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Altmetrics are not just harmless fun, but actually corrupt science

Posted by David_Colquhoun on 24 Jan 2014 at 10:23 GMT

You say "Altmetric measurements derived from the social web are increasingly advocated and used as early indicators of article impact and usefulness."

I think that the "increasingly advocated" bit comes only from bibliometricians and thos who want to sell altmetrics score. I have never met a scientist who thought they were anything but nonsense. This paper makes the same mistake that all bibliometricians make, i.e. it fails to consider the content of papers (the only thing that actually matters). When that is done it becomes apparent that altmetrics is not just a harmless hobby for those who sit on the fringes of science, but they run a serious risk of corrupting science and doing real harm.

Andrew Plested and I provide some evidence for these statements in "Why you should ignore altmetrics and other bibliometric nightmares", at

No competing interests declared.

RE: Altmetrics are not just harmless fun, but actually corrupt science

MikeThelwall replied to David_Colquhoun on 27 Jan 2014 at 17:23 GMT

Thank you very much for your comment and I am sorry that you are so concerned about altmetrics. I believe that altmetrics and bibliometrics can be useful as part of a balanced approach to investigate the impact of research. I accept that all metrics can be used in misleading ways and can be damaging if taken at face value. This article provides empirical evidence that (a) altmetrics are not random and (b) they can be misleading if taken at face value (because of the time effect). The article also accepts that there are spurious reasons for tweeting, such as funny titles, but I still believe that there are ways in which altmetrics can help us, if wisely used. For example, for my articles altmetrics give me useful feedback about whether they have been noticed or not and I want my research to be noticed. Ironically, the most useful feedback to me is when an article of mine attracts no tweets, Mendeley bookmarks, comments etc., as then I reconsider whether that type of research is worth following up - but I have the final say, not Twitter.

Competing interests declared: I am an author of the article.