Altmetrics let us measure the reach and impact of scholarship through online interactions.
Altmetrics stands for "alternative metrics." The "alternative" part references traditional measurements of academic success such as citation counts, journal impact factor, and author H-index. Altmetrics are meant to compliment, not replace, these traditional measures of research impact.
Supporters of the altmetrics movement believe that doing so will give a more complete picture of how research and scholarship is used.
Citations are a small part of the scholarly ecosystem and only represent one type of impact. Other media types of increasing importance such as
may be more important than the articles that accompany them in some cases. Since most research is now accessed electronically, we can easily track how many times these scholarly outputs are accessed, used, and shared.
Nearly everything on the internet is tracked. What you click can be used to inform website design, serve targeted adds, or measure popularity. Altmetrics use this ability to track interaction with online items as a way of measuring the reach and impact of research.
Altmetrics can answer questions such as:
Confusingly, there is a company named Altmetric which provides and collects altmetrics for journals and articles. Many large publishers have contracts with this company so you will see their trademark Altmetric donut (see left) in many places.