The concept of alternative metrics as indicators of non-traditional forms of research impact – better known as ‘altmetrics’ – has been gaining significant attention and support from both the scholarly publishing and academic communities. After being adopted by many publishing platforms and institutional repositories within the past year, altmetrics have entered into the scholarly mainstream, emerging as a relevant topic for academic consideration amidst mounting opposition to misuse of the Journal Impact Factor.
The future of altmetrics has mostly been discussed in the context of highlighting research impact. Although the metrics themselves still require much refinement, qualitative highlights from these data are valuable and have already begun to appear in the digital CVs of researchers. It is likely that qualitative altmetrics data will be increasingly used to inform research assessment, such as in funding applications, as well as faculty promotion and tenure. However, the development of altmetrics is still in its early stages. Moreover, much of the data collected at the moment indicates the attention paid to rather than the quality of different scholarly works, and it is important to bear this in mind and to distinguish between the different kinds of impact that a piece of research can have. Altmetrics are very good at finding evidence of some kinds of impact and not so much others. They complement rather than replace existing methods.
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