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Challenges associated with #altmetrics: “attention is not impact”

A Wiley blog this week discusses the potential pitfalls associated with Altmetrics, including “the misappropriation of the term impact, the narrow scope of focus, and the potential goal displacement of scientific activity”.

The author claims that social media communication about an article does not necessarily equate to impact. She states: “One can easily find examples of extremely high Altmetric.com scores which are the result of a viral joke, proofreading error, or scientific hoax. Behind these outliers are undoubtedly scores of articles whose recognition in policy documents, popular press, and on social media is a legitimate sign that the work is relevant and interesting to a broader public.”.

The author concludes: “The scientific community, administrators, and policy makers should take care lest we let the tweet become the end in itself: topics should not be chosen for their potential to go viral, nor should scholars spend inordinate time managing their reputations online. Altmetrics should be harnessed not to replace any existing metrics, but rather to expand the tools available to demonstrate the diffusion of science. Responsible use of altmetrics requires that we diligently seek to understand the underlying mechanisms of measures of attention, expand our ability to capture the diversity of traces of scholarly activity, and realize that attention is not impact.”.

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Ryan co-runs Aspire Scientific, a dynamic, forward-thinking medical writing agency. Ryan has a passion for innovation, science and ethical communication.

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