Bibliometrics explore certain descriptive characteristics of research publications, the impact of these publications on the research community, and the collaboration patterns that result when researchers publish together.
Bibliometrics derive from the systematic study of research outputs. 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.
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, mentions, and activity around research outputs.
Altmetrics are much newer than bibliometrics. In fact, the term was only coined in 2010! As their name suggests, altmetrics are alternative metrics. They can be 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.