Altmetrics – “Impact as a Donut”

JAMA altmetric scoreNo doubt you’ve noticed these rainbow donuts. “66” was the latest value for the recent JAMA systematic review on breast cancer screenings with members of GIM as co-authors (last viewed 11/5/15). This post provides the essentials about “altmetrics” and about Duke’s effort to keep up with our publications.

Altmetrics refers to the non-traditional metrics, such as news outlets, number of tweets, blog mentions, google+ and so on.

Duke now has a license to Altmetric Explorer ( where we can find our own altmetric scores and analyses for our publications, even track the dissemination. The database covers publications from 2013 and forward. Access to requires using the Duke VPN or the Duke Network.

Citations have been, and remain, the gold standard by which we measure the impact of an article. Another metric might be usage, e.g., the number of downloads and number of views. With the advent of social media and digital technologies we can now measure attention within the society at large. For many, altmetrics appear complementary to a citation index. (1)

“Impact as a Donut”
The center of the donut is the total “score,” one that’s automatically calculated, a weighted algorithm. The factors influencing this score are the volume of mentions, the source of the mentions (a news story may count more than a re-tweet) and the author of the mentions (for example, a journal publisher). (2)

Key point: the more colors there are around a score, the more varied the sources of attention.

GIM authors as examples
Currently, in the entire Duke University database, a JAMA paper has the very highest score of all, an altmetric score of “1961.” This is the 2014 Evidence-based guideline for management of hypertension with Dr. Laura Svetkey as a co-author. Apart from this paper, our GIM authors show up in order of highest scores beginning with:

Score: 434 – David Matchar “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2013 Update a report from the American Heart Association” Circulation
Score 368 – Peter Ubel et al “Full Disclosure-out-of-pocket costs as side effects” NEJM
Score: 257 – Maciejewski and Olsen “Association between bariatric surgery and long-term survival” JAMA

Voils altmetric analysis 2

Figure 1 Voils’ paper in Annals

Here’s an example for better understanding:
Corrine Voils’ recent Annals paper from June 2015, “Effect of allowing choice of diet on weight loss: a randomized trial.”
The Altmetrics score for this paper is “152” and we learn this is in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetrics.
Here’s how that breaks down (See Figure 1). It’s possible to click through to the source of all these “mentions.” For example, the “news outlets” we found included the Huffington Post, Time magazine, CBS news, and the LA Times. We also saw that it was recognized in F1000 Prime.

Limitations of altmetrics
It’s a bit beyond the scope of this post but worth naming two limitations of altmetrics: (1) possibly too easy to game, and (2) is this real impact or just “empty buzz”?

About Duke harvest of our publications
Our department of medicine publication retrieval comes from Elements, the publications workflow system that harvests from bibliographic databases including REACH NC. This query is linked from our division webpage of the Department of Medicine, You will be amazed at the scope of Elements and ability to identify your publications.

Further refinement can happen directly from your Scholars profile page where you will see papers possibly belonging to you but maybe not. While you are there, you are highly encouraged to update your profile.

Here are links to the tools we have at Duke so that you can check them out yourselves. These are provided by Haley Walton, Outreach Coordinator for Open Access, Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication, Duke University Libraries.

Altmetric Explorer

You’ll be able to see Duke’s altmetrics either on campus using the Duke network or by creating an account for yourself to use off campus. For a more detailed overview of how it works and how to set up an account, see

For more information of what Elements is and how it works, see

How to manage publications is described here:

Many of you might already know about Scholars, but here are some of the frequently asked questions about managing your profile:

Haley is happy to come work one-one-one or with our faculty on Scholars, Elements, and Altmetric. Contact info: 919-660-5938,


  1. Impact as a Donut
  2. Numbers behind Numbers: The Altmetric Score and Sources Explained
  3. altmetrics: a manifesto
  4. Wikipedia

Martha-Adams_5-2014-300x240Post submitted by Martha Adams, MD, MA
Author of GIM’s “Twitter in Medicine” Series

Update 11/9/15
Want to see the altmetric score for a paper published this week? Try adding this bookmark to the menu bar of your web browser: [Ref Link]