and enhance traditional Impact Factors and citation rates for published work.

Published papers used to be the goal of scholarly research – and the phrase ‘publish or perish’ was often used to describe the importance of this as a measure in academic careers. Today in our digital age, the goal posts have moved. Researchers in all fields use online and social media resources, and while being published is still very important, you also have to be found online. And with the sheer volume of information available online, that is no mean feat. Just like everyone else on the internet, academics must engage in some level of search engine optimization for their research content to ensure that it can be found and disseminated through new media channels.

As a librarian may be able to advise your institution’s researchers on how to make a piece of research more visible and discoverable online. Some of the key steps you might suggest are:

  • Choosing a relevant but concise title that will stand out in the crowd.
  • Picking accurate keywords and dispersing them through the title, abstract and body of the article.
  • Writing an engaging abstract.
  • Choosing the right journal with the widest and most relevant audience.

But it’s not just researchers who can benefit from new web data points such as altmetrics. For the librarian, altmetrics have several potential implications.

  • MONITORING Altmetric numbers can boost the perceived value of institutional publications.
  • TRAINING Updated library training for researchers looking at citations and impact should cover new measurement tools.
  • REPOSITORIES The collection of altmetrics in institutional databases to assess value (usage, shares, comments etc.) that perhaps wasn’t understood before.
  • PROMOTION Librarians can use their understanding of altmetrics to assist researchers in helping to boost the reach of their articles – by using online web services such as social media networking (such as Twitter, Mendeley, CiteULike and so on), and being able to measure the success of doing so via altmetrics.

Altmetrics offer huge potential to authors and librarians alike. More and more research is emerging on how altmetrics can complement bibliometrics and improve the visibility of research.

Are you using altmetrics already? Let us know what success you have had, or any problems you have encountered along the way.


  1. Galligan F & Dyas-Correira S. Altmetrics: Rethinking the Way We Measure. Serials Review 2013;39:56–61.
  2. ACS Publications Guide. Publish Be Found or Perish: Writing Scientific Manuscripts for the Digital Age. Bio Journals.
  3. Gonzáles-Fernández-Villavicencio N et al. What role do librarians play in altmetrics? Anales de Documentación 2015;18. Available at:
  4. Lapinski S et al. Riding the crest of the altmetrics wave: How librarians can help prepare faculty for the next generation of research impact metrics. College & Research Libraries News 2013;74:292–300.

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