Researchers and research administrators have become increasingly aware of the limitations in the use of core citation metrics, such as citation count and journal impact factor, to measure the impact of research and scholarship. Also, there is a time lag between the publication of a scholarly output and the availability of citation metrics in core citation databases, hence the impact of a research cannot be derived immediately.
Coupled with the increasingly extensive use of social media in disseminating research in this digital age, many are turning to using alternative metrics to capture the amount of online activity for a scientific output. As a result, altmetrics have emerged as an alternative indicator that complements the use of citation metrics so as to provide a more immediate and holistic picture of the impact and influence of a scientific output.
Note that altmetrics are NOT indicators of the quality of a work but is an indication of the quantity of attention received by that piece of work.
Altmetrics are generated and gathered immediately after a work gets shared on an online sphere, while core citation metrics such as citation counts take time to accumulate.
Altmetrics capture data from a variety of sources, including social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+; multimedia platforms such as YouTube and Slideshare; Wikipedia; blogs and online reference management tool - Mendeley, while core citation metrics are confined to the traditional academic publishing setting.
Not Just Citations
Apart from quantitative data such as the number of Tweets and the number of shares on Facebook, opinions of readers can also be viewed thus quantifying the engagement and scholarly conversation on social media.
Altmetrics are particularly useful to supplement core citation metrics for scholars who are …
... in the Humanities and Social Science fields
In subject fields such as social sciences, arts and humanities, scholars tend to publish their research works in a diversity of formats such as books, book reviews and poster presentations. However, these formats are usually underrepresented in citation databases so that their real research impact cannot be measured or tracked by traditional metrics such as citation counts. Scholars in these fields can use altmetrics instead. According to Rowlands et al, 2011, humanities scholars are more likely to use social media to maximize their research impact.
... relatively young in publishing
Mature scholars with more publications usually attract more citations than younger scholars do. Therefore, younger scholar can use altmetrics together with citation metrics to establish the research impact.
... publishing in languages other than English
Publications in English language are dominant in citation databases. When the non-English language publications are not covered at the citation databases, citation based metrics cannot be calculated. The research impact of this kind of work can be tracked by altmetrics.