What’s My Impact?

Since 2014, Alternative Metrics Have Made it Easy to Track Mentions of Articles Published with Wiley

What’s my article’s impact? How much is it talked about and by whom? The answer to this traditionally had to be found in citations, which can take years to build up. In the days of instant news on the internet, few authors are patient when it comes to their papers, to the point that some need to prove the impact their research makes to their institutions or funders. The impact factor is not an appropriate metric for individual articles because it is an average across all articles in a journal over a two-year period: On average, the lake was only half a meter deep, but the cow drowned anyway.

Scientific articles can get covered in all kinds of media: traditional newspapers and magazines, TV, and radio for a general audience, but also specialized magazines, e.g., for society members. But they also get covered in blogs and social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or social bookmarking sites. Some key papers even get referenced in online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia. This is likely to happen quickly after publication, but sometimes takes years. No single person can keep track of this, so it’s great to have vendors for this kind of information. In July last year, Wiley launched a partnership with altmetric.com: Donut-shaped colorful badges are now shown on all journal article pages on Wiley Online Library and reveal very interesting information. Wiley-VCH being the publisher of ChemPubSoc Europe, its journals benefit from this feature, which picks up mentions of articles that are referenced by their DOI.


The number in the center of the donut is the Altmetric score. The colors surrounding the donut reflect the mix of sources.

Altmetric.com not only collects a list of “mentions”, which can be found when users click on the article-level badge, but also calculates a score. The score depends on the number of mentions and their perceived importance, and of course on the number of sources covered. Altmetric.com increases its coverage all the time. Therefore, altmetric.com also gives the score some context, e.g., compared to other articles in this journal, or published at about the same time. The score being somewhat arbitrary and easy to influence, the more interesting aspect is the list of mentions. Who wrote about this paper and what did they think?

Of course, not every mention can be taken equally seriously, so it all has to be taken with a grain of salt. Not very surprisingly, human factors rather than actual science seem to come into play when one looks at high-score articles: “Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms for flaccid and erect penis length and circumference in up to 15,521 men” (Brit. J. Urol.) or, in Angewandte Chemie: “Bed Bug Aggregation Pheromone Finally Identified”. But articles with less “sexy” titles can also achieve high scores; see the list of ChemPubSoc Europe titles below.

Whether or not the score calculation of altmetric.com is useful is anybody’s guess. But they sure dig up some interesting articles and sources.

Mario Müller