Posted on behalf of Jean LiuImagine this: you’ve had a clinical research article published in a prominent medical journal, and you want to get the word out online. You post about your article on social media, then watch for any blog and media attention, scholarly citations, or references in public policy.
On the way to public engagement, scholarly influence, or policy impact, there are many useful signals and indicators to track. Since 2012, Altmetric has been collecting many of these possible signals of impact for journal articles. But can such services be extended to uncover the routes to impact for academic books?
Measuring and reporting on the impact of books can be a challenge. So the possibility of obtaining more data, such as any online mentions of books in news, public policy, social media and other sources, is an exciting prospect. This is an avenue we are currently exploring at Altmetric, and as part of a fruitful collaboration with Springer (who have now merged with our sister company, Macmillan Science & Education), we recently developed an innovative book-level metrics platform, Bookmetrix.
Launched last month, the pilot of Bookmetrix provides a comprehensive view of the citations, online mentions (including all sources tracked by Altmetric), reference manager readers, downloads, and reviews of Springer’s impressive output of over 194,000 academic books. That encompasses disciplines from science, engineering, and mathematics to the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Every Springer book in the database has its own free, public-facing Bookmetrix details page, featuring any available metrics, raw data and visualisations for an individual Springer book or chapter.
Those who will benefit the most from the Bookmetrix platform are Springer authors, who can, for the first time, monitor reader usage and engagement with their books and chapters immediately following publication. And along with universities and funding bodies, authors can potentially use Bookmetrix data within internal or external impact reporting. The Bookmetrix details pages help authors get credit for their work, and could be especially useful for researchers who publish mostly in book form, such as those working in the arts and humanities.
For publishers, the ability to view, compare and analyse various metrics for books in one place is also highly beneficial. A commissioning editor could identify books with particularly high numbers of online mentions, downloads, or citations, then infer whether there is a “trending” topic that deserves further exploration in a new book. “We need to be able to show authors and readers exactly how well our books and chapters have performed,” an editor told me during one of our user research focus groups.
Of course, how well a book has performed can be measured in many different ways. Bookmetrix isn’t the first comprehensive book database by any means – other innovative products, such as Thomson Reuters’ Book Citation Index or Nielsen BookScan have been useful in providing detailed citation data and retail sales figures, respectively. Even though Bookmetrix currently only shows data for Springer books, it is the first product of its kind to aggregate online mentions as well as various performance indicators, including downloads and citations.
There’s still much more to be done to expand new book-level metrics such as those seen in Bookmetrix, and it will be important to demonstrate their value to the wider scholarly community. At Altmetric, we are developing more advanced functionality around the tracking of online attention for books. The continued growth of book-level metrics will be a boon for research disciplines that primarily publish in book form, as these authors will finally have more powerful ways to trace the routes to impact of their works through the web and beyond.
Jean Liu is product development manager at Altmetric.
For Nature’s full coverage of science in culture, visit www.nature.com/news/booksandarts.