At the end of September, the conference “1:AM Altmetrics” (http://www.altmetricsconference.com) was held at the premises of the Wellcome trust in London, UK. The subject of the meeting was new developments in article metrics, and in the evaluation of science, scientists and science publications. The participants included a range of different stakeholders in scholarly publishing, notably publishers, funding agencies and companies and institutions involved in evaluation and dissemination of science. Relatively few scientists and representatives from learned societies attended.
The advent of digital content, the internet and the movements on open access and open science has profoundly changed the playing field in the dissemination of science. Nevertheless, the scientific article remains the dominant way to validate and to diffuse scientific research, and the central components in evaluation of science are still the journal impact factor, and various forms of publication and citation statistics. This may be about to change.
Traditionally, scientific interactions other than articles, such as discussions, debates, seminars and media coverage, have had an ephemeral nature. This is no longer strictly true. Reports in newspapers, radio and TV now leave searchable traces. Discussions about science are increasingly held on blogs and on social media. Research leaves its imprint in legislation, patents, policy documents etc., and some scientific journals have initiated post-peer review. Technology for data mining of the internet now exists, which enables the assessment of what impact a certain research effort has had, beyond citations.
There are already companies that do this, and their services are bought by some publishers. This is presented as a service to authors, who get information about the impact of their published work. There are also some funding agencies that increasingly ask for information on the impact of the research they fund, other than just citations.
To a large extent, the developments in this field, as in scholarly publication in general, are driven by the demands in biomedicine and life science. This is where most of the funding is, and it is also where scientific interaction is most intense and immediate. However, the changes that may surface in the evaluation and dissemination of research will have an impact on all fields of science.