Thing 16 – Altmetrics

thing 16
[Photo credit: Sebastian Dooris: CC BY-SA 2.0]
In the previous Thing, we looked at the time-honoured tradition of using bibliometrics to measure research output and impact. Now, let’s take a look at a new kid on the block.

Alternative resources and alternative data

Altmetrics, or alternative metrics, study resources and data that owe their existence primarily to the online environment. Alternative resources include material such as online research blogs, datasets, or software. Such outputs are an increasingly important aspect of sharing of research. Online-specific data have only relatively recently become available and include data such as numbers of tweets, clicks, or downloads. These data offer alternatives to citation data for the quantitative assessment of research.

A new but fast moving field

Altmetrics, although still in its infancy, is attracting a lot of interest as a potentially useful way to measure research outputs. Because altmetrics cover such a wide range of types of resources and data, they can be used to examine not just the academic impact of research but also its societal impact.

At present, perhaps the biggest two stumbling blocks for altmetrics are the lack of standardisation across online resources and data—and hence, in practice, little ability to normalise metrics—and the ease with which altmetric results can be gamed.   Nonetheless, even if altmetrics aren’t yet suitable for formal studies comparable to those we carry out using bibliometrics, altmetrics certainly have their uses for the individual academic; REF impact case studies provide a good example.

Altmetric tools

There are many tools online for the creation and capture of altmetrics. ImpactStory and both aggregate altmetric information to allow you to study the academic and societal impact of research. Research networks such as ResearchGate and are aimed primarily at helping researchers create academic impact through sharing their research with others in the research community. And, of course, don’t forget non-academic-centric social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Used in the right way, these channels can be highly effective ways to share your research, both with academic colleagues and wider society



  • What types of alternative resources does ImpactStory aggregate?
  • Are any of these alternative resources especially important in your research field? If not, do you think they might be in future?


  • Visit com to learn more about the company’s distinctive altmetric donut. A key feature of this donut is the ‘click for more details’ option which allows you to retrieve specific details such as who said what about the article as well as where it is capturing interest.


  • Did you know that Scopus now includes the altmetric donut for many of the recent articles indexed in its database? This means that you can retrieve both citation and altmetric information for an article in one place. Log into Scopus and have a look at the record for this publication.   Scroll down the page until you find the altmetric donut and click on the ‘open report in new tab’ option. Explore the information you see. If you were an author on this paper, how might you use the altmetric information that the article has been tweeted often by members of the public and that it is cited in Wikipedia?
  • If you wish, open Chrome, Firefox, or Safari and follow the instructions to install the altmetric bookmarklet app. Now test the app by visiting the Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics, a recent comment article published in Nature. Now click on ‘altmetric it!’   If your installation has worked, you should see the altmetric donut appear in the top right-hand corner of the screen. At time of writing this blog, the Leiden Manifesto article has no citations in Scopus and does not even appear in Web of Science, seeming to suggest it has had little post publication impact. How does the picture presented by the article’s altmetrics differ?



Thing 15 — Research Impact (‘Bibliometrics’)

thing 15
[Photo credit: Bill Lile :CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
In the previous Thing, you looked at sharing your research outputs. Bibliometrics is a well-established approach for studying one type of research output: the academic publication, and especially, the journal article. Most bibliometric work is quantitative in nature.

Measures of output and indicators of impact…

Bibliometrics provide measures of academic output and indicators of academic impact. Output describes the volume of publications and can be linked to productivity. Impact considers how a publication influences and affects the research community. When used knowledgeably and appropriately in combination with peer review and human judgement, bibliometrics can contribute to the overall assessment of research quality.

Use multiple metrics…

If you want to use bibliometrics, always draw on more than one metric. For a start, you’ll need different metrics for measuring output and impact. But, even if you are just looking at impact, be aware that there are at least four types of impact and that each is measured differently:

1) Impact at point of publication

Point of publication impact is about how a research output is accepted and embraced initially by the research community; for example, acceptance of a publication into a high-impact journal suggests that the community believes the research to be of high value. Point of publication impact metrics tend to focus on the journal in which an article is published rather than on the article itself.

2) Impact post publication

Impact post publication considers the influence that a research output has after it has been shared. In bibliometric terms, post publication impact equates to citation impact. (With altmetrics, post publication impact is more broad—see Thing 16.) Be aware that the citation cycle normally takes at least two years; therefore, if you are using a shorter window than this to evaluate a publication, you may have to make do with looking at point of publication impact instead.

3) Impact from enabling knowledge transfer

Every academic publication you produce is actually a link in a chain of publications: almost certainly, you will have cited other publications, providing the backward links in the chain, and with luck, other publications will cite yours, creating the forward links in the chain. By being an important or key link in the publication chain—for example, by publishing an article that connects two disparate research areas—you enable the transfer of knowledge. Acting as a ‘knowledge bridge’ in this way is a vital but often overlooked form of academic impact.

4) Impact through collaboration

Impact though collaboration can be seen in the networks you inadvertently create when you publish research outputs with others. These networks may describe links between authors or institutions. Your collaboration networks show how you connect with others in the research community and allow you to draw inferences about your collaboration impact.

If you want to compare, normalise…

Aside from using different metrics to study output and the four different types of impact, there is a another important caveat you must consider when using bibliometrics: always compare like with like. In practice, we often seek to compare: which of these publications has higher citation impact, is this journal better than that one, is my research group having greater impact than so and so’s group?

To make comparisons, you need normalised bibliometric indicators. This means that you can’t make direct comparisons using some of the more familiar—but unnormalised— bibliometrics such as number of citations, h-indices, or Journal Impact Factors.

Citation practices vary from field to field, older papers have had more time to attract citations than newer papers, and some document types, for example reviews, are cited a lot more than other types of academic work. For comparison purposes, it doesn’t matter that you have 50 citations and a colleague has only 30—you don’t necessarily have the higher citation impact. The only way to compare fairly is to take into account differences in subject area, publication year, and document type. Normalised bibliometric indicators do this; absolute counts such as the h-index and averages such as the Journal Impact Factor do not.

Bibliometric tools…

Three different publication and citation ‘data universes’ can be used to produce bibliometrics: Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar. Each of these data worlds is made up of different sets of publications. This means that the bibliometric results derived from one world will not be the same as results derived from the others.

Formal bibliometric studies always use either Web of Science or Scopus because these databases incorporate the professionally-managed metadata that underlie the normalised bibliometric indicators needed for making fair comparisons. And, as we saw earlier, the need to compare arises often in bibliometric work.

For more informal assessments, academics themselves often turn to Google Scholar. It just so happens that Google Scholar normally gives the highest absolute citation counts of the three databases. But because Google Scholar is not used formally in bibliometrics, you need to be aware that your citation counts may appear lower in most formal bibliometric studies. Don’t panic, though! This apparent ‘drop’ in citations affects every researcher, not just you, and in any event, is irrelevant when properly normalised indicators are used.

At Surrey, both Web of Science and Scopus can be accessed through the library website. Additionally, we subscribe to a specialist bibliometric tool, SciVal, which derives its results from Scopus data. Hands-on training in this tool is offered year round, and an introductory SciVal guide for researchers is available on the library website as a pdf.


Choose two or three publications (yours or somebody else’s) that have received citations. Look up these publications in Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar.

  • Do the publications appear in all three data worlds?
  • How many citations does each publication receive according to Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar? Are the counts different in each database?
  • Most likely, Google Scholar will give the highest citation count—did you find this to be the case with your example publications?

Download the SciVal for Researchers guide from the library website. To access SciVal, follow the registration and login instructions provided in the guide. Again, following the guide, use the default ‘University of Surrey’ example to explore some of the bibliometrics offered in SciVal.

Thing 14 – Open Access and Surrey Research Insight

thing 14
[Photo credit: SLUB Dresden: CC BY 2.0]
In the last few Things, we looked at alternative ways of sharing your research online and measuring the impact from it. In order to give your research proper academic credibility, it is important to provide readers with links to peer-reviewed, published articles. However, this presents the reader with a problem: Access.

(If your research is not yet published, there is also the problem of copyright, which we will talk about later.)

Traditionally, research is written up into articles, which are submitted to a publisher, peer reviewed, and then published in an academic journal. Institutions must pay both to submit the article, and to buy the access to the article (called a journal subscription).

This limits the availability of academic papers to subscribing institutions, journal members, and one-off fee-payers.

Open Access is about making research papers freely available to anyone who is interested.

From Surrey Research Insight’s pages on Open Access:

Open Access Basics

Open Access (OA) means making research publications freely available online.

There are no password or subscription barriers so your research is free to be downloaded and read by a global audience.

OA and visibility

OA papers are highly visible and immediately available. They are highly downloaded from a large number of countries. Downloads from SRI Open Access, the University’s OA repository, have recently passed the 2 million mark. Researchers, practitioners and the wider public from over 200 countries access SRI Open Access papers every day.

High downloads, in turn, are linked to higher citations and thus higher impact.

OA routes

There are two main routes to OA: Green and Gold.

Green Gold
How Your author’s version is posted in SRI Open Access. You don’t pay the publisher. You make a one-off payment to the publisher.
What Author’s version. Publisher’s version.
When Immediately or after an embargo period depending on the publisher’s policy. Immediately upon publication.
Where SRI Open Access repository Publisher’s website, plus:

  • SRI Open Access
  • Funder’s repository
Copyright Copyright usually belongs to the publisher. Usually published under a Creative  Commons (CC) licence. This sets the terms for re-use.


Most subscription journals offer a Green option, and many also offer Gold. Purely OA journals, like PLOS, offer the Gold option only.


Open access to research is encouraged by funding bodies, all of whom have relevant policy to support it.

Despite this, OA is not yet widely adopted as researchers are slow to let go of the traditional system and publishers are slow to let go of their rights and subscriptions. The debate around OA is widely and vehemently discussed online.


If you have already published a paper through a journal, is it available through OA? Use the Surrey Research Insight OA database to check. If your publication isn’t there, it might still be possible to provide OA to the research. Use the Sherpa/Romeo database to check the policies of the journal, and consult the Surrey Research Insight team to find out how to proceed.

Thing 13: Sharing research online

thing 13
[Photo credit: ryancr: CC BY-NC 2.0]
Videos and podcasts are a growing part of sharing information, and sharing research through presentations. In the last Thing we looked at some of the tools for making and sharing media. Now we’re going to look at applying those tools to research. We’ll explore some new tools for creating presentations, and you’ll take a look at sites like Slideshare that let you share your research and presentations online.

Presentation tools

Most of us are, by necessity, familiar with PowerPoint and/or its Apple counterpart Keynote. There are open source alternatives, although you may find they’re not always compatible in the ways you need (there’s a list at Alternative To).

Prezi is growing in popularity and offers an interesting alternative to the usual static slides you normally see. Prezi allows you to zoom, pan and layer levels of information, although these tools need to be used well in order to be effective. Instead of presenting a linear story, you can move around a storyboard, highlighting connections.

Prezi can take some getting used to, but it’s worth jumping in and giving it a try. Take some time to experiment with it and think about what it could offer to help you share your research, present a subject to students or colleagues, or create an informational or induction presentation. You can even use Prezi as a collaboration tool – it’s great for mind mapping with colleagues.

We particularly like this presentation by Ned Potter of the University of York on how to make good Prezis. As well as showing you what Prezi can do, it’s a great example of exactly that – a good Prezi: The how to make a great Prezi, Prezi on Prezi


Presentation sharing tools
In Thing 10: Finding presentations and podcasts, you had a quick look at using tools like SlideShare for finding information and presentations. Now we’d like you to think about uploading your own research or presentations to them. As a recap, we suggested the following tools:

These tools give you the opportunity to store all your research presentations or teaching material in one place. Maybe you gave a presentation at a conference, and you’d like other people to have access to it (or you’d like other people to see that you’ve been providing expert comment on the topic). Perhaps you use presentations as teaching tools, and you want your students to have access to lectures after the class. These sites bring your presentations to a much wider audience than you can ever hope to reach with handouts or even an institutional website. They also let you embed your presentations in blogs and websites.

Have a look at each site (and feel free to look at others), and pick at least one to try. If you have a presentation floating around, upload it. Many of these sites let you upload PDFs as well as PowerPoints and other formats, so you could even give your audience a guided tour of a recent research poster. If you don’t have any presentations to upload, think about when or how you might or might not use these sites.

Exploring further: Some notes on presentations in general

Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk about what makes a good presentation in general. As well as our workshops Basic Presentations Skills and Advanced Presentation Skills, and our pages on Presenting your Research on SurreyLearn, there are blog posts, courses and books galore on this.

Presentations should be engaging and interesting, and the standard bullet point format, while effective in the right context, can be the opposite of engaging.

If you’re looking to breathe life into your presentations, there are some basic things to keep in mind:

  • Cut text. Less is better.
  • Don’t read out your slides – they’re there to support what you are saying, not replace it.
  • Keep to one point per slide.
  • Use good images (studies even show that this improves retention!)

Further reading


Week 7 blog post

This week’s Things may require a lot of work, particularly if you haven’t used these tools before and want to give them a proper try. If you have used them, let us know what you thought and how they enhanced your research, teaching or other work. Do you think they can help you find new audiences for your work? If you haven’t, explore them and let us know how you think you could use them. Please do upload samples of your videos, screen captures or podcasts – real examples are always welcome!

Don’t forget to tag your post Thing 12 and Thing 13.

Thing 12: Making and sharing media

thing 12
[Photo credit: zoomar: CC BY-NC 2.0]
You will NOT need to make or upload a podcast or video to complete this thing, but this post should give you some idea of the tools available to do so. Please take some time to explore these tools and think about how they might be useful to you. If you’re feeling brave, we do encourage you to try them out – even if it’s only for a brief screen capture or a video to introduce yourself.

Making your own podcast or video can be fairly straightforward, and there are lots of free tools to make it easier and add bells and whistles. For now, we’ll deal separately with screencasts, which offer a video recording of action on a computer screen (with or without an audio track) and standard videos.


Screen capture tools allow you to make a video, often narrated, showing how to do something on a computer. They record your mouse as well as everything you click on and show on your screen. Screen capture is a great way for showing students, colleagues or a wider audience how to use an online tool.

There are a number of screencasting tools available, both free and for purchase. An example of this is Adobe Captivate, which has some great features, but it isn’t free. It certainly isn’t necessary to spend lots of money to make a good screencast, however, and we’ll cover a couple of free tools that do the job.

Some general tips:

  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Write a script and run through what you’ll be demonstrating in advance


Screencast-o-matic is fairly intuitive, so you can get started right away. You may want to create an account (so that you can store and keep track of your videos), and you can also watch a short demo that walks you through the recording steps.

To begin, press ‘Start recording’ on the top right. A frame will appear (make sure Java is enabled – if this is an issue then you can download an app); you can drag and resize this frame to suit your needs, and you’ll also see some options for size, etc. Once you’re ready, simply press the red button and go. If you don’t want to record anything, make sure you mute your computer’s microphone (otherwise you’ll get a lot of white noise).

When you’ve finished, press the ‘done’ button and choose where to upload your video

You can download a free version of Jing. You will get a ‘Sun Launcher’ button on your screen.

Hover over the sun and choose ‘Capture’. Click and drag to select a portion of your screen, and then release the mouse when you are happy with the image you have selected.

From here, you can do two things: 1) take a still screenshot or 2) make a video. You can annotate your screenshots with text or arrows. When you’re happy with what you’ve done, click the ‘save’ button.

Other free screencast tools:

Video and audio recordings

If you want to make an audio podcast, you just need a relatively modern computer and a microphone. Many computers have built-in mics that will do the job, although you may find that investing in an external mic is worth it for the improved sound (RDP has podcasting equipment if you want to borrow it to have a go) use a USB mic designed for the job if you want to avoid extra purchases like an external sound card). You can use any standard tool on your computer to record your sound; Windows Sound Recorder on Windows is free (just type sound recorder into your surrey computer), and many Macs come with Garageband. You can also download a free tool like Audacity, which will also give you tools to clean your recording up a bit (this can be useful if you’ve made any mistakes or want to piece together parts from different attempts). Audacity offers tutorials on its website. 

If you want to do a video podcast, you’ll need a video camera. This could be a simple USB webcam or something more expensive; you can even use your smartphone. Again, you can use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie if you want to stick to free tools.

Publishing your video or screencast

You can put your video up on a video hosting site such as YouTube or Vimeo, and these are often the best place to start.

Other helpful notes

If you need copyright-appropriate images, clips or sounds/music to use in your podcasts, videos or presentations, there are some great search tools out there:

Further reading

Thing 11: Reference management tools

thing 11
[Photo credit: Alan Cleaver: CC BY 2.0]
Although you may or may not consider them ‘social media’, reference management tools are one of the single most useful digital tools for a researcher today. Gone are the days of painstakingly changing each of your in-text citations to a footnote, or changing each full stop in a reference to a comma because a journal required it. Online reference management tools allow you to:

  • import references from different sources (e.g. websites, library catalogues, bibliographic databases)
  • manage and/or edit the references once they’re in the system, and add manually any references that you cannot find online
  • export references into a document, either as a single bibliography, or individually (often called ‘cite while you write’) which generates a list of references.
  • format the bibliography according the referencing style of your choice, and re-format if/when necessary

There are a number of commercial products out there, some of which you may have heard of or be familiar with. Endnote and RefWorks are two of the most common.

There is a quick how to guide for endnote here

For information from the University of Surrey see this website with handy links on the right hand side.

There are also free reference management tools, and we’ll focus on those today. If you’re interested in a comparison of reference tools before you make your decision, there’s a lot of information on Wikipedia here

There are lots of reference management tools, but for this Thing we’ll look at a few of the free ones: Zotero, Mendeley and Colwiz. If you’re not already using a reference management tool for your writing, we encourage you to try out one of these tools (or give RefWorks or Endnote a go). If you don’t feel that you need to store or manage references at the moment, we still encourage you to read about the tools and explore their sites to get an idea of when they might be useful.

Zotero is an open source tool that started as a plug-in for Mozilla Firefox but is now available as a standalone application compatible with the Firefox, Chrome and Safari. It’s free to use, although there are premium options available for a subscription fee. You will need to install Zotero Standalone if you wish to use Zotero to add citations to documents in Microsoft Word.

Zotero provides a great quick start guide on its documentation page, and Sharon Howard has built a Zotero Wiki resource for a British Library course. In addition to the standard import/export tools, you can also attach files or notes to references, sync multiple computers with your account, add items by ISBN or DOI, and assign collections or tags to your items to help you organise them. Zotero also offers mobile apps.

Zotero takes advantage of its syncing and online capabilities to offer social networking; you can create groups and share your reference lists with others.

Mendeley also requires you to create an account and download the programme, but it’s a desktop feature that avoids the issue of browser compatibility. Like Zotero, Mendeley offers a free version as well as the option to pay for premium features. Take a look at its getting started videos to get a feel for how it works.

Mendeley offers some great tools beyond the basics. If you are starting with a great deal of files you want to organise (rather than researching from scratch), you can pull data from your computer into Mendeley. You can also use Mendeley’s PDF editor to annotate your PDF articles. Like Zotero, you can sync your account across various computers and the cloud. There’s also an iPad/iPhone app.

Like Zotero, you can share your references with others. Mendeley takes this one step further by allowing you to set up a closed group and share full-text articles.

Colwiz focuses on collaborative work as well as reference management. Although not exclusively for scientists, it takes a scientific focus and offers support for referencing in LaTex as well as Word and Open Office.

Colwiz also offers desktop and web-based services, although some features are only available on the desktop version. Colwiz’s real strengths come in its collaborative tools. It has features to help manage team schedules and tasks, including slightly more sophisticated groups, personal and shared calendars, team task management and more. Users can also set up research profiles (much like a Facebook or similar profile) and add contacts.

Exploring further

Try using one of these tools to add citations and build a reference list for a short paper. Can you import your references? Try changing the reference style after you’ve started.

Sign up for our Experience exchange

Experience exchange – reference management software.  Putting experienced users in touch with researchers who would like some help

Reference management software is highly recommended for researchers. Indeed PGRs asked “What do you wish you had known when you first started” nearly all comment on getting reference management organised early.

 “Get/learn/love reference management software”

 “How important citation software is (I used Zotero –”

 “The value of the understanding , knowledge and experience of certain activities including presenting your work, use of software such as Endnote, use of figures and cross-referencing in Office (really good to get these things under your belt at an early stage – which I did and it has been a huge benefit and time saver).”

 As you are likely already aware there are numerous different software packages to choose from: EndNote, RefWorks, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley … If you are still choosing, it is good to chat with your supervisors and colleagues about which they use.

If you have queries or get stuck, there is library support for RefWorks, and all packages have guides and help online.  However, being able to chat to an experienced user would be ideal.  So, we would like to set up an experience exchange to help put experienced users in touch with fellow researchers who would appreciate some help.

How to get involved if you are experienced in using a reference management system and would be happy to help others:

  1. Please email with your name, email address, and discipline area, stating that you would like to be included in the experience exchange and which software you are happy to chat with people about
  2. We will store your details on a spreadsheet
  3. When someone has a query and would like a chat about the software you are familiar with, we will put you in touch via email (matching for discipline area, if possible)
  4. You can then arrange to meet in person, chat on the phone, email, or Skype / Facetime – whichever you prefer
  5. If at any time you would like to be removed from the spreadsheet please just email us at and we will remove your details


How to get involved if you would like help with a reference management system:

  1. Please email asking for help via the experience exchange and stating which programme you would like help with
  2. We will check who we have available to help you and put you in touch via email (matching for discipline area, if possible)
  3. You can then arrange to meet in person, chat on the phone, email, or Skype / Facetime – it’s up to you to arrange this
  4. Please remember to thank the researcher profusely for their help!
  5. Once you are an experienced user then please volunteer to help others by following the steps in the section above.


Week 6 blog post

This week we’d like you to talk about one of the resources you found while exploring Things 9, 10 and 11.

Perhaps it was a Wikipedia page, or a podcast, a MOOC or some reference management software. Now that you’ve read about and ideally played with one or more of these tools, tell us how you think you might use them in your own work. If you already use these tools or similar ones, let us know how they work for you.

Don’t forget to tag your post Thing 9, Thing 10 and Thing 11




Thing 10: Finding presentations and podcasts

Thing 10
[Photo credit: Rob Wall: CC BY 2.0]
Broadcasts, lectures and other information formats such as slideshows are available online more than ever before, and they can be an important and useful source of information for your own current awareness as well as for your teaching and research.

Podcasts are a great way to make available things like a series of talks, course lectures or training update videos. Podcasts are audio – or increasingly video – files broadcasted online (for example, recordings of radio programmes, lectures, readings, drama, interviews or music). You can usually listen to or view a podcast online, but they can also be downloaded, and you can usually subscribe to a series of podcasts via RSS so that it automatically downloads to your computer or mobile device (iTunes makes this easy).

Podcasts aren’t the only way to put presentations online, however; sites like Slideshare allow users to post presentations of all sorts. YouTube can also be a treasure trove of quality information.


1. Find some podcasts, and pick one or two to subscribe to. Some places to start:

  1. Browse for presentations in your area of interest on Slideshare(or alternatives such as Note & Pointand Speaker Deck.
  2. Investigate research and presentation material on YouTube. Try the TEDTalks channel, or course highlights from MIT.

Exploring further

Presentations and podcasts can serve as a great tool for expanding or updating your interests, however online learning has now evolved to the point where it is possible to receive semi-formal education in any topic, for free, from anywhere in the world. Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs, are extremely popular and well respected. These highly interactive courses take place in a virtual classroom and can even have homework.

In fact, The New York Times called 2012 ‘the year of the MOOC’ as this was the year when some of the biggest providers were first established, namely Coursera, Udacity, and Future Learn.


Have a look at Future Learns or Coursera’s list of courses. Take note of the range of subjects offered and the varying depths of specific knowledge. Also note the course providers – some highly respected institutions in there, tutoring people for free!

Have you spotted any courses that might be valuable for you or your research? Perhaps there are courses that might improve your employability?