May 19, 2022

Conference Paper: “Altmetrics in Social Sciences and Humanities: Possibilities, Challenges, and Experiences”

The following paper will be presented at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2016 taking place August 3-19, 2016 in Columbus, OH.


Altmetrics in Social Sciences and Humanities: Possibilities, Challenges, and Experiences


Johanna Lahikainen
University of Helsinki



This paper discusses altmetrics and describes the results of Helsinki University Library’s altmetrics pilot using the PlumX software by EBSCO.

The term ‘altmetrics’ comes from ‘alternative metrics’ and it has been offered as an alternative to or rather extending traditional bibliometrics. Scholars and other representatives in the sciences worldwide have found traditional bibliometrics and research assessment increasingly problematic. Journal impact factors, commonly used in research evaluation, do not tell us anything about the quality of a single article in a journal, only of the impact and reputation of the journal in question. Moreover, bibliometric tools are not always used in a transparent nor research field appropriate way, as they should.

Altmetrics focuses on the publication itself, not the journal or publisher. Citations take time to build, but altmetrics shows current discussion and societal and economic engagement. It tells us how the publication is discussed and liked in social media and other online services, for instance blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Mendeley, etc.

In Helsinki University Library’s altmetrics pilot with PlumX (EBSCO) in 2015, we found that altmetrics tools often work better in fields such as medicine and natural sciences. Because many subjects important to social sciences and humanities are local and publications are written in local languages, not in English, the tools fail to serve social sciences and humanities as well as medicine and natural sciences.

Academic libraries should take part in developing and using altmetrics tools in collaboration with other libraries and researchers. As always, it is important that research field differences must be taken into account.

Direct to Full Text Paper (13 pages; PDF)

See Also: Another Paper About Altmetrics Paper Being Presented at IFLA 2016…

“Can We Use Altmetrics at the Institutional Level? A Case Study Analysing the Coverage by Research Areas of Four Spanish Universities”

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.