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As 2016 winds down, you’re all certainly aware of the power of social media. You would probably have to have been on a space ship heading to Mars to be unaware of the phenomenon of Donald Trump: TIME’s “Person of the Year”, and the president-elect of the USA, has achieved so much of his success arguably through his use of Twitter!

Imagine that.  Only a few years ago, I recall seeing people still smile at the absurdity of ‘tweeting’, of compressing ideas into a mere 140 characters.  And now we have the proverbial ‘leader of the free world’ ascendant at least in part because of his use of social media.

There is no doubt that Twitter, and other social media platforms (such as this blog, or our podcasts), have become major suppliers of information to the media consumer.  If not supplanting traditional media, social media is certainly nudging it to the side.  This is as true in the worlds of sports, sports medicine, and sports medicine research as it is elsewhere.

In the world of sports medicine research, the ‘impact factor’ has played the defining role as the measuring stick of a journal’s heft for a long time.  The metric has had its critics, but its importance has not waned.  I for one can vouch for that:  when I went ‘up’ from Assistant to Associate Professor last year, part of my application involved demonstration of publication in journals with a worthy impact factor.

At CJSM we just concluded our semi-annual associate editors meeting, bringing together a host of clinicians and researchers from around the world.  We are proud of our journal’s impact factor (2.308), but we are also self-critical and are looking for other measures of the journal’s role in the modern world.

Altmetric is one such measure.

Sound familiar?  Thinking you have heard about ‘alt-someting’ recently? Well, this portmanteau does borrow from the same waters as the term “Alt-right”–another 2016 social media phenom–as it combines the notion of ‘alternative’ with ‘metric’. An altmetric (alt-metric) is defined as “…a non-traditional metric proposed as an alternative to more traditional citation impact metrics, such as impact factor….”

One of the major purveyors of this new measure is Altmetric, the ‘brand name’ site that calculates this generic metric for journals such as ours. Altmetric’s website explains how the Altmetric attention score is calculated — in brief, it is a weighted aggregate of the various ‘splashes’ that a research article has made in divergent media.  It accounts for the references made to a research article in traditional media, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

For instance, our “Published Ahead of Print” research article, Isometric Contractions are More Anagesic Than Isotonic presentation1Contractions for Patellar Pain:  An In-Season Randomized Clinical Trial, currently has an attention score of 82 (and climbing), putting it in the top 5% of research articles scored by Altmetric.

This is great news — a study like this has the potential of changing how many of us may rehab our athletes recovering from a common athletic injury.

CJSM and the journal’s parent, Wolters Kluwer, think that altmetrics have a significant potential to demonstrate the translational research power of a study. As many of CJSM’s readers know — because so many of you are practicing sports medicine clinicians — it is not enough to keep the findings of one’s research within the covers of the journals; the research must be disseminated, and applied as indicated.

To get more of a sense of this, take a look at one of our more influential articles from 2015: the international consensus statement on exercise-associated hyponatremia, whose lead author was Tamara Hew-Butler.  Get to know more about Dr. Hew-Butler from reading our blog post and listening to her podcast.  Then go check out the goofy bit she did on “Adam Ruins Everything.”  Or look at the article on the consensus statement that appeared in a Vietnamese newspaper (let me know if you can read it!).

Altmetric will factor all of this into determining one measure of the consensus statement’s impact [318 in the case of the consensus statement], one which accounts for more than its appearance as a citation in other journal articles.  And when one is trying to get the message across that drinking too much water may carry its own dangers, getting a sense of a study’s dissemination beyond the walls of academia is arguably a very import task.

We’ll be exploring altmetrics more at CJSM in the new year and beyond.  We hope you will too.


About sportingjim
I work at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio USA, where I am a specialist in pediatric sports medicine. My academic appointment as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics is through Ohio State University. I am a public health advocate for kids' health and safety. I am also the Deputy Editor for the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

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