Should Altmetric impact your choice of reference/citation tool?

If I were to save an article to a Mendeley library, that would be counted by Altmetric.  If I were to save the same paper to a RefME library, it wouldn’t.

Altmetric and it’s colourful little doughnut is becoming more and more commonplace.   The use of these metrics is also becoming more widespread.

Example of the Altmetric doughnut from the BioOne platform

Example of the Altmetric doughnut from the BioOne platform

At the same time, options for reference or citation management tools are still increasing.  I was introduced to a relatively new option, RefME, just last week at Internet Librarian International 2015.  As part of the learning or research support we offer, librarians often recommend and/or teach particular reference/citation management tools to our users.

One of the things Altmetric measures is the number of readers an article has, using data from reference management tools.  However, Altmetric only counts readers on 2 platforms currently – Mendeley and CiteULike – although they are hoping to add Zotero soon.  Should we be worried about whether our library users are being counted in Altmetric’s statistics? And if so, how high up the priority list should this be when assessing the suitability of a reference management tool for an individual or for general promotion?

If we recommend a reference management tool to our users and they all start using it, it could impact on the Altmetric reader counts for the articles they are reading.  If they are reading research produced by our institution, and the impact or value of that research is being assessed, at least in part, by Altmetric’s data, then that’s good for our institution isn’t it?  Part of me feels this isn’t fair, and it’s just another example of being able to ‘play the game’ and influence metrics by knowing how they work.  But then another part feels I should want to contribute to this new metric, to improve it and add to the data by having what I am reading counted.

So what do you think?  Have any libraries chosen to promote Mendeley or CiteULike because of Altmetric?  Would you consider doing so?  I’m really interested to know what you think.

Corrected to clarify that although Altmetric counts Mendeley and CiteULike readers, they do not contribute to the Altmetric score.  See Stacy Konkiel’s comments for more information.


3 thoughts on “Should Altmetric impact your choice of reference/citation tool?

  1. Stacy Konkiel says:

    Lizzie, you pose a great question, one that I’m not sure I even know the answer to, though I work for Altmetric! We’d also be curious to know if librarians are recommending certain reference manager tools based upon their inclusion in Altmetric or other altmetrics aggregators like Impactstory. And, if they are, why?

    On a side note: you’ll probably be glad to know that saves in Mendeley and CiteULike do not contribute towards the Altmetric score, as we’re not able to expose the underlying data (that is, we can’t show *who* is bookmarking an article, so it’s not verifiable that a human has done it and not a bot–thus we don’t include it in the Altmetric score as a measure against potential gaming). We’re big on ensuring the quality of our data in that way.

    You also bring up great points about the unintended effects of things like librarian recommendations upon data quality in altmetrics overall. How can we account for things like university-preferred reference managers (do we normalize the data? more clearly define the data (i.e. RefME bookmarks are more often made by undergraduates than by faculty? etc)?)?

    These are important questions–keep ’em coming! They help our entire field to improve altmetrics every day.

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