Elsevier is expanding its use of altmetrics
In this article, we look at the plan to roll out recent altmetrics pilots to help authors better understand the online attention their papers have received
By Mike Taylor, Hans Zijlstra and Dr. Lisa Colledge Posted on 14 September 2014
Elsevier's relationship with altmetrics – measurements of online engagement – dates back to the beginning of this exciting field. In November 2011, Elsevier announced the winner of its Apps for Science Challenge, Euan Adie. His idea for measuring the attention that research articles receive via social media and online news sites won the Grand Prize of $15,000.
The Altmetric.com score and donut visualization that Euan developed have been displayed in our abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, Scopus, since 2012. They appear in the sidebar of document and abstract pages when data is available for the article being viewed.
In November 2013, we launched pilots using similar visualizations on our research content platform ScienceDirect, and on Elsevier's journal homepages; you can read more about these in the Authors' Update article "Elsevier expands metrics perspectives with launch of new altmetrics pilots". Around this time, Cell and The Lancet also began to display a brick version of the same score on the online versions of their articles. These pilots are now ending and the results have been analyzed. Based on the results and your positive feedback, ScienceDirect and the journal homepages will roll out altmetrics data to a wider set of journals over the coming months.
Elsevier's 2013 acquisition of Mendeley, the free reference manager and academic social network tool, also put Elsevier at the forefront of altmetrics data providers. We continue to make the Mendeley readership statistics freely available for use in applications and on websites. You can visit http://dev.mendeley.com/ and become a member of the community. Mendeley also hosts regular developer meetings at its offices, where you can learn more about the API that allows you to develop very complex applications using the Mendeley infrastructure.
What have we learnt?
In its pilot for 27 large journals, ScienceDirect tested alternating altmetrics images on an article level. Visitors landing on the relevant pages had a 50 percent chance of seeing either information presented in The Lancet / Cell brick format, or the donut. User interaction with the visualizations was similar which indicated that the information was interesting, regardless of the manner in which it was presented.
The journal homepages pilot involved 30 journals – both large and small – from various fields. The donut and article title for each journal's top three rated articles appeared in an 'altmetrics pod' on the homepage (Figure 1). By clicking on the 'view all' option beneath the top three list, visitors could review the altmetrics score for the top 10 articles. Interestingly, 86 percent of visitors chose to find out more information by clicking on the article title – which took them to ScienceDirect – rather than the donut link to the Altmetric.com detail page.
Elsevier and the altmetrics community
Elsevier is certainly playing its part in the wider community. Dr. Lisa Colledge, Director of Research Metrics, has been working with university research offices to agree a set of standard metrics they would like to use to give input into their university strategies. The Snowball Metrics group has endorsed altmetrics that are now included in their open and community-led institutional metrics program. The four Snowball altmetrics 'buckets' cluster together data types that result from similar activity; Scholarly Activity, for example, is the number of times publications have been posted in online tools that are typically used by academic scholars, like Mendeley and CiteULike, and Social Activity counts the number of social media posts that have been stimulated by publications, such as those on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
William Gunn of Mendeley and Michael Habib, Elsevier's Senior Product Manager for Scopus, are at the forefront of the NISO (National Information Standards Organization) Alternative Metrics program which aims to advance standards and / or best practices in this area.
Michael Taylor of Elsevier Labs plays an active part in the community, working with external groups on metrics formulations; attending and organizing conferences, funding postdoctoral research; and publishing various articles. Mike recently guest edited a special altmetrics edition of Research Trends, our free online magazine for insights into scientific trends, which contains a great deal of valuable contextual material, research summaries and thoughts on the future from key players in the field.
Elsevier has also recently launched its Metrics Development Program to provide data and financial sponsorship to individuals and research groups working on research metrics.
What do we plan to do next?
In the year ahead, we will start experimenting with displays of the 'buckets' of altmetrics data.
Inevitably, as more research is undertaken, and more people become aware of the potential for exploring and sharing content offered by public and scholarly engagement indicators, this field will move on. There is already discussion on the future of the "alt" (for 'alternative') in altmetrics, indicating that they are increasingly perceived as mainstream.