The Altmetric API: Measuring the Impact of Research is All About the Donuts

What if you published ground-breaking research. Would anybody notice? How would you know they noticed? Such questions aren't just for the narcissistic mad scientists among us. What if you funded the research? You'd want to know the impact. Altmetric tracks "article level mentions". These metrics are defined by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) as measuring usage, citations, social bookmarking and activity, media coverage (including blogs), ratings and discussion activity. The Altmetric API provides access to its metrics that are derived from its database of over 300,000 articles and over 8,000 journals.

As of January 2012, it had captured nearly 1.5 million mentions of articles. The important part, as with so many things in life, comes down to how good the donuts are. Altmetric's are very very good. It gives each article what it calls a donut score, as shown in this graphic:

Each article gets a score placed in the donut hole that indicates the article's impact to date. Hovering over the score reveals further details. Through its reporting, you can see what kinds of attention the article is getting, where that attention is coming from geographically, and many other attributes.  Below is a graphic with more detail on the score.

All of this is aimed at conveying just four important ideas: helping scientists understand which papers their peers think are interesting; quantify attention received; help publishers show their authors and readers the conversations sparked about the research; and to identify comments that require responses., a business journal in the Middle East, gave an overview of what London-based Altmetrics does for scientific publishers,

"Paul Coyne, Technical Systems Director at QScience, said, "The availability of altmetrics for articles is an important step forward for research publishing in the region. The discovery and sharing of research papers has moved to the online environment and I believe that we have a duty of care to our authors and their funders to measure, as comprehensively as possible, the impact of the papers that we publish on their behalf. Our partnership with helps us to do that."

Use of the Altmetric API and data are free for nonprofit purposes provided Altmetrics is cited as the source; they require a license fee for commercial uses.

Be sure to read the next API article: Create Fun, Interactive Screensavers for Android Using DreamService