Skip to content

Summary of Altmetric seminar: “Research with results: Tracking engagement for medcomms and pharma”

Last week, Altmetric and MedComms Networking hosted a day-long seminar in London to discuss the use of alternative metrics for tracking engagement with industry-sponsored publications.

The day kicked off with an introduction to alternative metrics – and Altmetric – by Ben McLeish (Product Sales Manager, Altmetric). Information gleaned from alternative metrics offer a wide, real-world view of the impact of an article or other research output (e.g. an abstract, software, images, code or data). Alternative metrics gauge the level of attention an article is receiving beyond that demonstrated by typical academic publishing metrics (e.g. citations). Alternative metrics show how often the article is mentioned or discussed using information from a variety of platforms (see slide 1). They are more immediate than typical academic metrics. For example, mentions of an article on social media, or in blogs, may begin as soon as the article is made publicly available. Altmetric products such as Explorer for Publishers and Explorer for Institutions can be used to pull together all of this information into a single, user-friendly platform.

Slide 1: What are alternative metrics? 3D view of platforms


Andrew Clark (President of the Pharma Documentation Ring (PDR)) went on to describe how pharmaceutical companies are beginning to use alternative metrics to gather competitive intelligence. The companies represented by the PDR are at an early stage of understanding how using alternative metrics can benefit them. Andrew highlighted several ways in which the Altmetric platform benefited his company, including collating the large number of online mentions the company’s products receive, identifying new areas of research, identifying key opinion leaders (for headhunting and collaboration purposes) and identifying institutions to collaborate with.

Paul Lane (Director of Social Media and Web-based Information, Envision Pharma Group) described the evolution of the way in which researchers assess the impact of their outputs. Traditional measures of the impact of published research (number of citations and journal impact factor) and feedback on the work (letters to the editor) are slow to emerge. More immediate alternative metrics now exist, which may give an earlier indication of an article’s impact.

Paul went on to describe how these days, the resources that healthcare professionals and patients use to gather information tend to be internet-based, and are less likely to be original primary and secondary manuscripts. Wikipedia is used by the majority of junior physicians every week, with a high proportion of physicians using information from Wikipedia to provide medical care (see slide 2). Wikipedia may therefore be considered the most impactful publication.

Slide 2: Wikipedia – the most impactful publication


Paul explained how discussion on social media and other platforms, including comments on PubMed commons, provide immediate feedback on published articles as well as providing an indication of the level of attention that an article is receiving. This unofficial post-publication peer review can be valuable and may enable a company or individual researcher to respond to feedback when appropriate.

Paul also described how journals are starting to use social media to enhance dissemination of research (see slide 3). Articles that are tweeted are more likely to be highly cited. The number of tweets relating to an article can be used to predict the number of citations.

Slide 3: Journals now use social media to enhance dissemination


The third speaker of the day, Catherine Skobe (Director of Publications Management, Pfizer) talked about an ongoing project being undertaken in collaboration with Altmetric exploring the use of alternative metrics. Four hundred and eight Pfizer-sponsored manuscripts from the past 2 years were identified as having received “attention” according to the Altmetric Explorer for Institutions platform. These were analysed and ranked by Altmetric score or the number of mentions the article had received online. The researchers found that articles with the highest level of attention (number of mentions) and the highest Altmetric score were in therapy areas with the highest volume of publications, and published in established journals with robust online presence. The number of mentions typically peaked around the time of online publication and gradually decreased (see slide 4).

Slide 4: Number of online mentions of an article typically peaks around the time of online publication before gradually decreasing


The remainder of the day included an overview of the new products being developed by Altmetric, a demonstration of the Explorer for Publishers platform and an interactive workshop. The workshop provided delegates with an opportunity to compare two articles with different Altmetric scores and to discuss how alternative metrics may help us to judge the “success” of an article.

At the end of the day a poll showed that the vast majority of delegates had a clearer idea of what alternative metrics are. However, the audience, dominated by medical communications professionals, were less clear about whether alternative metrics data would be useful for their publication activities (see slide 5).

Slide 5: Results from the final delegate poll


More information on the seminar as well as the presentation slides are available at the Altmetric Blog.


Summary by Philippa Flemming, PhD from Aspire Scientific.

Never miss a post

Enter your email address below to follow our blog and receive new posts by email.

Never miss
a post

Enter your email address below to follow The Publication Plan and receive new posts by email.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a Reply