The Orthodontics Professors
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Altmetrics: Data in the Age of Massive Open Access. What does it mean for a clinical orthodontist?
BY TATE H. JACKSON AND CHING CHANG KO
Orthodontic information is everywhere: from traditional publications to open-access web-based outlets to Facebook and Instagram.
Increasingly, we are confronted with a question:
A recent publication in the European Journal of Orthodontics offers an interesting perspective and approach.
Livas and Delli used a Web screening tool, Altmetric, to conduct an analysis of the visibility of articles published in eleven Orthodontics Journals in the popular press (e.g. New York Times), social media such as Facebook, and on-line citation managers like Mendely. The authors monitored visibility two time points, January and April of 2017 and reported the top 200 articles referenced, as well as an AAS (Altmetric Attention Score – range 1-199) for each article. The full list of the top 200 articles is here.
AAS serves as a measure of digital attention. In other words, how visible was the journal article in our web-based world - in the popular press and social media? A score of 1 indicates low visibility, while 199 indicates very high visibility.
Just three journals contributed 86% of the papers referenced digitally. The most popular articles were classified as “original research” and fell into the categories of “evaluation of treatment outcomes”, “growth”, “side-effects”, and “quality of life”. There was no association of visibility, as judged by AAS, with publication date or authorship.
What was the singular most “popular” article? It was a work from 2016 on pain control using a micropulse vibration device, published in the Angle Orthodontist; it received an AAS score of 196 (out of a possible 199).
The authors reported no association between AAS and citations in Scopus, one measure of peer-review scholarly citations, a traditional measure of the impact of research publications.
WHAT THE PROFESSORS THINK
The authors address an important and very timely topic. The traditional definition of impact factor is a measure of how often an paper is cited by other articles published in peer-reviewed journals. The concept of altmetrics moves outside of the academic sphere and into “real world exposure.”
The idea of almetrics has been around for nearly a decade now, but the recent surge in both the use and validation of social media outlets has re-focused the importance of both “alternative” sources of information and alternative ways to measure the impact of an idea or new knowledge.
Although there are several altmetric web applications, the use of Altmetric in this study appears to be reasonable. Gleaning results from multiple time points was appropriate. The association of AAS with Scopus data was also suitable as a means to compare Altmertic results with a more traditional measure of impact.
Only articles that have a doi (digitial object identifier) can be analyzed by Altmetric, and only a subset of Orthodontic journals were considered, so this investigation has limitations. Its real value is not so much in which articles were captured, but in demonstrating the methodology.
So what do these results really mean for Orthodontists?
Knowing what the popular press tells our patients about Orthodontics matters. That fact is not really new information. What is interesting is that there are simple and free ways to track topics and their exposure to the public. For example, one can download a browser plugin for free and then use it to instantly see if an article you have read has made it into the public domain.
You can investigate or try some of those tools here:
For the practicing Orthodontist confronted by new controversies and technologies, it is simply both practical and good practice to have a grasp not just on the best evidence, but also on what is being presented to our patients by way of both traditional and social media.
It is also informative that the most valued articles, as judged by traditional academic metrics, are not necessarily the most widely-read. That fact too may not really be new information. It is information that may continue to find relevance, however, as social media expands and new ways to spread knowledge develop more rapidly .
Article Reviewed: Livas C. & Delli, K. Looking Beyond Traditional Metrics in Orthodontics: An Altmetric Study on the Most Discussed Articles on the Web. Eur J Orthod. 2017.
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Tate H. Jackson, DDS, MS