How do you measure the potential impact of a scholarly article (or book, or blog post, or white paper)? Traditionally, scholars have looked at the number of citations to that article. More recently, an idea called an h-index has gained favor in some fields–especially the hard sciences, medicine, and some social sciences. An h-factor is a type of citation impact metric that takes into account both the productivity of an individual scholar and the number of citations to his or her work. Although these measures do count how many published scholarly sources have cited the original article, neither measure attempts to gauge the reach of that article into the popular press, newspapers, blogs, social media, or even how many other scholars may have read the article (without necessarily citing it in a published work).
The emerging field of altmetrics (from “alternative metrics”) attempts to provide some data about the different ways an article may have an effect on the public sphere. There are several companies that have started publishing tools that track tweets, blog posts, Facebook mentions, and downloads of PDFs from popular databases, institutional repositories, or citation manager communities. One company, Altmetric, has a bookmarklet that you can use to automatically see some alternative metrics for articles as you search for them in article databases.
What are the altmetrics of your favorite articles?