Could the altmetrics wave bring a flood of confusion for anatomists?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Anatomical sciences education




academics; altmetrics; scholarly impact; social media


Altmetrics are non-traditional metrics that can capture downloads, social media shares, and other modern measures of research impact and reach. Despite most of the altmetrics literature focusing on evaluating the relationship between research outputs and academic impact/influence, the perceived and actual value of altmetrics among academicians remains nebulous and inconsistent. This work proposes that ambiguities surrounding the value and use of altmetrics may be explained by a multiplicity of altmetrics definitions communicated by journal publishers. A root cause analysis was initiated to compare altmetrics definitions between anatomy and medical education journal publishers' websites and to determine the comparability of the measurement and platform sources used for computing altmetrics values. A scoping content analysis of data from across eight publishers' websites revealed wide variability in definitions and heterogeneity among altmetrics measurement sources. The incongruencies among publishers' altmetrics definitions and their value demonstrate that publishers may be one of the root cause of ambiguity perpetuating confusion around the value and use of altmetrics. This review highlights the need to more deeply explore the root causes of altmetrics ambiguities within academia and makes a compelling argument for establishing a ubiquitous altmetrics definition that is concise, clear, and specific.


Anatomy and Regenerative Biology