Alternative Metrics

What are Alternative Metrics?

New technologies like social media and public repositories allow researchers to measure impact beyond the traditional h-index and impact factor. Alternative metrics make an estimate of impact through social media mentions, blog posts, media outlets, shares, saves, and downloads.

Altmetrics look at a variety of inputs, which vary depending on who is doing the measurement and how they have chosen to weigh each input relative to one another (and these complex weighting formulae are usually not disclosed). Typical inputs include activity on social networks and social bookmarking sites, mainstream media and blog coverage, and whether anyone has left any comments on the article.

Reference: Crotty, D. (2017). Altmetrics. European Heart Journal, 38(35), 2647-2648

. . . that dog-eared (but uncited) article that used to live on a shelf now lives in Mendeley, CiteULike, or Zotero, where we can see and count it. That hallway conversation about a recent finding has moved to blogs and social networks–now, we can listen in. The local genomics dataset has moved to an online repository; now, we can track it. This diverse group of activities forms a composite trace of impact far richer than any available before. We call the elements of this trace altmetrics

Reference: Priem, J., Taraborelli, D., Groth, P., & Neylon, C. (2010). Altmetrics: A manifesto.

Why are Alternative Metrics Important?

Alternative metrics give authors an immediate way to measure impact. Alternative metrics can provide supplemental measures of assessing impact, dissemination, and reach.

See our selected tools for alternative metrics. Try a few of the tools and decide for yourself whether alternative metrics add value to your impact.

Tools for Alternative Metrics

Altmetric Bookmarklet

This free plugin for your browser allows you to see the social media shares and online mentions of an article with a single click.


Figshare is a repository where users can make their research outputs available in a citable, shareable, and discoverable manner.


See mentions on Twitter, blogs, and news. Join with Twitter and make a profile to track the online impact of your research.


A customized, web-based research evaluation tool that allows you to analyze institutional productivity and benchmark your output against peers worldwide. With customized citation data, global metrics, and multidimensional profiles on the leading research institutions, InCites gives comprehensive insight into your institution’s performance. And with robust visualization and reporting tools, you can create and share reports quickly and easily. Note: Users must create an account for initial login.

InCites Essential Science Indicators

InCites Essential Science Indicators provides access to a unique and comprehensive compilation of essential science performance statistics and science trend data. The chief indicators of output, or productivity, are journal article publication counts. Data in Essential Science Indicators are limited to Thomson Scientific-indexed journal articles only.


Mendeley, a citation management program, has incorporated social streams into its platform. Users can keep track of saves by other Mendeley users.

Metrics Toolkit

Browse different types of metrics with the Metrics Toolkit and understand what they mean, how they are calculated, and if it is the right metric for you.

Publish or Perish

Publish or Perish is a software program that retrieves and analyzes citations from a variety of sources, including Google Scholar.


See reads, mentions, and citations of select publications using ResearchGate’s professional network.


Sciwheel is a citation management program that allows for collaboration and discussion.


Scopus, a bibliographic literature database, also offers citation and field analysis and citation mapping. Perform a search, then click on the Analyze Search Results link on the results page.

Symplur Disease Hashtags

Symplur aggregates trending Twitter hashtags related to diseases and conditions seeking to connect to others through Twitter.

Symplur Healthcare Hashtags

Symplur connects researchers and patients through Twitter by developing and organizing hashtags related to healthcare and medicine.

Web of Science

Web of Science, from Clarivate Analytics, offers citation and field analysis and citation mapping on topics. Perform a search, then click on Analyze Results on the results page.

WorldCat First Search

WorldCat allowsyou to see the number of libraries worldwide that hold a book in their collections.