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Altmetrics is the “new thing” which looks at the impact of academic research into social media. This has two benefits as it measures how these ideas are disseminated into the wider public, and also allows much quicker feedback to a researcher on the work they are doing than using more traditional methods of citations. So this seems like a good thing, but I have two main doubts about whether this could successfully rolled out across the academic community:

  1. There are far too many different social media products 
  2. They aren’t used consistently by researchers

So to go into a bit more detail on these points; firstly, on a technical front there are loads of different social media tools (many of which do similar things) and it would be difficult to get data from all of them into one summary tool. Also as I’m sure they don’t record the same things it would be impossible to collate these into one (or a series) of metrics in any meaningful way. Also, judging which is most important for any individual or subject area would be

Secondly, while the idea of using slideshare (or another similar tool) to share your presentation from a conference to a wider audience seems like a great idea, if by doing that you jeopardise the possibility of publishing that data/ideas in the most prestigious journals in your field you’re not going to do it. Whilst journal articles continue to be seen as the gold standard for publishing research, and that is what is used for judging recruitment, promotions and awarding grants, there isn’t going to be any whole scale adoption of using these tools to publish research output. Also, researchers don’t have the time to publish in both places so the one that counts for their career is the one they will prioritise.

So overall I think these develops are very interesting and seeing how academic research has permeated into the wider public is intriguing. But I’m not sure that they will be able to be used instead of journal publishing and traditional citations. Something to watch though as if there is a radical shake-up of academic publishing because of open access (though this has been promised for years!) then these tools could become more important within academia.

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