[Sigmetrics] Thomson Reuters and altmetrics: usage counts versus citation counts in Web of Science

Emilio Delgado López-Cózar edelgado at ugr.es
Tue Oct 6 06:01:23 EDT 2015

Dear colleagues, even though 2015 is the year of the goat according to 
the Chinese calendar, in the world of bibliometrics we have been living 
for a couple of years now in the era of alternative metrics. Without a 
doubt, altmetrics, and webometrics in general, which includes the former 
and every other kind of indicator that measures the interaction of a 
person in the web space, are all the rage right now. There is a swarm of 
new indicators powered by data from general-interest social media 
(blogs, Twitter, Facebook…), new bibliographic and scientific 
repositories (Mendeley, Citeulike, institutional and subject 
repositories…), as well as the also recently created academic social 
networks (ResearchGate, academia.edu…). Today, any researcher, journal 
or publisher who wants to follow the latest fashion must exhibit a whole 
plethora of new indicators, lest they be considered obsolete. This is 
what’s #trending at the moment in bibliometrics.

Scopus was the first database that included altmetric indicators as a 
complement to traditional bibliometric indicators. It did it in 2012. 
Last July the 30th, Elsevier updated the way Scopus presents its 
altmetric information, and released a new module for article altmetrics.

Thomson Reuters, the champion of traditional bibliometrics, could not 
risk being left behind. It hasn’t thrown itself into the embracing arms 
of altmetrics and altmetric.com, but instead has decided to timidly 
provide a non-purely-bibliometric indicator.

The new indicator, called “usage count”, measures the number of times 
the full text of a document has been accessed and the number of times 
the bibliographic reference of the document has been saved. 
Specifically, it computes the number of times the full-text button (the 
button that takes you to the publisher-controlled webpage where you can 
download the document) is clicked, and the number of times the 
bibliographic reference of the document is exported to a reference 
manager (whether it is a direct exportation to the managers that are 
supported by Web of Science, or in a format that can be later imported 
to other managers).

The same indicator is computed for two different time frames: one is a 
rolling window that measures the number of times the document has been 
used in the last 180 days, and the other measures all instances of usage 
since 2013 (February 1st). An instance of usage is either a click to 
access the full text of the document, or the act of saving the 
bibliographic reference to a reference manager. These indicators are 
available both in the Web of Science Core Collection and in All 
Databases, and it is also possible to sort documents by them.

In order to decipher the meaning of this new indicator, we conducted a 
small exploratory study analyzing the correlation between usage counts 
and traditional citations, which can be accessed from


Empirical data available from: 

Emilio Delgado López-Cózar
EC3 Research Group: Evaluación de la Ciencia y de la Comunicación 
Facultad de Comunicación y Documentación
Universidad de Granada

Dubitando ad veritatem pervenimus (Cicerón, De officiis. A. 451...)
Contra data non argumenta
A fructibus eorum cognoscitis eos (San Mateo 7, 16)

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