Here’s a new overview article (preprint) recently posted by the author to arXiv.
Division for Science and Innovation Studies, Max Planck Society
Today, it is not clear how the impact of research on other areas of society than science should be measured. While peer review and bibliometrics have become standard methods for measuring the impact of research in science, there is not yet an accepted framework within which to measure societal impact. Alternative metrics (called altmetrics to distinguish them from bibliometrics) are considered an interesting option for assessing the societal impact of research, as they offer new ways to measure (public) engagement with research output.
Altmetrics is a term to describe web-based metrics for the impact of publications and other scholarly material by using data from social media platforms (e.g. Twitter or Mendeley). This overview of studies explores the potential of altmetrics for measuring societal impact. It deals with the definition and classification of altmetrics. Furthermore, their benefits and disadvantages for measuring impact are discussed.
Direct to Full Text Article (23 pages; PDF)
UPDATE Lutz Bornmann has also posted this preprint to arXiv:
Can altmetric data be validly used for the measurement of societal impact? The current study seeks to answer this question with a comprehensive dataset (about 100,000 records) from very disparate sources (F1000, Altmetric, and an in-house database based on Web of Science).
In the F1000 peer review system, experts attach particular tags to scientific papers which indicate whether a paper could be of interest for science or rather for other segments of society. The results show that papers with the tag “good for teaching” do achieve higher altmetric counts than papers without this tag – if the quality of the papers is controlled. At the same time, a higher citation count is shown especially by papers with a tag that is specifically scientifically oriented (“new finding”). The findings indicate that papers tailored for a readership outside the area of research should lead to societal impact.
If altmetric data is to be used for the measurement of societal impact, the question arises of its normalization. In bibliometrics, citations are normalized for the papers’ subject area and publication year. This study has taken a second analytic step involving a possible normalization of altmetric data. As the results show there are particular scientific topics which are of especial interest for a wide audience. Since these more or less interesting topics are not completely reflected in Thomson Reuters’ journal sets, a normalization of altmetric data should not be based on the level of subject categories, but on the level of topics.