#KeyLIMEPodcast 182: #MedEd – Exploring the relationship between altmetrics and traditional measures of dissemination in health professions education

What makes a ‘good’ (= impactful, respected, useful) research article?  Read on, and check out the podcast here (or on iTunes!)


KeyLIME Session 182:

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Lauren A. Maggio, Todd C. Leroux, Holly S. Meyer, Anthony R. Artino Jr. #MedEd: Exploring the relationship between altmetrics and traditional measures of dissemination in health professions education. Perspectives in Medical Education.Feb 2018.

Reviewer: Linda Snell (@LindaSMedEd)


Research dissemination is essential for scientific progress and researchers have a duty to disseminate their research as widely as possible. So much so that major funding organizations are insisting on making public the results of their funded studies.

What makes a ‘good’ (= impactful, respected, useful) research article? Those who are looking at academic promotions dossiers would likely say the impact factor (IF) of the journal, or number of citations as a primary measure; however, the IF of med ed journals, even the best, are not particularly high, and citations can be slow to accumulate.

There may be other ways to capture dissemination and impact, especially vis-à-vis public communication and sharing outside traditional channels. Social media is changing the research dissemination landscape.

Altmetrics, which track alternate dissemination types, have been suggested as a complement to citation-based metrics. Altmetrics provide a summary of how research is shared and discussed online, and are seen as complementing, not replacing, traditional citation-based metrics. Altmetric data describe both the volume and nature of attention that research receives online: how often journal articles and other scholarly outputs are discussed and used. This can include (but are not limited to) online peer reviews, Wikipedia citations, discussions on research blogs, mainstream media coverage, bookmarks on reference managers like Mendeley, and mentions on social networks such as Twitter.

Results of prior studies comparing traditional and altmetrics are mixed, and little has been done in Med Ed.


To examine the relationship between altmetrics and traditional measures: journal article citations and access counts.

Key Points on Method

A cross-sectional, quantitative, bibliometric study.

Searched Web of Science (WOS) for articles published in seven HPE journals: Academic Medicine, Medical Education, BMC Medical Education, Advances in Health Sciences Education, Medical Teacher, Teaching and Learning in Medicine and Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. Metadata included access count and citations – in some cases

Searched Altmetric Explorer looking for an altmetrics event (a tweet, media mention, Mendeley save, etc.) in the same articles.

Merged files and did descriptive and summary stats as well as 2 regression models looking at citations and access counts, with time since publication, public accessibility, IF of journal etc. as independent variables.

Key Outcomes

Nearly 2500 articles 2013-2015, mean citation =3, access count = 881. 57% in publicly accessible journals

Citation increase associated with journal IF, then blogging, tweets, and Mendeley saves.

Access counts positively associated with public access but not altmetrics.

Key Conclusions

The authors conclude a number of altmetrics outlets are positively associated with citations, that public accessibility is positively related to article access. Given the scientific community’s evolving focus on dissemination, the findings have implications for a variety of HPE stakeholders, providing important insights into the factors that may improve an article’s citations and access.

Important as it can inform the community by modernizing our understanding of scholarly dissemination and impact in HPE, and from a practical standpoint, it can help individual HPE scholars determine the best ways to use social media and other non-traditional outlets to disseminate and promote their research to academic colleagues and the general public.

Spare Keys- other take home points for clinician educators

There are other journals that publish med ed research that were not looked at in this study.

CEs need to look widely for the best place to publish before they think about tweeting about their paper!

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