By Lindsay Peters

Altmetrics are a relatively new way1 to measure an article’s impact by collecting data about the dissemination of the work. While the journal impact factor measures the quality of a journal through how often its articles are cited, altmetrics measures how often an article is mentioned in the news, social media, blogs, and other online sources3.


Figure: Examples of altmetrics sources color coded for the donut2 created the Altmetric Attention Score and donut (see top image) to view altmetric data in a visual representation. Different sources have different weights when it comes to calculating the overall score. For instance, mentions in the news have greater weight than a Twitter post3. Charlie Rapple created an informative video1 to explain how the donut is created using blocks. You can view the video here.

There are limitations to using altmetrics. It is difficult to discern whether the blogs and social media posts are quality. Sensationalized articles that may not have any scholarly merit can have a much greater altmetrics score than an article that includes a legitimate study that may not be as interesting to the masses3.

Although the journal impact factor is not without its limitations3, it is currently the standard way to judge the quality of a journal in scholarly publishing. Almetrics are making great progress in drawing more attention to the merits of individual papers and adding to the overall picture when assessing an article’s worth3.

  1. Rapple C. Celebrating five years of altmetrics. Available at: Accessed September 24, 2016.
  2. The donut and Altmetric Attention Score. Available at: Accessed September 25, 2016.
  3. Trueger NS, Thoma B, Hsu CH, et al.The altmetric score: A new measure for article-level dissemination and impact. Ann Emerg Med. 2015;66:549-553.

The featured image of the donut is from