Bibliometrics, Altmetrics, and the Measurement of Research

Research metrics play an increasingly significant role in HE, whether in the context of the REF, research funding, academic recruitment, or development of research strategy. Click on the metrics-related topics below to find out more.

What are...?


Bibliometrics explore the characteristics and impact of publications.

Bibliometrics derive from the systematic study of research publications. Most often—but not exclusively—quantitative approaches are used.   

By looking at publication metadata, links between publications, and even the publication texts themselves, we can extract information about the characteristics and potential impact of a set of publications. Brought together, this information forms a bibliometric profile: a combination of measures, indicators, charts, and network diagrams.  

The aim of bibliometrics is to offer multiple, different perspectives on a set of publications. Which journals appear frequently? What do the collaboration patterns between authors look like? To what extent has the work been cited and by whom? Such insight is multifaceted. As such, bibliometrics should never be about just one number or indicator!

Used in combination with peer review and other expert knowledge, bibliometric profiles can contribute in many ways to research strategy, especially locally at the research group or departmental level.

For more, see our introductory guide to Bibliometrics for Researchers:

A Quick Introduction to Bibliometrics for Researchers (194.67KB - Requires Adobe Reader)

Altmetrics capture information about online dissemination and activity.

Altmetrics are much newer than bibliometrics.   In fact, the term was only coined in 2010!  As their name suggests, altmetrics are alternative metrics.  They are used in addition to - or in some cases, instead of - bibliometrics.

Altmetrics focus on resources and data that exist specifically in or because of the online environment.  Alternative resources include blogs, tweets, and online datasets and software, as well as many other types of material.  Alternative data are the data we can collect about online activity related to these resources, for example, the number of views, retweets, shares, or downloads.  

Like bibliometrics, altmetrics aim to provide quantitative information.  At present, though, the quantitative approaches used in altmetrics are still far from systematic.  Fortunately, as well as numbers, many altmetrics include a lot of narrative detail.  In practice, you may find this qualitative information is the most useful.

For more, read this blog post about altmetrics:

Altmetrics Blog Post (40.09KB - Requires Adobe Reader)
Research Metrics

Research metrics measure research and its practice.

Research metrics is an umbrella term that covers bibliometrics and altmetrics as well as many other ways of measuring research and its practice.  

It is important to recognise that bibliometrics and altmetrics focus only on publication and related forms of dissemination.  So, if you want to measure other aspects of research such as income gained from grants or the number of active researchers at an institution, you will need metrics beyond bibliometrics and altmetrics.

Much as big data now plays a role in the commercial sector, the availability of large datasets and better computing power has lead to a growth in the use of research metrics in Higher Education, a trend that looks set to continue.  Used responsibly, research metrics can offer a lot to our sector, including valuable strategic insight and new perspectives.

For a good overview on the responsible use of research metrics, watch this short video outlining the Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics.

Citation Indices

Citation indices supply the data that underlie bibliometrics.

Citation indices act as the data universes for bibliometric studies.  There are two subscription citation indices:  Thomson Reuters' Web of Science (which is part of the larger Web of Knowledge) and Elsevier's Scopus.  Web of Science has been around in one form or another for decades. Scopus is much newer, starting up only in 2004. Both Web of Science and Scopus are accessible through the library at Surrey.

Google Scholar can be considered the third citation index, but it is not used formally in bibliometrics for several reasons:  

  • inaccuracies and redundancy of records
  • computer- rather than human-indexing, which results in significant issues with quality control
  • offers no means to normalise bibliometric results to account fairly for differences in publication year, document type, and subject area.

SciVal provides easy access to bibliometric profiles.

SciVal is a subscription bibliometrics tool that uses data from Scopus.  On campus access is available at to all staff with a Surrey email address.  See our guide, Introduction to SciVal for Researchers, for step by step information on registering with and getting started in SciVal

A Quick Introduction to SciVal for Researchers (418.21KB - Requires Adobe Reader)

 In SciVal, you can explore your own bibliometric profile and that of Surrey, as well as profiles for researchers and institutions world-wide.  Additionally, you can explore bibliometrics by subject area or for a bespoke set of publications.

Throughout the academic year, we offer hands on SciVal workshops aimed at researchers and academics.  You can register to attend these through the Staff Learning & Development web pages on SurreyNet.

Altmetric Aggregators

Altmetric aggregators pull online information together in one place.

Altmetric aggregators such as and attempt to bring together information from a multitude of online data worlds, such as Twitter, Facebook, ResearchGate, GitHub, FigShare, etc, in one place.  This is helpful because, unlike bibliometrics, altmetrics don't derive merely from one or two citation indices.

Coverage by the main altmetric  aggregators is usually plentiful enough for most purposes, but it is important to remember that many alternative resources and data will still be left out, especially given how quickly the online environment changes and develops.  Alongside using the aggregators, it is always worth exploring altmetrics for the online data worlds that are most relevant to your specific area of research.

If you are interested in a more detailed overview of bibliometrics and altmetrics, we offer a brief information session on What You Need to Know aimed specifically at researchers and academics working in today's HE context. Sign up is via the Staff Learning & Development web pages on SurreyNet.

Help with SciVal

For SciVal login, access or account problems, please contact

Access to SciVal is only available on campus.

Register with and access SciVal at

Your username must be your Surrey email address

For help getting started in SciVal see our bibliometrics guides above.

Hands on SciVal Training is available through Staff Learning and Development

To request your individual SciVal researcher profile, please email

Attend a Workshop

To search for and sign up for training in bibliometrics, altmetrics, or SciVal visit Staff Learning and Development

Three courses are available during the 2015-16 academic year:

For problems with course registration, please contact Staff Development

For questions about course content, please email Surrey Research Insight

Scopus and Web of Science

Scopus and Web of Science are available through the Library.

If off-campus, you will need to use your Institutional Login.

For login or access problems, please contact

For help with searching Scopus or Web of Science, please contact your Faculty Engagement Librarian:

Contact the Bibliometrics Advisor

We regularly undertake bespoke bibliometric studies for faculties, departments, and research groups.  Please be aware that we do not undertake studies for individual academics and researchers. If you would like to explore your own bibliometrics profile, then please request your SciVal profile.

To discuss a bespoke study or for help with bibliometric enquires not covered on these pages, please contact the Bibliometrics Advisor, Dr Abigail McBirnie.

Where we are

University Library, George Edwards Building,  University of Surrey,  Guildford,  Surrey GU2 7XH,  United Kingdom T: +44 (0)1483 689235 F: +44 (0)1483 689500

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