Altmetrics : Rodrigo Costas Comesaña

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Intervention de Rodrigo Costas Comesaña, chercheur , CWTS, Université de Leiden, lors de la cinquième journée nationale du Réseau des URFIST : Nouvelles formes de communication et d’évaluation scientifiques : perspectives et légitimités (le 25 septembre 2014)

Text of Altmetrics : Rodrigo Costas Comesaña

Altmetrics: opportunity or risk?Dr. Rodrigo CostasCenter for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS-Leiden University)

OutlineIntroduction to altmetrics

Tools and data sources for altmetrics

What do we know about altmetrics?

Conceptual aspects

Introduction to AltmetricsWhat is the impact of my research?Limitations peer review and citation analysis

Recently a new concept has emerged: AltmetricsNo definition of altmetricsAltmetrics manifesto ( Altmetrics are seen as metrics about articles (article-level metrics)Altmetrics cover other aspects of the impact of a work (e.g. views, downloads, readerships, mentions in social media and news media, etc.)Possibilities for societal impact(?)

From our perspective altmetrics refers to the mentions of scientific outputs in social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) or crowdsourced tools (e.g. Mendeley)

Tools and data sources for altmetrics Analysis of the most important tools for altmetrics [Wouters & Costas, 2012]

Main characteristics and typologies

3 important elements:- Scalability- Transparency and data management- Normalization of indicators

3 main typologies

Post-publication peer review toolsFaculty of 1000; Paper Critic; Peer Evaluation

Review, comment and rating of publicationsRepresent a direct measure of the qualityLimitations:Conceptual limitations of peer reviewMost publications dont have any reviewNo normalization possibilitiesLow predictability of high citation impact [Waltman & Costas, 2013]

Others: PubPeer or PubMed commonsWeb-based citationsGoogle Scholar; Google Citations; MAS; Arnetminer

Collect publications and citations from the webLimitations:Traditional limitations of citationsCoverage & update not always clearData management & download not possibleDifficult scalabilityNo normalization of indicatorsLow level of data standardization

AltmetricsMendeley;; ImpactStory; PLoSONE

Altmetrics: readerships, tweets, FB shares, comments, rates, blogging, etc.Limitations:No clear meaning of these metricsManipulabilityDifficult scalability and data collection (although APIs are available)No normalization of indicatorsLow level of data standardization

What do we know about altmetrics?New emerging research line

Main topics discussed so far:Coverage Correlations (mainly with citations and other bib. elements)Data problems and inconsistenciesContent & meaning

Still many unanswered questions!


Zahedi, Costas & Wouters (2013)Random sample (20,000 pubs) from Web of SciencePeriod 2005-2011Metrics from Impact Story

Data Sourcepapers with metrics%Mendeley readers1236262.7CiteULike bookmarks16388.3Wikipedia Mentions2891.4Topsy Tweets2651.3Facebook likes1420.7Delicious bookmarks720.3Topsy influential tweets590.3Facebook shares570.3Facebook comments420.2Facebook clicks160.01PlosAlm_pmc_full_text10PlosAlm _pmc_abstract10PlosAlm_pubmed_central10PlosAlm _pmc_pdf10PlosAlm_pmc_supp_data10PlosAlm _pmc_unique_ip10PlosAlm _pmc_figure10PlosAlm _html_views10PlosAlm _pdf_views10PlosAlm _scopus10PlosAlm _crossref10PlosAlm10

Increasing presence of altmetrics

Source: coverage

Source: Robison-Garca et al, 2014 (

Correlations Moderate correlations for Mendeley [Mohammadi et al, 2014; Zahedi et al, 2013]

Lower for other altmetrics [Haustein et al, 2013; Costas et al, 2014]

Also low correlations with other bibliographic elements: pages, title length, n. co-authors, n. references, etc.

Data problemsInconsistencies across data sourcesDifferences in counts between Altmetric sources (PLoS ONE, & Mendeley) controlling by time variables [Zahedi, Fenner & Costas, 2014]Between Mendeley itself at different points in time [Bar-Ilan, 2014]Manipulation and validityEasy manipulation of Google Scholar [Delgado Lpez-Cozar, Robinson-Garca, Torres-Salinas, 2013] Also possible with other Altmetric sources (e.g. Twitter, Facebook)!Presence of bots and cyborgs in Twitter [Haustein et al, 2014]

Content analysisAnalysis of the titles of publications with altmetrics [Costas et al, 2014]500,229 WoS publications, citations up to 2012 and altmetrics ( up to October 2013Distribution of Citations and Altmetrics byDisciplines (Subject Categories)Topics (terms in the titles)VOS viewer (



Conceptual aspects, challenges & possibilities of altmetrics

Four conceptual aspects (promises)Diversity (of scientific publishing)Strongest argumentMore research is still necessary

Broadness of scientific performance (new dimensions)Do we agree with and understand these new dimensions?What does a tweet or a Mendeley reader mean from a performance point of view?

SpeedIs faster always better? Superficiality?Sleeping beauties or Mendel syndrome

OpennessOpenness is good (easy & free)Transparency and consistency are more important

ChallengesConceptualization of these new (alt)metricsStandardization of tools and dataSolution to problems in data quality and indicator constructionCare with data is important!ScalabilityNeed of using the APIs (and still slow!)ManipulabilityNormalization & reliabilityProduction and use of the new metricsPotential trivialization due to their limited use (narcissism)

They must be used and accepted by the scientific community!

Possibilities of altmetricsMost recent publicationsComplement to bibliometric indicatorsPossibilities for libraries: picking up highly discussed publications, suggesting relevant social media users, finding relevant blogs about a topic, etc.Support for assessment of some fields (e.g. Soc. Sciences & Humanities)Other types of impact:Detection of papers with different types of impact not covered by citations (social/cultural impact, educative impact, professional impact)Controversial papers? Controversial topics? Socially sensitive topics? attention?

Merci beaucoup!