Table 1

Comparison of impact factor, H-index and Altmetric

Impact factorH-indexAltmetric
Level of metricJournal levelAuthor levelArticle level
Calculation transparencyMethodology publishedMethodology publishedApproximate methodology published
ResponsivenessPublished yearly based on 2 years’ dataEffectively live—for example, will grow during an evening of social media exposure
Benefits to authors in selecting journal of submissionHelpful, recognised by universities and grant allocating bodiesNot helpfulNot helpful
Benefits to authors in describing attention generatedVery limited, very delayedHelpfulHighly responsive
Manipulation by editors and publishersOf course. You ‘just’ have to make sure that your denominator—citations—is high, and numerator—the papers that are citable—is low. There is a lot of guidance about citability—but if you think about the BMJ, the four or five major science articles are citable, the other content is notOf limited interest to editors and publishersOf course. You just have to create a media buzz about the paper. You craft a good press release, run multiple twitter accounts and other social media presence. You can add ‘value added’ content—for example, a twitter journal club
Manipulation by authorsLimited, but theoretically possibleTheoretically manipulable, but would take a lot of effortOf course. The author could create exactly the same media buzz described above
Scientific credibilityMiddling. Reproducible methodology, but time limited—so a slow burning, important paper will not contribute much to IFMiddlingLow. The algorithm is not published, but theoretically could be reverse engineered. Little link between Altmetric and scientific importance
Academic credibilityHigh. Forms an important part of the Research Excellence Framework in the UK, which is the way academia makes its strategic funding decisionsMedium to high. Becoming used in some academic areas to inform career progression decisions and so onLow but rising. Many would not be surprised to discover it included in future funding decisions