Scholars Seek Better Ways to Track Impact Online
By Jennifer Howard
In academe, the game of how to win friends and influence people is serious business. Administrators and grant makers want proof that a researcher’s work has life beyond the library or the lab.
But the current system of measuring scholarly influence doesn’t reflect the way many researchers work in an environment driven more and more by the social Web. Research that used to take months or years to reach readers can now find them almost instantly via blogs and Twitter.
That kind of activity escapes traditional metrics like the impact factor, which indicates how often a journal is cited, not how its articles are really being consumed by readers.
An approach called altmetrics—short for alternative metrics—aims to measure Web-driven scholarly interactions, such as how often research is tweeted, blogged about, or bookmarked. “There’s a gold mine of data that hasn’t been harnessed yet about impact outside the traditional citation-based impact,” says Dario Taraborelli, a senior research analyst with the Strategy Team at the Wikimedia Foundation and a proponent of the idea.