Saturday, June 03, 2023

The Altmetric Badge: Unlocking Insights into Journal Article Popularity


Researchers and users both disseminate, share, and cite the articles for further research and references on the web and social media platforms. The circulation of articles on the web (online reference managers like, Zotero, CiteULike, and Mendley) and social media (Twitter, Facebook, personal scholarly blogs, etc.) gives us an idea of how popular an article is, in turn increasing research value. The term used to measure this popularity is "altmetrics.". The aim of altmetrics is to provide a more comprehensive view of the impact and influence of research by considering broader indicators of attention and engagement. There are various tools provided by several companies to measure the online attention that any article is receiving. Altmetric Badges are one of those. In this article we will learn everything from "what is altmetrics?" to the idea and importance of altmetric badges in journal articles.

What is Altmetrics?

As opposed to traditional metrics, which only take into account citation count and journal name to estimate influence, these only represent a limited perspective of a work's value after it has accumulated citations in academic literature. Altmetrics are quantitative measures at the article level that track the various ways that researchers and the general public interact with published work. The alternative metrics that are web and social media-based, commonly referred to as ‘Altmetrics’. It has garnered significant response from the research communities globally. Altmetrics track the reach, use, and reuse of research outcomes, from articles and figures to datasets and code. It's important to note that altmetrics are not meant to replace traditional metrics but rather complement them by providing additional insights. They can be useful for researchers, funding agencies, institutions, and publishers to assess the broader societal impact of research, identify influential research outputs, track trends, and monitor engagement with scholarly content.

Definitions of Altmetrics

Types of Online Attentions

Altmetrics take into account various types of online attention and engagement that research outputs receive. These can include:

  • Social media mentions
  • News and media coverage
  • Downloads and views
  • Bookmarking and saving
  • Online discussions
  • Post-publication peer review
  • Self publishing (blogging, microblogging, comments, etc.)

Benefits of Altmetric

  • It helps to measure the impact of your work before the academic citations that accumulate over time.
  • Both academic and social metrics are taken into account.
  • It reflects how the influence of work is changing over time.
  • It enables immediate availability of information on the reach and influence of an article.
  • These metrics are also a powerful way to navigate and discover others’ work. 

Altmetrics tool providers

There are many companies providing Altmetric Scores, the most exclusive of these are AltmetricsPlumAnalytics, Lagotto by PLOS and ImpactStory. These companies provide you tools to help you easily identify how much and what type of attention a research output has received.

PlumX metrics gathers and brings together appropriate research metrics for all types of scholarly research output and categorizes metrics into 5 separate categories: Citations, Usage, Captures, Mentions, and Social Media. The company Plum Analytics has been owned by Elsevier since 2017 and PlumX is integrated into several Elsevier research products and journal and society partner sites. 

Lagotto by PLOS It is an open source application developed by Public Library of Science (PLOS) in 2009. Altmetrics capture the manifold ways in which research is disseminated and used, including: viewed, shared, discussed, cited, recommended. They can be customized based on the unique needs of researchers, publishers, institutional decision-makers, and funders.

Altmetric is a company that is serving the research community since 2011 and aims to understand and encourage the influence of research outputs. How much value and influence they have on people and different communities, including authors, publishers, funders, editors, and researchers. Various tools and services of Altmetric is being used by leading institutions, commercial and non-profit organizations around the world.


At Altmetric Detail Page, it shows a collated, real-time record of the online attention received by a scholarly content. It tracks and visualizes the summary of the online attention activity surrounding the scholarly content in the form of colourful Donut and Attention Score.

Things needed for tracking online attention

  • An output (journal article, dataset, etc.)
  • An identifier attached to the output (DOI, PMID or arXiv ID, etc.)
  • Mentions in a source we track

Altmetric Badges

Altmetric badges are one of the solutions provided by the company and have become more popular because of their eye-catching visualisation of research dissemination at a glance. The badges are free to use for academic repositories and individual researchers. Badge updates are made daily to showcase the engagement surrounding your research. Altmetric  badge is an altmetric donut having different colours representing where the conversation are happening with regards to your research. In the middle of the donut, there is an altmetric attention score, which is a weighted count of how much attention your research has received.

Three main factors used to calculate the Altmetric score:
  1. Volume: how many different people mentions for same article. Only 1 mention from each person per source is counted.
  2. Sources: where the mentions come from. to attention score. There is different base amount for the mentions coming from different sources that contribute 
  3. Authors: how often the author of each mention talks about scholarly articles, at whether or not there’s any bias towards a particular journal or publisher and at who the audience is (Reference).
With a click on the donut, you will reach the Altmetric Details Page for that particular research item, where you can see a collated, real-time record of the online attention received by the item. The altmetric details page contains Altmetric attention score to show weightage of each mention and where the mentions are coming from, link to those mentions and also the geographical distribution of sources of attention.

Images from:

Altmetric badges powered by a variety of technologies:

  • Web scraping: It uses web scraping to collect data from a variety of online sources, including news articles, social media posts, and blogs.
  • Natural Language Processing: It uses natural language processing to analyze the text of online mentions to identify mentions of research items.
  • Machine learning: machine learning is used to identify and track new online mentions of research items.
  • API Integration: Altmetric badges utilize APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to gather data from various platforms and services. APIs provide a standardized way for altmetric to access data from social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook), news aggregators, reference management tools (e.g., Mendeley), and other relevant sources. By integrating with these APIs, Altmetric can collect real-time data and provide up-to-date altmetrics for research outputs.
  • Social Media APIs: Altmetric badges utilize APIs provided by various social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reddit. These APIs allow Altmetric to access data related to social media mentions, shares, likes, comments, and other interactions.
  • Citation Indexing: It can also incorporate citation data from citation indexing databases, such as CrossRef or Scopus. Citation data provides a measure of the influence and scholarly impact of a research output within the academic community.

Altmetric badges can be used in a variety of ways:
  • To showcase the impact of your research: Altmetric badges can be used to show your peers and funders the reach and influence of your work.
  • To engage with your audience: Altmetric badges can be used to start conversations about your research and to connect with other researchers.
  • To track the impact of your research over time: Altmetric badges can be used to track how the online attention surrounding your research changes over time.

Overall, there is no doubt that the altmetrics showcased through "Altmetric badges" are useful tools to get immediate and real-time information about the popularity of the journal article, unlike the traditional metrics that take a long time to gather. However, it should be noted that authors of articles may also experience the fast visibility of negative comments. There are various points that do not allow giving the whole responsibility to altmetrics for measuring any article's research value, as they do not directly reflect the quality of the research work. Susan A. Elmore suggested using altmetrics in conjunction with the impact factor, H-index, number of downloads, and citation counts to provide a more rounded picture of the article’s impact. Also of concern is the favour that can be sought for mentions of an article on social media (Elmore, 2018). For the researchers who do not use social media platforms or are not very active on these platforms, it is a disadvantage for even their worthy articles to get a good attention score. In this way, a combination of the traditional citation metrics and altmetrics gives a better measure of a particular research work’s global performance and its individual research impact.

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