Alternative or complementary metrics (often called altmetrics) are another way to assess the attention received by research outputs.
Altmetrics tools do use citations as a measure of scholarly interest in a research paper, but their main focus is on online activity to reveal how research is being shared and discussed both within the academic community and beyond. Altmetrics can also be used to track attention received by other forms of research output such as software, data sets, conference slides, performance and more.
How do Alternative Metrics Work?
Alternative metrics tools track mentions, likes and shares on a variety of platforms including Mendeley, bookmarking sites, academic networking sites, social media, news sites and policy documents. Altmetrics generally track attention to outputs using a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) or links (URL) to the paper online. Whilst citations can take years to build up, alternative metrics can give a 'live' picture of how research is being shared and discussed. Although alternative metrics are relatively new, they are increasingly being incorporated into publisher's platforms and academic databases.
You'll see Alt-Metrics used in Library Search & Scopus represented as a coloured doughnut which represents the attention score of that particular article. Just click on the doughnut for the full details for example