Digital Researcher

Altmetrics beyond the numbers

There’s an interesting post up on Gaming Altmetrics at We’re looking seriously at improving how our papers are presented for altmetric services like and ImpactStory.

What interests me is that there is a qualitative aspect to the coverage. Take for instance this entry on a recent paper:

Altmetrics for a recent paper.
Altmetrics for a recent paper.

If you have the bookmarklet you can track down who is saying what. That’s much more value than a number because it shows where the debate around a paper is going. I think this is why directly gaming altmetrics will be difficult. Easy solutions will add little value. For example, I could go to and pay $5 for someone to retweet links to our papers. However I don’t see what bland links from accounts with no followers will add qualitatively to the conversation around a paper, and I think it would show up pretty easily in the altmetrics.

I’m looking improving how we link to papers, our own and others, for a few months. Today, I’ve released a prototype plugin today for WordPress blogs (not blogs, sorry) that handles linking to DOIs, figshare, arXiv and ISBNs. It produces a citation that I hope will be able to read and a META tag to help sites like If you want to try the beta, you can pop across to my personal site and download the plugin to test yourself. Once I’m happy it’s not going to accidentally destroy anyone’s site it’ll be released with a GPL, so anyone can use or re-write it for free.

The target is to produce something that adds value by making connections that are already there easier to spot, and not creating spurious mentions. Of course, I might have a lower standard for value than you.’s post is a helpful starting point in working out what we should be tracking.

About the author

Alun Salt

When he's not the web developer for AoB Blog, Alun Salt researches something that could be mistaken for the archaeology of science. His current research is about whether there's such a thing as scientific heritage and if there is how would you recognise it?