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‘Altmetrics’! Can you afford to ignore it?
  1. Steffan Arthur Griffin1,
  2. Christopher W Oliver2,
  3. Andrew Murray3,4
  1. 1 University of Birmingham, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 University of Edinburgh, Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3 Scottish Government Sport and Physical Activity Policy Team, Edinburgh, UK
  4. 4 Sports Medicine, Scottish Institute of Sport, Stirling, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Steffan Arthur Griffin, University of Birmingham, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, Edgbaston, Birmingham; steffangriffin{at}

Statistics from

Number of citations, number of views, Altmetric. To be a relevant and respected researcher, and to succeed in the current ‘publish or perish’ climate, it is important to publish, and to communicate and disseminate research widely to increase its likelihood of influencing clinical and research practice. With over two million scientific articles being produced each year1 (and rising), how can you ensure your contribution is impactful?

How do we measure impact in science? Past and present

The number of citations in other published articles and ‘number of views’ has long been used as a guide to assess the impact of a paper.2 This may not be an effective ‘real-time’ measure as some impactful papers take years to generate citations. A journal’s impact factor (IF) has also been viewed as a measure of respectability and an indirect proxy of an article’s impact. However, questions arise regarding such ‘journal-level’ metrics when it comes to assessing the potential power of individual articles.3

Do these metrics enable individuals to prove their worth as ‘impactful’ researchers in a short space of time? We argue that they do not. With the field of sport and exercise medicine keeping pace with an increasing societal dependence on digital media—a vital influence in important issues from elections to stock markets—traditional metrics can often miss significant interactions on these platforms, and thus underestimate impact.

Step forward altmetrics

Altmetrics is a metric that quantifies the ‘attention’ an article receives among a multitude of online sources, including social media, mainstream news and blogs.4 A score primarily consists of the number of views, discussions on social and mass media, citations, as well as any ‘saving’ in citation managers, among other inputs.5 An algorithm subsequently produces a weighted score that corresponds to the real-time ‘reach’ and attention that an article is receiving. A ‘donut’ (figure 1) is produced that represents this, with individual colours representing different platforms, providing a visual representation of an article’s dissemination.

Figure 1

Altmetric profile of the fifth international conference on concussion in sport held in Berlin, 20168 (adapted from McCrory P et al 8).

While the BJSM is deservedly proud of its IF (6.6), it is equally proud of its social media profile, which allows widespread dissemination of its published articles. Among the >60 000 individuals who follow BJSM’s Facebook page6 and >40 000 twitter followers, published articles have a great chance of stimulating interest and debate within an online community, rightly contributing to impact. Traditional impact metrics would have missed all of this attention.

As with many things in both research and practice, beware of using one tool to make a decision. Altmetrics provide an extremely useful adjunct to support traditional impact metrics, which allow researchers to demonstrate a ‘real-time’ measure of impact and worth. Cue the next question, how can one maximise the Altmetric Score of their published article?

Top tips

Handily, Altmetric and Scholastica have produced some top tips for researchers looking to boost their Altmetric Score. They can be found at this link and can be summarised as:

  • Publish open access if possible

  • Promote your work via social media profiles and engage with relevant communities

  • Work with your organisation/publisher’s social media and press team to announce any major findings

  • Search Altmetric for similar articles within the same field, and use this to identify channels that may be interested in your work

If you need inspiration, we have compiled a list of the most ‘impactful’ BJSM papers according to Altmetric (table 1). While some may surprise you, consider these cases as ‘bright spots’—a glimpse into how you can ensure your research gains wide reach. While individuals can always increase the Altmetric Score, the BJSM will support this by sharing content widely through their established social media channels and networks. BJSM will create infographics of key papers.7

So, whether you’re starting off your research career, or looking to produce that career-defining and practice-modifying masterpiece, Altmetrics can help you measure and demonstrate immediate impact. As Edwards Demming stated "In God we trust, all others must bring data".

Table 1

Top BJSM articles according to Altmetric ‘score’ (as of 24 July 2017)



  • Contributors AM and CWO proposed the article, as well as some of the content, which was then put into an editorial format by SAG. Subsequent drafts were then edited by all authors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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