The graduate student who coined the term ‘altmetrics’ in a 2010 tweet has defined altmetrics as “the study and use of scholarly impact measures based on activity in online tools and environments” (Priem, 2012). The term is often used to describe any alternative, non-citation based measure of research impact, such as:
Number of times an article has been viewed or downloaded from a journal website, or database
Number of times an article has been exported to a citation manager
Number of times an article has been shared via email or on Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites
Mentions in the mainstream media
How are altmetrics different from traditional citation metrics?
Altmetrics are generated rapidly, as opposed to citations which take time to accumulate. Altmetrics capture data from a variety of sources, both within and beyond the scholarly community, versus traditional citations, which only capture information from published scholarly works. Altmetrics also recognize research products beyond the peer-reviewed journal article, such as data sets and code (Khodiyar, Rowlett and Lawrence, 2014).
Where can I find altmetrics?
Look for altmetrics when viewing an article on a journal’s website: Many publishers, such as PLoS, provide the number of times an article has been viewed, shared, saved or download from their site.
Look for an Altmetric score: Altmetric (http://www.altmetric.com/) monitors online activity for mentions of scholarly articles. The collected data is used to calculate an Altmetric score, a measure of the quality and quantity of attention that an article receives. A recent article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine describes how the Altmetric score is calculated, and the potential impact and limitations of this score.
Install the free Altmetric bookmarklet to get stats for an article you are reading online, or look for an Altmetric score when viewing articles on:
A journal’s website
JumboSearch: Copy and paste the title of an article into our library’s search tool, JumboSearch (http://tufts.summon.serialssolutions.com/). If an Altmetric score is available for the article, then you will see an icon below the abstract.
Scopus: Scopus is a database that indexes journal articles, conference proceedings and books from the sciences, social sciences, art and humanities. When viewing an article abstract in Scopus, look for the Metrics box in the right-hand column.
Impactstory: Impactstory (https://impactstory.org/) is a web-based tool that gathers metrics on research products (articles, data sets, etc.) from a variety of sources, including Facebook, Google+, Twitter and PubMed Central. Impactstory profiles display raw numbers as well as badges that indicate how a product has performed compared to similar products in the same discipline. Individuals with an ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) can create an Impactstory profile for free.
This two-part editorial by the Insight team seeks to open a discussion between faculty, students, postdocs and the school administration about whether the school is prepared for meeting the changes in the future of PhD holders. The first part will address the current available resources and the unmet needs of the students/postdocs, and will also explore some possible solutions. The second part, to be published in the next issue of the InSight, will carry the opinions of all parties involved collected through a survey and communication, which will serve as a stepping stone towards meaningful changes that will benefit us all.
Editors’ Note, 4/11/16, 1:30 pm – The article has been modified to include corrected information regarding the BEST award application by Sackler. Previously it had stated that Sackler had applied for the BEST award and was not awarded due to lack of proper infrastructure. However, after communicating with the Dean’s office, we have learned that Sackler had applied in conjunction with other Tufts graduate schools and it is speculated the application was not funded partly due to complex administrative structure and evaluation and dissemination plans. The changes are reflected in the article.
The Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) is a degree awarded to recognize original contributions to collective human knowledge. Thus, it is no surprise that the next step after getting a PhD is to join the bastions where such knowledge is curated and cultivated, i.e., to pursue an academic career. However, given the current structure of an academic job and the nature of academic tenure, a bottleneck in academic positions have taken firm root in the last years. According to Nature, the number of postdocs have jumped by 150% between 2000 and 2012 while the number of tenured or full time faculty positions in the US has either remained stagnant or fallen. While the debate on how to improve the lives of postdocs and other non-faculty PhD holders rages on and restructuring of federal funding for scientific research is ongoing, the increasing number of PhDs leaving the traditional path and venturing into other professions is readily apparent.
In recent years, the PhD degree has been developed as a marketable asset with a accompanied with a powerful skill set — the ability to think critically, solve problems and troubleshoot, be organized and detail-oriented. The idea that the skills required for obtaining a PhD are also recognized as required to be successful in any other profession, and is now being echoed by career counselors. While industry research positions were once spoken about in hushed voices before, these positions are now not only coveted, but other non-research jobs are also becoming more prominent in seminars and career advice panels for biomedical graduate students and postdocs.
This trend is also evident within the graduate student population here at Sackler School of Biomedical Graduate Sciences, where more than half the alumni have pursued non-academic careers. As the funding climate struggles to recover and academic positions become more scarce, the question arises of whether the existing model of career development for student and postdoctoral trainees is sufficient to ensure future success and achieving their goals. It is apparent that career development training outside of academia is required, but the support for this by the curriculum and administration at the Sackler School seems to lag behind our peer institutions, and even our colleagues on the Medford campus have access to the Tufts Career Center and the students in the Fletcher School have their own Career Services office.
Resources currently available for students at Sackler interested pursuing non-academic careers are mostly driven and organized by the students themselves. These student-led initiatives have produced a full roster of seminars and workshops focusing on such career options held nearly weekly between the Career Paths Committee of the Sackler Graduate Student Council (GSC) and the Tufts Biomedical Business Club (TBBC). These groups have become increasingly active over the past few years, with their efforts growing into independent events like the Tufts New England Case Competition (TUNECC), as well as collaborations with the Tufts Postdoctoral Association and student groups in the School of Medicine. Additionally, the Tufts Mentoring Circles group has provided students peer guidance and spaces to discuss such career options among themselves. Every student initiative listed here has sought more interactions with Sackler alumni, but the information to facilitate that exchange is not readily available. Student leaders at Sackler have expended great effort to build the career resources the student body needs, but these efforts are reaching the limit of what they can achieve and will only be short term and partial solutions without additional resources and support infrastructure. Some of this could be built by students, like shared repositories for maintaining records and thus institutional memory so energy is expended solving new problems instead of rehashing old ones. The most important piece, however, cannot be done by students alone: an accurate, current database of Sackler alumni and their occupations that is accessible and searchable.
We appreciate that the Dean’s Office has recently increased its support of these student efforts, but believe that more can be done. An increased contribution to co-sponsorship from partial funding of one or two events with the GSC annually to a series of three annual workshops and career panels over the past two academic years, and the interactions between a handful of students with Sackler alumni through the new “Day in the Life” program are good starting points. However, the student body and Sackler as an institution would derive greater benefit and return on an investment in career development and advising staff, similar to those available at the Fletcher School and the Medford campus, but scaled for Sackler. It would be mutually beneficial, as it works to the advantage of a school to have an engaged student body that will recognize and appreciate the school’s support in shaping their careers as alumni. Furthermore, this infrastructure could be a common point for alumni to rely upon and connect with students and each other.
The lack of formal career development resources at Sackler has been identified by peer reviewers as an area for improvement, and puts us at a competitive disadvantage for student recruitment and securing grant funding. Prospective students actively seek graduate programs that provide career development, and among the recommendations made by the review committee for the newly-merged CMDB program were formal non-academic career training options and an expansion of extramural internships through the alumni network and faculty connections. Funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) evaluate grant applications on this aspect of graduate training as well. For example, F31 grant applications to support graduate students require descriptions of career training and development; the proposed changes will essentially strengthen the Sackler students’ applications and may increase the number of extramurally funded students, alleviating the pressure on the school. A more recent example includes the NIH Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) awards, a funding opportunity established in 2013 in response to the state of the biomedical workforce and to prepare trainees for diverse career paths that utilize their PhD training. Boston University received a BEST award in 2014 for its biomedical research programs in part because of its existing career development and support infrastructure. It should be noted that Sackler, along with other graduate schools at Tufts, had applied for the BEST award. While the reviewers had found the application to be strong in certain areas and to have “potential for high impact”, they also noted weaknesses that included “complex administrative structure and the evaluation and dissemination plans”, which could partly be responsible for the award not being funded (source – email communication with Sackler Dean’s office). These issues can be addressed with the establishment of the proposed infrastructure development and can further strengthen such grant applications in the future.
The faculty mentor plays an important role in shaping a mentee’s future career — the mentor’s support and guidance are essential for the mentee’s career development. While Sackler faculty are generally supportive of students and postdocs, it is critical for them to come forward and actively support mentees’ who choose to pursue careers outside of academia and research. The Greater Boston area is known as a hub for biotechnology research and business, with companies specializing in everything from drug development to consulting. Many recent and local alumni maintain a connection to Tufts through their faculty mentors absent a career development office at Sackler, and both students and postdocs would greatly benefit if the faculty mentors shared these connections, and offered guidance and support on leaving academia.
The current funding climate and the stagnation of academic positions, along with the burgeoning postdoc crisis, amount to conditions favorable for a paradigm shift. We cannot just keep focusing on the academic jobs traditionally held by PhDs. In order to better adapt to this changing landscape of post-doctoral work, the students, postdocs, faculty, and administration need to work together to bring about improvements to the environment at Sackler, specifically:
Developing an accessible, searchable, up-to-date database of Sackler alumni that can be used by students, postdocs and faculty looking for career advice and connections.
Faculty support in the form of guidance and connections in developing non-academic careers.
Career development support staff for students from the Tufts and Sackler administration, so as to cultivate an engaged alumni population.
Comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this editorial can be left on either the InSight blog or via this online form: Anonymous feedback form: http://goo.gl/forms/PXEfcLfgeX
A survey to collect more detailed data from the student body will be conducted by the Sackler GSC in the coming weeks.
At some point in your career, you will be asked to demonstrate the impact of your work. You may be asked to do this for a grant application, progress report or renewal, or on a CV for a job application, promotion, tenure or performance review. Traditionally, this has meant providing a list of publications you have authored, and perhaps the number of citations that those publications have received. Alternative methods of demonstrating research impact will be discussed in a later post.
How can I create a list of publications that I have authored?
You can do an author search in any bibliographic database, such as PubMed (see this month’s PubMed tip), Web of Science, or Scopus. It may be necessary to search more than one database to generate a complete list. Once you have run the search, you can save the results within the database (for example, send results to the My Bibliography section of My NCBI in PubMed) or export them to a citation manager.
Where can I find how many times my articles have been cited?
Several databases provide the number of times an article has been cited. Traditionally, Web of Science has been used to obtain citations counts; recently, Scopus and Google Scholar have emerged as alternatives to Web of Science. Each resource provides a different citation count because each indexes (or, in the case of Google Scholar searches) a different set of journals over a different period of time. Web of Science remains the best choice for authors with a long publishing history because Scopus indexes articles published from 1996 to the present (although older content is being added). Google Scholar is a moving target because it “generally reflects the state of the web as it is currently visible to our search robots and the majority of users” (https://scholar.google.com/intl/us/scholar/citations.html – citations). Regardless of the source that you choose, it is important to always cite that source.
How can I create a citation report in Web of Science or Scopus?
A Web of Science or Scopus citation report provides aggregate statistics for a set of search results. See the library’s ‘Measuring your Research Impact’ guide for step-by-step instructions on generating a citation report in Web of Science and Scopus.
What is the h-index?
You may have heard of, or noticed on your citation report, a metric called the h-index. The h-index is the number of papers (h) in a set of results that have received h or more citations. For example, an author with an h-index of 10 has 10 articles that have each received 10 or more citations. This metric is an attempt to measure both quantity (number of publications) and quality (number of citations). Therefore, it is considered a measure of the cumulative impact of an author’s work. For a recent discussion of the h-index and other measures of academic impact, see Anne-Wil Harzing’s ‘Reflections on the h-index’: http://www.harzing.com/publications/white-papers/reflections-on-the-h-index.
Versatile PhD, a tool for graduate students to explore non-academic careers, began as a listserv while Founder and CEO Paula Chambers was finishing her dissertation at Ohio State University. Her goal was to create a safe space where PhD students could discuss non-academic career options without feeling pressured to go into academia. From this original idea, the company has blossomed into an active resource where PhD’s from all backgrounds can come together in a supportive environment to learn, discuss, and network based on their interest.
While most of the website content is unavailable without a subscription, the website still has much to offer for those beginning to explore career options outside of academia. The PhD Career Finder lists many career opportunities available to STEM and Humanities PhD’s with information about what the career entails, how to advance, what background is best suited for the career, and how best to prepare yourself and your resume for following that path. It is an excellent resource for those who are interested in exploring what their future options are.
Additionally, with a paid subscription you gain access to resumes and cover letters and narratives from of the hiring process from real PhDs. You can post questions to any of the Forums, and network with members within the Versatile PhD network. While Versatile PhD is a national business, they also run regional meetups, where you can network in person.
March’s Notes from the North article is written by guest writer Spencer Scott, a current member of the Liaw Lab at MMCRI and recent transplant to the field of molecular medicine. He worked for seven years in New York as a producer for NPR, CNN, and ABC and is now a pre-med post-baccalaureate studying Biochemistry at the University of Southern Maine. Spencer will be applying to M.D. programs this spring.
CNN cameraman Spencer Scott reporting on the blackout in Manhattan following Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Tom McCarthey’s brilliant film Spotlight took best picture at the Oscars this year. In an age when news has become synonymous with 24-hour cable networks plastered with pundits and steadily declining newspaper readerships, Spotlight is an important homage to the important role of real journalism in American society. For over seven years I worked as an aspiring producer for outlets including NPR, CNN, and ABC. While I would never dream of comparing my young career to the work of the incredible reporters at the Globe’s investigative unit, there is still a common aspiration amongst all those who enter the field. As their name, “Spotlight,” implies, we wish to shine light where there once was darkness, to illuminate the unknown for the betterment of our society.
A little more than a year ago, I left the craft to which I had thought I would devote my life. I spent the final four months of my career in television news shooting a medical documentary series for ABC in three of Boston’s Level I trauma centers. It was there in those halls that I finally decided to follow in the foot steps of my mother, father, and brother, and pursue medicine. I left my work in television and returned to my home state to begin a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program at University of Southern Maine, which I will finish in May.
It may seem odd that the child of an orthopedic surgeon and emergency room physician grew up shying, if not flat out running, away from the sciences. I still struggle to answer that for myself. But the only answer I can give is that I didn’t think my mind was wired in that way. I loved history and language and stories, and when I thought I could help people by telling their stories, I believed I’d found my calling. I sold my first story to NPR when I was seventeen, an interview with an Iraq war veteran, only three years older than I was. He had nearly lost his life in an IED explosion in Fallujah, the shrapnel of which had torn through his throat, rendering his voice a quiet rasp. Because of my reporting, millions of “All Things Considered” listeners heard Cpl. Chris Kotch tell his story. It was a feeling that inspired the pursuits of the next decade of my life.
In fact, after all of my years working in the field, I’m still proudest of the reporting I did when I was just a kid in high school. None of the stories I told in my professional career carried the weight that my earliest, self-directed work did. Working for big networks, the feeling that you had helped someone share something vital, that you had illuminated what was once shrouded in darkness, became rare, especially for a young producer. But in Boston, as I watched the doctors in my camera’s viewfinder treating their patients I saw something so exhilarating. It may sound cliché, or like a line from “We Are the World,” but I saw people helping people, through my lens and live before my eyes. I do not mean to discount the importance of journalism, I believe steadfastly in the critical role it plays in our society. But for me, witnessing those human connections made walking away from the field easy. I knew my place lay on the other side of the lens where the help was delivered every day directly and in real time.
Back in Maine, I threw myself headlong into my studies. When I walked into my first class at USM (BIO 105 Cell & Molecular Biology) I didn’t yet know if I had a mind for science, but I was willing to do whatever it took. Fortunately, I soon learned that in academia, you can do whatever you set your mind to, as long as you are willing to put in the work and the passion is genuine. Finding science has been the most fulfilling and gratifying experience of my life and I have been rewarded for the work I’ve put into it. When I started my program a little over a year ago, I never could have dreamed that I would be interning at a place like Maine Medical Center Research Institute, involved in the incredible work its investigators perform every day. In one sense, my work at the Institute is the farthest I have yet strayed from the newsroom. Whether it is furiously scribbling down names of promoters or genes or antibodies to google, or looking at slides of fluoresced cells and western blots, every Monday lab meeting reminds me that I am not in Kansas anymore. But in another sense, the work of the researchers at MMCRI is akin to that original creed of the aspirant journalist. Science and research, like journalism, work to shed light where there once was darkness. Both disciplines endeavor to peer into the unknown and learn what lies within. Whether it be learning the struggle of an American veteran who can no longer sleep through the night, or learning the process by which the notch signaling pathway impacts the function of endothelial cells in vasculature, science and journalism share the understanding that we are all better off for knowing.