In April 2015 we launched a two-year pilot of Altmetric, a tool that provides easy access to article-level alternative metrics for our digital publications. This tool is implemented in our open access journals content, open monograph series digitalculturebooks and Maize Books, and materials in Deep Blue, the University of Michigan’s institutional repository. The two-year pilot with Altmetric is aimed at helping us analyze and understand the impact of our publications in scholarly and public discourse. The results of the this pilot will inform whether we continue on with this product or seek out alternative options for article-level altmetrics.

What is Altmetric?

Altmetric searches the web for mentions of Michigan Publishing content (as well as for Nature, Science, Oxford University Press, Wiley, National Academies Press, and many other publishers and journals). Then, Altmetric calculates a “score of attention” for each item based on an algorithmic assessment of the relevance, value, and impact of each mention. For example, being cited in a CNN article carries more weight than a single tweet. The attention score is demonstrated through a donut or badge–a visualization that quickly conveys article level metrics about each article–and can be clicked on to drill down into all of the instances of sharing, posting, or linking that have occurred.

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Why Use Altmetric?

We believe it is important to be able to demonstrate the role of other modes of “citation” and communication about the content we publish, especially when this can’t be demonstrated through direct sales or subscriptions–common measurements for the impact print books or toll-access journals. Altmetric scores, in combination with pageviews, downloads, and citations, give us a more complete picture to demonstrate the impact and relevance of our open access publications to ourselves, authors, editors, the Library, the University, administration, and University administration who fund our publishing services business model.

In addition, having Altmetric scores on our content help us to quickly discover the conversations and stories around the work we help disseminate. For example, while we knew the Trans-Asia Photography Review had higher than average web traffic for our publications, we were surprised to learn that many TAP Review articles are discussed and shared throughout the web, especially on Reddit. Others we’ve discovered were widely shared include:

We also want authors, editors, and readers to be able to see the social conversations around their hard work, especially so they can incorporate these measures into their promotion and tenure review.

Finally, we believe the presence of Altmetric badges will encourage sharing of our digital content, so along with the launch of the badge, we’ve standardized our sharing by adding a suite of sharing tools to the most common web platforms that share scholarly publications.

As we move forward with this pilot, we’d love to hear feedback from our readers, editors, and authors. Please share your general feedback and thoughts with us at In particular, we are looking for niche blogs or online publications special to disciplines where content from our journals might be shared or cited. We will pass it along to Altmetric to be added to their list of resources to search for mentions.