Beyond Citation Rates: A Real-Time Impact Analysis of Health Professions Education Research Using Altmetrics

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Abstract

Purpose

To complement traditional citation-based metrics, which take years to accrue and indicate only academic attention, academia has begun considering altmetrics or alternative metrics, which provide timely feedback on an article’s impact by tracking its dissemination via nontraditional outlets, such as blogs and social media, across audiences. This article describes altmetrics and examines altmetrics attention, outlets used, and top article characteristics for health professions education (HPE) research.

Method

Using Altmetric Explorer, a tool to search altmetrics activity, the authors searched for HPE articles that had at least one altmetrics event (e.g., an article was tweeted or featured in a news story) between 2011 and 2015. Retrieved articles were analyzed using descriptive statistics. In addition, the 10 articles with the highest Altmetric Attention Scores were identified and their key characteristics extracted.

Results

The authors analyzed 6,265 articles with at least one altmetrics event from 13 journals. Articles appeared in 14 altmetrics outlets. Mendeley (161,470 saves), Twitter (37,537 tweets), and Facebook (1,650 posts) were most popular. The number of HPE articles with altmetrics attention increased 145%, from 539 published in 2011 to 1,321 in 2015. In 2015, 50% or more of the articles in 5 journals received altmetrics attention. Themes for articles with the most altmetrics attention included social media or social networking; three such articles were written as tips or guides.

Conclusions

Increasing altmetrics attention signals interest in HPE research and the need for further investigation. Knowledge of popular and underused outlets may help investigators strategically share research for broader dissemination.

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