The establishment of the Altmetrics term


‘Altmetrics’ has become an increasingly relevant concept both in the context of scientific and scholarly communication, but also in the realm of research evaluation. ‘Altmetrics’ – alternative metrics – are non-traditional metrics proposed either as a completely different or in some cases a complementary solution to more traditional citation based impact metrics of research, such as impact factor and h-index. But how and when did the term emerge?

Altmetrics has had some predecessor in the early days of the internet. In the late 90s and early 00s, there have already been some attempts to introduce new measures and motivations to utilize the web as a source for analysis and monitoring of scholarly activity. But it was not until 2010, when the term ‘Altmetrics’ has been introduced by the information scientist Jason Priem, by claiming that he would prefer the term over other terms since it implies ‘a diversity of measures (of scholarly communication)’. Priem was particularly concerned with how the internet could not only transform measures but scholarly communication as a whole.

Shortly after he coined the term in 2010, Priem together with his colleagues published a manifesto in which an understanding of Altmetrics has been proposed which expressed his understanding of web based scholarly communication and influenced the Altmetrics community sustainably: “That dog-eared (but uncited) article that used to live in a shelf now lives in Mendeley, CiteUlike, or Zotero – where we can see and count it. That hallway conversation about a recent finding has moved to blogs and social networks – now, we can listen in (…). This diverse group of activities forms a composite trace of impact far richer than any available before. We call the elements of this trace Altmetrics”, to cite Priem.

Since 2010, the literature on Altmetrics has grown enormously and the term has been adopted by many different scientific and non-scientific communities. Starting in open access journals such as PloS One and PloS Biology, the topic has soon been taken up by the informetric and scientometric community. In addition, we observe that after 2010 there is a surge of scientific articles, which covers approximately the 82% of all articles related to Altmetrics being published since 1990! Given its heterogeneity, the Altmetrics narrative has also flourished among different policy and scientific communities, among which bibliometrics, information science, science communication, and library science are most important. In recent years, a number of Altmetrics providers appeared (such as Impactstory 2011, 2011, and Plum Analytics 2011), which have been influencing this movement significantly.

Are you interested in further reading? You can find our full report here!


Picture: The original logotype from the Altmetrics Manifesto

Peer Review Week 2016

Here is our final brief for the Peer Review Week 2016!

Opportunities of a more Open and Transparent Peer Review

During the last decade the peer review system, a key research quality assurance mechanism, has come under close scrutiny. Traditional peer review methods fail to meet the requirements and needs of today’s rapidly evolving research ecosystem, which is characterised by an increasingly digital and interactive scholarly communication, a growing number of research actors and highly specialised communities dealing with complex problems, as well as a rapidly growing science production. Current peer review workflows are not scalable and often operate like a black box. A number of recent fraud and bias cases in scientific publishing make it particularly evident that the current system is in need of improvement (just to list a few: Faked peer reviews prompt 64 retractions, It’s a Man’s World — for One Peer Reviewer, at Least, PLOS ONE ousts reviewer, editor after sexist peer-review storm, Publishing: The peer-review scam).

Alternative peer review methods such as Open Peer Review try to increase transparency and encourage honest open responses by the reviewers. Open Peer Review has been adopted by journals such as the British Medical Journal, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, and a majority of BioMed Central publications. Another example is the publishing platform f1000research, which has an open post-publication peer review system in place.

An international study from 2012 suggests that many researchers, who already have published and reviewed in higher quality, international, and English-language journals are overall satisfied with the peer review system used by scholarly journals (69%). However the study makes also clear, that “most researchers believe there could be improvements to the process”. Over 50% percent of respondents rated Open Peer Review to be effective (20% Open Peer Review, 25% Published Open Peer Review). The reasons expressed by the respondents are that Open Peer Review ensures that the reviewers are “honest, more thoughtful, and less likely to be vitriolic in their response”. In addition, “publishing names and reports helps the reader decide on the quality of the work and encourages dialogue” (Mulligan).

In a recent small survey the YEAR Network, about 200 early career researchers expressed their opinion on how they would prioritise the suggested Open Science policy actions by the European Commission. Among other, the surveyed young researchers see a high priority in experimenting with more open and transparent peer review, and promoting a discussion on evaluation criteria of research. [A preliminary evaluation of the results will be published shortly on the YEAR website.]

In the EU coordination and support action OpenUP we address this by focusing, among other topics, on innovative peer review practices. Our goal is to test previously defined Open Peer Review workflows in dedicated pilot studies. An example is the pilot study on Open Peer Review for Conferences. The requirements and workflows will be elaborated and defined in close collaboration with researchers, publishers, institutions and conference organizers. In a second step the workflows will be applied and tested in a dedicated pilot study with the aim to assess applicability and acceptance within the scientific community. See more about our activities:


Mulligan, A., Hall, L. and Raphael, E. (2013), Peer review in a changing world: An international study measuring the attitudes of researchers. J Am Soc Inf Sci Tec, 64: 132–161. doi:10.1002/asi.22798

Peer Review Week 2016

Our next brief for the Peer Review Week 2016 is on Recognizing reproducibility and contains 2 think pieces on adopting a new criterion in peer review.

Reproducibility of science and its role in scholarly peer review

Looking at recent literature on the subject, more and more it appears that “reproducibility” should be one of the (key ?) components of peer review. In addition to providing an assessment (based on the reviewer’s judgement) of the scientific relevance and validity of the “published” research results, a reviewer should also attempt to “reproduce” the results presented in the “publication”, or at least ensure that the original researchers made available all elements (e.g. protocol, data, software) needed to reproduce the results.

Results that cannot be reproduced by independent analysis hardly can be considered relevant advancements in a field of study. Nonetheless, there are today many studies showing that a considerable number of research findings, published in well-known peer-reviewed scientific journals, could not be reproduced. As a reference, consider one of the latest studies [1].

But what is meant by “reproducibility”? And how its meaning changes among research domains? For the first question, a starting point may be provided by the diagram below, that somehow defines four levels of “reproducibility” (thanks to Carol Goble for her chart [2]).


We move from repeat (clearly not part of peer-reviewing and in some cases – as reported in the literature – impossible even for the same team that conducted the original research) to replicate (successful in a small percentage of attempted cases, according to literature) to reproduce (successful in a slightly higher percentage of attempted cases) to reuse (and pushing the research towards producing new scientific knowledge, which should be the ultimate goal of scientific research). The amount (and format) of information to be made available to other scientists in order for them to perform one of the above actions clearly depends on the action to be attempted and the specific field of study.

The second issue, rarely mentioned in the literature, is that the possibility of performing one of the above actions heavily depends on the field of the research. Without entering into the long-standing debate about Hard Science and Soft Science (see for example the entry “Hard and soft science” in Wikipedia:( it is clear that we may think of two extremes. On one extreme we have a research flow (data and process) which is objectively defined, allowing perfect replicability and enabling reproducbility; on the other extreme we have a research flow based on data which are the personal observations of the researcher (e.g. on some ancient artefact) and the process is the reasoning and the conclusions that the researcher has drawn from that data. In the latter case we might have at most a reuse, assuming that the subsequent researchers agree with the original conclusions.

To conclude, as a prerequisite to include reproducibility in the peer review process, it would be nice to have some kind of guidance (a classification, a taxonomy ?) in order for the reviewer to be able to understand which “level of reproducibility” would be possible and if the published information (results, data, process, etc) are enough to attempt a replication.

Comments and suggestions are mostly welcome.

[1] (visited 20 September 2016)

[2] (visited 20 September 2016)

Reproducibilty as a new quality criterion for peer review

In this piece, Peter Kraker argues that reproducibility should be adopted as a new criterion in peer review. He argues that a reproducible paper is of higher quality, as one does not have to take the researchers’ word of how they calculated their results. Peter suggests that in this way, reproducible would become the overall quality standard of choice – just like peer-reviewed is the preferred standard right now. As a welcome side-effect, researchers would make more datasets and source code openly available. Read the whole post here:

Peer Review Week 2016

Our next brief  for the Peer Review Week 2016 is on Redefining publishing.

Redefining publishing

Due to the advance of digital technologies and the increasing impact of the open access movement, scholarly publishing is being redefined.  As new tools, platforms and services diversify the academic publishing scene, the nature and the stages of the publishing process are continuously revisited and reevaluated in scholarly discourse.

Problems seem to begin with the word `publishing.`  By the common practice of using preprint servers or repositories to disseminate research result within given scientific communities, the term publish moves away from the traditional concept of publishing research articles in print journals, and implies more the act of sharing results publicly.

“Some scientists are going a step further, and using platforms such as GitHub, Zenodo and figshare to publish each hypothesis, data collection or figure as they go along. Each file can be given a DOI, so that it is citable and trackable. Himmelstein, who already publishes his papers as preprints, has been using the Thinklab platform to progressively write up and publish the results of a new project since January 2015. “I push ‘publish’ and it gets a DOI with no delay,” he says. “Am I really gaining that much by publishing [in a conventional journal]? Or is it better to do what is fastest and most efficient to get your research out there?” (Powell)

Considering the traditionally embedded meaning of the notion by the academic publishing system, a certain cautiousness is connected to its use. As Christophe Dessimoz explains it:“I am saying “made available” instead of “published” because although preprints can be read by anybody, the general view is that the canonical publication event lies with the journal, post peer-review. Because of this, many traditional journals tolerate this practice: peer-review technically remains “pre-publication” and the journals get to keep their gatekeeping function. The key benefit of preprints is that they accelerate scientific communication. Indeed, peer-review can be long and frustrating for authors. Reviewers sometimes misjudge the importance of papers or request unreasonable amounts of additional work. The ability to bypass peer-review can thus be liberating for authors. Thus, if we instead recognized preprints as the canonical publication event, so goes the idea, peer-review would be relegated to a secondary role and journals would loose their gatekeeping function. This is the “post-publication” peer-review model.

A similar problematic issue is discussed by Tony Ross-Hellauer in his recent OpenAIRE blogpost on post-publication peer review. He suggests using better words for the publishing process in light of the expanding array of scholarly dissemination and review tools. See more in: Tony Ross-Hellauer. 2016. Disambiguating post-publication peer review. OpenAIRE blog.


Dessimoz, C. 2016. Thoughts on pre- vs. post-publication peer-review. Dessimoz Lab blog posts. Accessed on Sept 16, 2016:

Powell, K. 2016. Does it take too long to publish research? Nature 530: 7589.

Ross-Hellauer, T. 2016. Disambiguating post-publication peer review. OpenAIRE blog. Accessed on Sept. 14, 2016:

Peer Review Week 2016

Here comes the second brief for Peer Review Week 2016.

New editions to open peer review

Peer review is a hot topic in scholarly communication. Discussions on the transforming peer review system closely intertwine with other issues receiving increased attention in the research community, such as content of review (book, data, proposal, etc.), or methods of review in different research fields. In fact, the nature of research is undergoing major changes. The accelerated, open and global communication contributed to the development of networked and collaborative scientific work, which gave birth to multidisciplinary research. Thus, this new chapter in scholarly investigations induced discussions on the multifaceted nature of research and all the challenges it brings to the publication, review and dissemination processes.

The Semantic Web journal provides an excellent example how these issues all find solutions in one forum. The topic of the journal itself is “a highly multidisciplinary field of research arranged around the broad vision of sharing, discovering, reusing, and integrating data and services on the Web by making them accessible and understandable to humans and machines alike. It brings together a broad variety of researchers focusing on theoretical aspects, core methods and tools, or on applications in a multitude of disciplines including the life sciences, the earth sciences, industrial information integration, assisted living, data and information management, media applications, and so forth…The Semantic Web journal publishes research contributions from the whole range of Semantic-Web-related research and applications. In particular, it is not only concerned with core technical contributions to the research area, but also with application-oriented contributions to other disciplines using Semantic Web technologies, with reports on high-impact tools and ontologies, and with theory-oriented contributions of primarily foundational interest“ (Hitzler).

It employs an open and transparent review system, which allows for open discussion within the research community by posting manuscripts on the journal website, after passing the initial quality check. By documenting and publicly sharing the review process and acknowledging the reviewers` and editors` names in the final version of the article, the review process of the journal is not only open, but also transparent to the readers. The Semantic Web journal can be considered innovative in other respects, as well: it includes alternative paper types (i.e., other than full research papers) within its review process. See more in: Pascal Hitzler, Krzysztof Janowicz. 2015. The Semantic Web Journal Review Process – Transparent and Open. STCSN-E-Letter-Vol-3-No-1‎.

Peer Review Week 2016

This week we are publishing several briefs covering different topics for the Peer Review Week. Here is the first one on History of Peer Review.

History of peer review revisited

The troubled state of the peer review system has triggered numerous analysis of its past, present and future. In order to understand the moving forces behind the current developments, the roots must been unraveled. Although no authoritative piece has emerged as the historical account of scientific review; according to Ranalli, it is definitely beginning to take shape (Zuckerman and Merton 1971; Kronick 1990; Burnham 1990; Spier 2002; Biagioli 2002, 2003; Rennie 2003).

In the majority of these accounts the story of peer review starts in 1663, “when the recently formed Royal Society of London passed a resolution authorizing the publication of books under its imprimatur, as permitted under its Royal Charter“ (Ranalli). The following major milestone is considered to be the creation of the journal Philosophical Transactions in 1665, a publishing of the Royal Society of London. What was published in the journal was largely a matter for the editor, Henry Oldenburg, the secretary of the Society at the time, and those whose help he might have asked. In 1752, the Society established a committee which took over the editorial responsibilities for the journal and voted on which manuscript to publish. In Carpi`s view, this practice was the beginning of the peer review process as we know it today.

There is a new edition to the line of historical analyses of the scientific review system. An article by Alex Csiszar describes peer review as ˝a response to political demands for public accountability.˝ He connects the pivotal moments in the history of the institution to the times when the public status of science was renegotiated. The article offers a new angle to the first chapter of peer review which was marked by the negotiations of William Whewell and John Lubbock on a paper about orbital motions by George Airy in 1831: Peer Review: Troubled from the start Nature 532 (7599): 306–308, (21 April 2016).



 Carpi, A., Egger, A., Kuldell, N. 2009.  Peer Review in Scientific Publishing. Visionlearning POS-2 (2).

Csiszar, A. 2016. Peer review: Troubled from the start. Nature 532 (7599): 306–308 doi:10.1038/532306a

Ranalli, B. 2011. A Prehistory of Peer Review: Religious Blueprints from the Hartlib Circle. Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science 5 (1): 12-18. DOI: 10.4245/sponge.v5i1.14973

Spier, R. (2002). The history of the peer-review process. Trends in Biotechnology, 20(8), 357-358.











Have your say on Open Peer Review

We’d like to draw your attention towards a brief survey on attitudes to Open Peer Review being run by OpenAIRE. Your anonymous answers will be made available to the research and publishing communities to inform future innovations in peer review.

The survey takes around 15-20 minutes to complete and will remain open until Friday 7th October.

Take the survey now:

If there are any questions, please get in touch with Tony Ross-Hellauer (


PPMI to coordinate Horizon 2020 project OpenUp

In this project PPMI will coordinate and lead a team of 9 organisations from Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Switzerland in a Horizon2020 funded project OpenUp. This project addresses key aspects and challenges of the currently transforming science landscape and aspires to come up with a cohesive framework for the review-disseminate-assess phases of the research life cycle that is fit to support and promote Open Science.   Its main objectives are to:

  • identify and determine ground-breaking mechanisms, processes and tools for peer-review for all types of research results (publications, data, software),
  • explore, identify and classify innovative dissemination mechanisms with an outreach aim towards businesses and industry, education, and society as a whole,
  • analyze a set of novel indicators that assess the impact of research results and correlate them of channels of dissemination.

The final outcome of the project will be a set of concrete, practical, validated policy recommendations & guidelines for national and European stakeholders, including EU institutions, a valuable tool in advancing a more open and gender-sensitive science system.