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Understanding the significance of a piece of scholarly work is a complicated process. Most commonly, readers rely on the reputation of the publisher or the journal as an indicator of the quality of a specific publication. The current debate about the use of Impact Factors as a marker of quality, however, has revealed flaws in these assumptions – particularly with regard to the variation in “value” of particular articles within a single journal. Frustration with the current approach to assessing value has led to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, calling for new measures that are specific to the article, not the journal. This shift toward the article reveals a growing recognition within the scholarly community that true value resides in the research itself, not in the publisher’s brand.

Article Level Metrics (ALM)

ALM assumes that a journal’s Impact Factor reflects perceived value of a journal as a whole rather than any particular article in that journal. The most straightforward implementation of ALM is the calculation of the number of views and downloads of an article for a given period. These metrics might also list the number of citations for a particular article.


AltMetrics and ALM are often confused because they both represent the effort to find new and more precise ways of identifying a single publication’s impact. AltMetrics, however, is a widespread initiative to look beyond download and formal citation rates and discover where, how and by whom a given article is being used. Currently those efforts are focused on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, but the general philosophy transcends any particular medium.

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