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Measuring Research Impact 4: Altmetric

Altmetric is a prevailing alternative metric that captures the “online mentioning” of research output from different sources (e.g. news, social media, patents, policy documents, multimedia platforms, blogs, etc.), thus providing “evidence” to demonstrate “Research Impact” beyond the academia. The “evidence” is both “quantitative” through the Altmetric Scores and “qualitative” through the links to the mentioning sources that enable researchers to identify “who”, “what”, “why” and “where” about the mentioning to trace the breadth and depth of their impact. Altmetric is available in CityU Scholars (Guide).

Read more: What is Altmetric and what does it provide?

A 3-min video on "What are altmetrics?"

How Does Altmetric Track Online Attention

To track the online attention surrounding a specific research piece, Altmetric requires three key elements:

  • An output
    • Books | Datasets | Journal articles | Presentations | Reports | More
  • An identifier attached to the output
    • arXiv ID | DOIs | identifiers | ISBNs | PubMedID | More
  • Mentions
    • Blogs | Media | Patents | Policy documents | Social media | More

After identifying a mention of the research, Altmetric gathers it with all other online attention and displays it via the Altmetric Details Page together with the Donut and Attention Score.

Read more: Introduction to the Details Page


Altmetric Badge, Attention Score and Colors

The Altmetric Badge (Donut) provides an at-a-glance summary of the volume and type of attention a research output has received. The donut's different colors represent the sources from which the mentions of the research output originated.

The Altmetric Attention Score, positioned at the center of the badge, provides an indicator of the amount of attention that it has received. The score is a weighted count derived from an automated algorithm. Only the FIRST mention from a source counts towards the score.

Read more: Introduction to the badge | How are outputs scored?How is the Altmetric Attention Score calculated? | Attention sources tracked by Altmetric 


A 1-min video explains Altmetric Badge and Attention Score Each color in the Badge represents a different source of attention

Understanding Altmetric Mentions/Citations

By understanding Altmetric mentions across various platforms, researchers can assess the diverse influence and engagement of their research output.

  • Patent Citations – Citations in patents suggest that the research output has been referenced or cited in patent documents. This indicates potential applications or innovations resulting from the research and highlights its relevance to technological advancements and intellectual property.
  • Policy Documents * – Citations in policy documents indicate that the research output has the potential to influence or inform policy discussions, decisions, or recommendations. Policy documents often draw upon scientific research to shape evidence-based policies and strategies.

* Different tools and platforms may have different coverage. To ensure a more comprehensive tracking of cited policy documents, please also use Overton which is a database dedicated to policy citations.

  • Mainstream Media – Mentions in news articles signify media attention and broad dissemination of the research findings.
  • Social Media – Engagement, discussions and mentions on platforms like X, Facebook and Reddit provide insights into the public perception and reactions surrounding the research output.
  • Blogs – Mentions in blogs contribute to public understanding and engagement with the research topic. Through blogs, researchers will be able to gain valuable feedback, understand different viewpoints, and explore potential collaborations or future research directions.
  • Other Online Sources – Mentions on Wikipedia pages, Q&A platforms, Faculty Opinions, and YouTube, etc. provide additional credibility, knowledge sharing, expert evaluations, and visual communication of the research output and findings.

Retrieving Altmetric Details from CityU Scholars

A sample record: The chemistry of two-dimensional layered transition metal dichalcogenide nanosheets 

CityU Scholars Link | Altmetric Link

In CityU Scholars, the Altmetric badge , if available, appears next to the research output record on the result list. Hovering over the badge reveals a summary box displaying the number of mentions or readers for each type of attention received by the research output. Clicking on the badge directs you to the record page on the Altmetric website.


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Clicking on the research output title within CityU Scholars opens up the record page. Similar to the Altmetric badge, hovering over the Altmetric button  triggers the display of a summary box. If you click through the button, you will be taken to the record page on the Altmetric website for more detailed information.


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On the Altmetric website, you can view sources that mention the research output by clicking on the different-colored buttons in the left panel. Alternatively, you can use the tabs for the same purpose.


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Below is an example to illustrate how it appears when you click on the "Patents" tab. By clicking through the patent titles, you can access each of the 41 patents that have cited this research output.


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