Discovering research influence and trends in radiation oncology using alternative metrics

By Dawit Tegbaru, Managing Editor, Practical Radiation Oncology and Advances in Radiation Oncology

It’s no secret, the information age has enabled broad access to rich scientific content. Today, vast amounts of knowledge generates and disseminates across various platforms. Owing to evolving needs and technology, information cycles to and from consumers, with multiplying force. Enter the age of big data. With greater access to information, it’s become increasingly difficult for researchers to quickly glean important developments in their fields of interest and build a knowledge base without first employing analytics-based tools and strategies.

Priem et al. highlighted the overconsumption challenge in Altmetrics: A Manifesto, stating that no one can read everything; people depend on filters. Consequently, stewards of scholarly publishing have taken a multi-role mentality of curating peer-reviewed literature and providing tools that aid discovery and measure impact, i.e., alternative metrics. Our very own Editor-in-Chief of Practical Radiation Oncology, W. Robert Lee, MD, MS, MEd, recently shared views on this in Scholarly Publishing and the Metric System. While alternative metrics or “altmetrics” have become a standard feature in publishing, it’s important for the community of RadOnc researchers to be knowledgeable about their existence and applications.
What are Altmetrics? 
Alternative metrics (altmetrics) represent evolutionary thinking when it comes to measuring the impact of scholarly materials. Traditionally, citations served as the primary indicator of impact. While citations still play an essential role in determining long-term impact, they cannot sufficiently measure or keep pace with the increasingly diverse types of research output that scholars, practitioners and society-at-large interact with electronically on a daily basis. Altmetrics have become the big data analytics tool that aid the discovery process, and shed light on reach, impact and engagement in near-real-time.
Altmetrics provide alternative views of impact by synthesizing big data, connecting scholarly output with various digital signals of engagement. ASTRO's journals are using altmetrics to track articles. Read on for how these journal articles are tracked and learn strategies on how to leverage the various metrics that are publicly available.
Intuitive learning: How readers engage with ASTRO journal articles  
Articles published in ASTRO's journals are tracked and grouped by the categories listed below:
  • Usage (clicks, downloads, views, library holdings)
  • Captures (bookmarks, favorites, readers)
  • Mentions (blog posts, Wikipedia links, news media)
  • Social Media (likes, shares, tweets)
  • Citations (citation indexes, patent citations, clinical citations, policy citations)
To access altmetrics for International Journal of Radiation Oncology•Biology•Physics (Red Journal)Practical Radiation Oncology or Advances in Radiation Oncology, simply go to their respective homepages and click the PlumX Metrics widget (Figure 1). You will see a high-level view of articles receiving social media buzz (Figure 2).  

Figure 1. PlumX Metrics widget available via the Practical Radiation Oncology homepage. Accessed July 11, 2018.
Figure 2. PRO’s Top Social Media Articles. Accessed July 11, 2018.
Alternatively, go to an individual article (full-text) webpage and click the PlumX Metrics icon that appears underneath the title and author lists. An example is shown in Figure 3 below. ​

screen shot of full-text article showing PlumX metrics icon
Figure 3. Screenshot of a full-text article showing the PlumX Metrics icon. Accessed on July 11, 2018.

When the PlumX icon is clicked at the article level, an activity summary page loads featuring options, showing data sources and illustrations of communities that are interacting with the research (Figure 4). For example, one can explore tweets, news articles, citations, etc.


Figure 4. PlumX article activity summary page. Accessed July 11, 2018.
Strategies: Leverage insights and promote your research
Members and affiliates of the radiation oncology community are encouraged to keep up with trending research using the PlumX metrics feature provided via ASTRO journals. One way of doing so is to regularly check the top social media articles lists. Members are also encouraged to think innovatively about gleaning insights at the article level to stimulate current research and identify potential opportunities for future research, collaboration and/or funding. Becoming more familiar with these near-real-time metrics can assist with identifying past and present trends and demonstrating research impact.
Our journals provide powerful tools enabling scholars to track the performance of their published research. We encourage you to use these metrics and insights to strengthen connections with the scientific community. Become more active on social media by sharing articles with your professional networks. When preparing a new manuscript, ensure it is search engine optimized. For more tips on preparing and promoting your research read: How to improve the impact of your paper.
Did you know? 
When publishing a paper in an ASTRO journal, authors are given a Share Link, granting anyone free access for 50 days (from the date of publication). Are you ready to promote via social media and want to arrange joint social media promotion? If so, reach out to the editorial team at redjournal@astro.orgpro@astro.org or advances@astro.org.  
As the field of radiation oncology grows and novel therapies emerge, non-traditional metrics such as clinical, patent and policy citation metrics will grow in importance. We’re hoping to help raise ASTRO member awareness. Tell us what you think by commenting below or contacting Dawit Tegbaru at dawit.tegbru@astro.org.

Dawit Tegbaru is ASTRO’s Managing Editor for Practical Radiation Oncology and Advances in Radiation Oncology. 
Posted: July 23, 2018 | with 0 comments

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