Top 5 altmetrics trends to watch in 2014

Last year was an exciting one for altmetrics. But it’s history. We were recently asked: what’s 2014 going to look like? So, without further ado, here are our top 5 trends to watch:

Openness: This is just part of a larger trend toward open science–something altmetrics is increasingly (and aptly) identified with. In 2013, it became more clear than ever before that we’re winning the fight for universal OA. Since metrics are qualitatively more valuable when we verify, share, remix, and build on them, we see continued progress toward making both  traditional and novel metrics more open. But closedness still offers quick monetization, and so we’ll see continued tension here.

Acquisitions by the old guard: Last year saw the big players start to move in the altmetrics space, with EBSCO getting Plum Analytics, and Elsevier grabbing Mendeley. In 2014 we’ll likely see more high-profile altmetrics acquisitions, as established megacorps attempt to hedge their bets against industry-destabilizing change.  We’re not against this, per se; it’s a sign that altmetrics are quickly coming of age. But we also think it underscores the importance of having a nonprofit, scientist-run altmetrics provider, too.

More complex modelling: Lots of money got invested in altmetrics in 2013. This year it’ll get spent, largely on improving the descriptive power of altmetrics tools. We’ll see more network-awareness (who tweeted or cited your paper? how authoritative are they?), more context mining (is your work cited from methods or discussion sections?), more visualization (show me a picture of all my impacts this month), more digestion (are there three or four dimensions that can represent my “scientific personality?”), more composite indices (maybe high Mendeley plus low Facebook is likely to be cited later, but high on both not so much). The low-hanging altmetrics fruit–thing like simply counting tweets–are increasingly plucked. In 2014 we’ll see the beginning of what comes next.

Growing interest from administrators and funders: We gave multiple invited talks at the NSF, NIH, and White House this year to folks highly placed in the research funding ecosystem. These leaders are keenly aware of the shortcomings of traditional impact assessment, and eager to supplement it with new data. Administrators too want to tell more meaningful, textured stories about faculty impact. So in 2014, we’ll see several grant, hiring, and T&P guidelines suggest applicants include altmetrics when relevant.

Empowered scientists: But this interest from the scholarly communications superstructure is tricky. Historically, metrics of scholarly impact have often been wielded as technologies of control: reductionist, Taylorist management tools. There’s been concern that more metrics will only tighten this control. That’s not misplaced. But nor is it the only story: we believe 2014 will also see the emergence of the opposite trend. As scientists use tools like Impactstory to gather, analyze, and share their own stories, comprehensive metrics become a way for them to articulate more textured, honest narratives of impact in decisive, authoritative terms. Altmetrics will give scientists growing opportunities to show they’re more than their h-indices.

And there you have it, our top five altmetrics trends for 2014. Are we missing any? Let us know in the comments!