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Self-promotion and the Altmetric score

About the author: Dr. Sai Krishna Gudi is a Ph.D. student at the College of Pharmacy, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Canada. His research interests include studying medication use and its long-term effects in large populations; comparative effectiveness & medication-safety research; optimizing irrational drug-use & medication appropriateness (over-treatment), particularly among older adults; knowledge translation through evidence-based practice; pharmaceutical policy & health-services research; confounding & bias analysis; and systematic reviews, meta-analysis & network meta-analysis methods. Follow Dr. Gudi on Twitter @ SaiKGudi

In the era of internet and social media, the mode of publishing, sharing, finding and reading scientific research is evolving, as the eventual goal of any research is to be discoverable and reach the target audience. Altmetrics are the form of qualitative data that are complementary to traditional, citation-based metrics which deal with journal articles and other scholarly outputs that are being discussed around the world. In recent times, altmetrics gained its reputation and popularity as it offers a quicker way to demonstrate the potential impact of one’s scholarly work, and public engagement. Although enhancing research impact and gaining visibility is essential from a researcher’s point of view, the usage of self-advertising should be prudent and appropriate.

The term altmetrics is a combination of alternative and metrics which measures the interactions among researchers, academicians, scholars, and scientists that are captured by social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & blogs, and also by specific reference management tools such as Mendeley. The research capability and intelligence have traditionally been measured using citation-based metrics; however, as citations cannot provide information on downloads, mentions, and shares, thus altmetric score (AS) came into action. Traditional scholarly metrics such as the journal’s impact factor (JIF) is often used as an evaluation tool to appraise publications of individual researchers. Although the Hirsch-Index (h-index) is a popular metric to quantify an individual’s scientific research output, AS can track the number of views, downloads, bookmarks, shares, and mentions of a published paper in policy documents, press releases, news outlets, and references in Wikipedia. Therefore, these scores have become undoubtedly crucial to the researchers as they measure dissemination, and act as an indicator of influence and impact of their published scholarly work.

AS considers and measures various parameters such as individual collaboration, international collaboration, institution impact, journal impact factor, journal open accessibility, and field type while generating scores.The ultimate goal of any research is to promote and showcase the findings to reach the target audience, which could, in turn, enhance the reputation and career progression of a researcher. Online media channels, including blogging sites and the mass social media networks such as Twitter, have fast become essential communication channels for scientists to generate and discuss ideas, find collaborators and disseminate research both within their communities and to the general public. As the AS provide an initial and immediate assessment of a research article’s future scholarly impact, researchers are inclined towards such social media platforms, which are freely available and convenient to engage. However, it is not possible to predict citations of an article based on the AS.

The number of times an article is discussed on the altmetric platform is an essential indication of its impact and contribution to the research world. Although AS is useful to rank research outputs based on attention, it has nothing to do with the quality of the research. Promoting research on social media can play a vital role in gaining the visibility which could eventually improve AS, and thus gain more diverse impact than citation-based metrics, and analyze the societal impact of certain scholarly publications. However, AS are relatively new and more research into their use is needed. Although a publication lacks citations, the altmetric score can act as a potential measure of the value of research outputs; thereby, providing an independent assessment of research engagement with the public and their feedback. However, sometimes, articles can also receive online attention for the wrong reasons.

With the nature of quick response & efficiency of social media, newer articles have an inherent advantage of having a higher AS over older ones.There are different ways in which an individual can publicize their work online such as, tweeting, which is the most important one as Twitter is the most significant contributor to altmetrics, posting on Facebook and LinkedIn, blogging, and adding references of published work to Wikipedia, etc. At times, even journals promote their published articles on social media, which is essential for greater outreach, engagement and thus to improve dissemination. The tools under the umbrella of altmetrics allow researchers to move out from the closed system to open web to share their ideas, findings and get their research commented, referenced and peer-reviewed from a wide range of diversified users. However, not everybody will encourage such promotions and responds positively to it. Moreover, it might also create unwanted noise on the web.

Positive correlation between social media mentions and future citations suggest that online activity may anticipate the traditional measure of scholarly impact. Thus, AS and the online activity they represent has the potential to boost future citation rates. However, altmetrics are a complement to, not a replacement for, things like informed peer review and citation-based metrics. As a young discipline, altmetrics are quickly changing the dynamics and incentives of scholarly communication and scientific publishing. However, they should not replace traditional bibilometrics (citations, journal impact factor, and h-index), but rather supplement them. Besides, critiquing and discussing a quality research is important, rather than boosting the altmetric scores. Through all these explorations, it is evident that social media has a definitive impact in promoting AS; which is, in fact, a common approach practicing by most of the researchers to uphold their reputation. However, we must wait and watch how this association between social media and article metrics will change scholarly communication and science itself in the near future.

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