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A Farewell to ALM, but not to article-level metrics!

Author: Chris Haumesser, Director of Platform and Engineering at PLOS

Understanding the impact of research is of vital importance to science. The altmetrics  movement is defined by its belief that research impact is best measured by diverse real time data about how a research artifact is being used and discussed. These metrics serve as “alternatives” to solely relying  on traditional shorthand assessments like citation counts and Journal Impact Factor. 

PLOS was an early adopter and advocate of these metrics, with its internally-developed Article Level Metrics (ALM) platform among the earliest implementations to launch in 2009. By displaying data from multiple sources, PLOS ALM showed how an article was being read, downloaded, cited, discussed and shared, accessible from the article itself by anyone.

In its decade of service to the PLOS community, ALM has helped blaze a trail for others to follow. Today altmetrics are so commonly taken for granted that the “alternative” moniker seems anachronistic – the ubiquity of these metrics a testament to the return on our investment in ALM.

In fact, the altmetrics movement has been so successful that it has spawned a market of providers who specialize in collecting and curating metrics and metadata about how research outputs are used and discussed. 

One of these services, in particular, has far outpaced the reach and capabilities of ALM, and PLOS is now excited to pass the baton of our altmetrics operations to the experts at Altmetric.

Given the historical significance of ALM, it’s not an easy decision to say goodbye. But PLOS is as committed as ever to providing our community with the best possible data about how their research is changing the world. Altmetric’s singular focus on research metrics positions them to deliver on this promise with a breadth and depth that PLOS simply can’t match as an organization with competing priorities.

Partnering with Altmetric will unlock data from many sources beyond ALM that were previously untracked. After an extensive analysis, PLOS is confident that Altmetric will provide increased coverage across the board for the vast majority of papers in our corpus. 

Beginning today, the data displayed on the “Metrics” tab of our published articles will all come from Altmetric, and the “Media Coverage” tab of our published articles will link to Altmetric’s media coverage. Each article will also have a link to an Altmetric details page, which displays extensive detailed metrics for the article. 

As part of this transition, authors may see their metrics change due to the change in data provider. We expect authors to see some metrics increase due to Altmetric’s increased coverage and new sources. However, we are retiring some areas of our metrics provision entirely. Unfortunately, our articles will no longer display PMC usage counts, as these were aggregated by ALM and will no longer be available. We will also be removing recent tweets from articles and retiring the ALM Reports service.

Moving forward we will continue to evaluate the presentation of metrics on our articles and look for ways to integrate even more relevant data from Altmetric into our user experience.

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