Altmetrics — Replacing the Impact Factor Is Not the Only Point « The Scholarly Kitchen
"There are other important value metrics beyond the strength of a journal. This might come as a shock to some STEM publishers, who have flourished or floundered based on the performance of impact factor rankings published each June. While the value of the journal as a container is an important value metric and one that needs to continue, the rapidly evolving alternative metrics (altmetrics) movement is concerned with more than replacing traditional journal assessment metrics. Like much of life these days, a key focus of our community has been on those qualities that are measured to ensure one 'passes the test.' The coin of the realm in scholarly communications has been citations, in particular journal citations, and that is the primary metric against which scholarly output has been measured. Another 'coin' for scholarly monographs has been the imprimatur of the publisher of one’s book. Impact factor, which is based on citations, and overall publisher reputation provide the reading community signals of quality and vetting. They also provide a benchmark against which journals have been compared and, by extension, the content that comprise those titles... Given the overwhelming amount of potential content, journal and publisher brands provide useful quick filters surrounding quality, focus, interests, or bias. There is no doubt that these trust metrics will continue. But they are increasingly being questioned, especially in a world of expanding content forms, blogs, and social media. At the Charleston Conference last week, I had the opportunity to talk with fellow Scholarly Kitchen Chef,Joe Esposito about altmetrics and its potential role in our community. Joe made the point, with which I agree, that part of the motivation of some who are driving new forms of measurement is an interest in displacing the traditional metrics, i.e., the impact factor. Some elements of our industry are trying to break the monopoly that the impact factor has held on metrics in our community so that newer publications might more easily flourish. Perhaps the choice of the term 'altmetrics' to describe the movement implies the question, 'Alternative to what?' — which leads one back to the impact factor and its shortcomings. The impact factor is an imperfect measure, a point even Eugene Garfield acknowledges. The inherent problem with that focus is that it misses a key point of assessment about the actual impact of a particular piece of research (or ultimately its contributor) that is represented by one or more individual articles that may have been published in multiple journals. Our current metrics in scholarly publishing have been averages or proxies of impact across a collection (the journal), not the item itself, or the impact across the work of a particular scholar or particular research project. The container might be highly regarded, and the bar of entry might have been surpassed, but that doesn’t mean that any particular paper in a prestigious journal is significantly more valuable within its own context than another paper published in a less prestigious (i.e., lower impact factor) title. The fact that there are a growing number ofpapers that get rescinded is a signal of this even within the most highly regarded titles..."