Since PLOS embarked on the Article-Level Metrics (ALM) work in 2009, we have always imagined a future in which ALMs would be freely available regardless of publisher. Metrics would be compiled to facilitate comparisons between articles and add even greater value to the scholarly community.


PLOS built the ALM application to handle our own substantial publishing enterprise, and it has been running well for us for almost exactly 5 years now. We made the ALM software available as open source software in 2011, and last year a number of publishers have started to use the ALM software for their own journals. As more publishers are expressing interest in collecting and displaying the data, as well as the ongoing efforts to discuss altmetrics standards and best practices, in particular the NISO Altmetrics Initiative, we have seen the discussion shift from WHAT (are ALMs and should we care) to HOW (can we implement ALM)?

As part of this increased interest in ALM we today are launching the ALM community site. This site contains a lot of content previously available in a number of separate places, and we plan to add more content in the coming months. We like the Examples section which showcases ALM visualizations of done with d3.js and R, with source code and data openly available to make it easier for people to get started using ALM data.

With the launch of the CrossRef Labs ALM application today, we get another big step closer to that goal. For the first time, the latest ALMs will be available for journal articles and other content items (books chapters, data, theses, technical reports) from thousands of scholarly and professional publishers around the globe. The publications span the entire spectrum of scholarly research, including life sciences, physical sciences, humanities, social science, etc. As this CrossRef Labs experiment is just getting started, it will take a couple of months to begin collecting data for the 11 million+ publications from 2010 onwards, currently included. But there’s no need to wait until then. We encourage everyone to start using the data that has already been harvested, which is expanding to cover more of CrossRef’s collection on a daily basis. All data are freely available online or via API for customized, bulk requests.

We invite everyone across the scholarly research ecosystem – researchers, bibliometricians, institutions, funders, librarians, technology providers, etc. – to think big with us. Now that we have systematic data about the activity surrounding research publications, how do we turn it into useful information for discovery and evaluation? This is a work in progress, not yet a formal service. But the launch of the ALM application by CrossRef Labs is a monumental step towards making ALMs an underlying and integral part of the infrastructure that supports the research process and facilitates its progress.

When testing out the CrossRef Labs ALM application, please keep in mind that this a lab experiment. Not only are there some differences in the available data sources for a variety of reasons, but the number of articles managed by the CrossRef Labs ALM application is larger by orders of magnitude. So please be patient as you try out this new resource. As an open source project, it is under active development, so look out for continued improvements and new types of article activity soon coming.

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