By Amy Atchison
If it sometimes feels like success in academia boils down to metrics, that’s because in many US institutions it does (sadly) boil down to metrics. We all know that it isn’t just the number of publications you have. It’s also the impact factor of the journals in which those articles were published, the citation count per article, and your h-index score. (And don’t get me started on the non-research metrics, like course evaluations—which we all know are notoriously flawed. See here, here, and here.) Those are all pretty common measures that are widely used. But a recent Twitter thread indicated to me that some political scientists may not be aware of a new(ish) measure that can help to quantify use of your non-publication outputs as well as your social media reach: altmetrics. This is helpful if your institution puts a premium on public engagement.
Altmetrics are simply alternative measures of scholarly reach/output. They include measures like the number of downloads of your work from your institutional repository or number of mentions on social media. The usage metrics provided by Academia.edu or Research Gate are also considered alternatives to traditional metrics (use the latter with caution, though).
In this post, I focus on Altmetric Badges from Altmetric.com because they aggregate many sources of attention and because many leading journals have started adding Badges to their sites. I give a brief overview of altmetrics, including how they can be used in promotion and tenure (P&T) applications, as well as the pros/cons. I end the post with a brief overview of the problems inherent in many of the traditional measures we use to evaluate scholarship (citation counts, journal impact factors, etc.) since I have found that almost no one tells people these things in grad school. (But they’re helpful to know!)