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A new fruit in the basket: how to compare apples with pears… and now plums!

Introducing PlumX Metrics on journal homepages

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If you have been on your journal’s homepage recently, you may well have noticed that there is a new section: “PlumX Metrics – Top Social Media Articles” (see example here). This new pod is live on over 1,900 homepages. What is this all about, how does PlumX differ from the other flavours of altmetrics and how can you use it to gain deeper insights into your journal? Read on to find out…!

A new fruit: PlumX

Many of you will be familiar with some of the aspects of altmetrics and you might also be aware that we have recently transitioned to a new suite of altmetric insights: PlumX Metrics. Elsevier acquired Plum Analytics, the power behind PlumX Metrics earlier this year and these metrics are available in various places (including article-level metrics on ScienceDirect and Scopus), now including journal homepages.

The metrics provided by Plum Analytics help tell the story of research and researchers by revealing insights that go beyond traditional measures such as citations and downloads. PlumX Metrics gather data from dozens of scholarly sources, media channels and social media, providing a timely, broad and complete measurement of scholarly impact.

PlumX Metrics track how others interact with researchers’ work through, for example, downloads, blogging about it or sharing it on social media. As funders require more narrative input on their applications, researchers can also use PlumX Metrics to determine what to emphasize in their grant applications. They can also be used by editors to derive new insights into how the articles in their journal perform.

What is more mortifying than to feel you've missed the plum for want of courage to shake the tree?

—Logan Pearsall Smith

So why are PlumX Metrics different and what advantages do they bring to you as an editor?

The first thing to note about PlumX metrics is they are comprehensive:

  • PlumX includes metrics from more sources
  • PlumX covers more research output (52.6 million) – thus more articles will have metrics associated with them
  • PlumX tracks 67 different types of output including 4.1 million books
  • PlumX tracks multiple versions of the same article – published, pre-print, green OA, etc.

The metrics are also  timely and agile:

  • PlumX measures the performance of an article early, before citations have had a chance to accrue
  • PlumX is agile, adjusting to changes in technology and the behavioral shifts that go with them, faster than many of the citation-based counterparts

PlumX is transparent: it doesn’t try to calculate a score but instead offers real-time data.

It’s intuitive: the “Plum Print” is understandable and meaningful.

Finally, PlumX is current: most metrics are refreshed at least every 3-4 hours to show the most up-to-date metrics from all of its sources.

How is PlumX useful for my journal?

Because PlumX provides insights into how users and readers interact with online content, it offers journals opportunities to identify, pursue (and measure!) strategic growth. For example, you could:

  • See the impact across traditional and social media spaces to inform an existing social media program or inspire its creation
  • Watch “captures” to learn what content may generate citations as a way to think about content growth
  • Gain immediate access to ongoing citation data at the article level
  • Understand the translational impact of medical research by looking at clinical citations, which are mined from practice-related documents like clinical guidelines or physician point-of-care reference systems

The PlumX altmetrics data give a first impression about the “buzz” around new articles ( for example, we filter and rank on 2017 articles with the most social media mentions in the Top Social Media Articles lists on journal homepages). Furthermore, journal-specific dashboards are in development and currently being tested. These dashboards will allow registered users to analyze and report on groups of research articles. For example, it will be possible to investigate and compare multiple journals, or certain years, volumes or issues to understand trends and to set sensible benchmarking parameters. The dashboards will be rolled out to 333 journals by the end of 2017, and will be available upon request to other journals starting in January 2018.

Shaking the tree: how to use PlumX

PlumX Metrics incorporate five categories, each giving insight into a different type of engagement. These metrics are color-coded, as shown below, and combine into a “Plum Print” to visually represent the data. Each coloured circle represents a category. The larger the circle, the more metrics in that category. Each part of the Plum Print changes based upon the relative number of metrics in the category. Clicking on the Plum Print visual takes one to the detailed breakdown page for that article showing its performance across the different categories.


As a global information analytics company, Elsevier wants its editors to have access to the biggest and most useful basket of metrics on offer. We hope the addition of “plums” to the basket will be a useful one and we will, of course, continue developing and enhancing these metrics.

The Five Categories

Usage* – A way to signal if anyone is reading the articles or otherwise using the research. Usage is the number one statistic researchers want to know after citations.
Examples: clicks, downloads, views, library holdings, video plays

Captures – Indicates that someone wants to come back to the work. Captures can be a leading indicator of future citations.
Examples: bookmarks, code forks, favourites, readers, watchers

Mentions – Measurement of activities such as news articles or blog posts about research. Mentions is a way to tell if people are truly engaging with the research.
Examples: blog posts, comments, reviews, Wikipedia links, news media

Social media -This category includes the tweets, Facebook likes, etc. that reference the research. Social media can help measure “buzz” and attention. Social media can also be a good measure of how well a particular piece of research has been promoted
Examples: +1s, likes, shares, tweets

Citations – This category contains both traditional citation indexes such as Scopus, as well as citations that help indicate societal impact such as clinical or policy citations.
Examples: citation indexes, patent citations, clinical citations, policy citations

PlumX sources

*NB usage data is not currently available but we will be releasing this in the near future.

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