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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 31-33

What can altmetrics tell us about interest in dental clinical trials?

Director of Research & Engagement, Altmetric LLP, United Kingdom

Date of Web Publication11-May-2017

Correspondence Address:
Stacy R Konkiel
4 Crinan Street, London - N1 9SQ
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/denthyp.denthyp_12_17

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How to cite this article:
Konkiel SR. What can altmetrics tell us about interest in dental clinical trials?. Dent Hypotheses 2017;8:31-3

How to cite this URL:
Konkiel SR. What can altmetrics tell us about interest in dental clinical trials?. Dent Hypotheses [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 May 28];8:31-3. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Facing an increasing demand from funders and university administrators to demonstrate public and scholarly interest in their work, many dental researchers are turning to altmetrics.[1],[2]

Altmetrics are data from the social web that can explain both the volume and nature of attention that research receives online. Altmetrics can include links to a journal article from Twitter, Facebook, or scholarly blog posts; discussions of a clinical trial on peer review sites such as Faculty of 1000 Prime or Pubpeer; coverage of a scholarly book in a news article or public policy document; and virtually any other discussion of research outputs that happen online. In theory, any mentions to research that can be text-mined online can be a type of altmetric.

Altmetrics are an excellent feedback loop for the average dental researcher to understand how other dental researchers, practitioners, and members of the public are talking about and using research online. Free tools such as the Altmetric bookmarklet <> and Impactstory profiles <> allow a researcher to look up discussions of virtually any type of research output.

These tools and the altmetrics data they share are crucial to a growing number of researchers interested in public engagement, whether to meet funding agency requirements or because they believe that engagement is their duty. Altmetrics can help these researchers better understand whether their work is reaching the audiences it is intended for.

In this article, I explore the use of altmetrics in helping dental researchers understand whether or not their public engagement strategies are working. I discuss one altmetrics company’s approach to collecting data, and use that data to explore differences in the attention that dental clinical trials and clinical trials in general receive online. I then suggest strategies that the average dental researcher can take to better ensure that their research gets into the hands of other researchers and the public, along with types of altmetrics data that one can monitor to understand their success in promoting their work.

  How altmetrics work Top

Altmetrics data is sourced primarily from the social web using application programming interfaces (APIs), text-mining, and other technologies. To do so, an altmetrics service such as Altmetric searches platforms where research is discussed (e.g., Twitter or research blogs) for mentions of a research article, book, clinical trial, or other research output. These mentions are made either by title or through links to research. The altmetrics service then collects these disparate mentions into an item-level report that helps end-users see all discussions of that piece of research in one place [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Mentions of a journal article are displayed on an Altmetric details page

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Altmetric is one of the several services that collects altmetrics data. Our company makes this information available to individual researchers, journal and book publishers, universities, and corporations through our API, Explorer database, and bookmarklet tool. As of December 2016, we have tracked over 38 million mentions of more than 7 million research outputs from every discipline, published by researchers worldwide.

The result is access to a powerful suite of data that provide insight into engagement with research by many different groups − the public, other researchers, policymakers, the media, and more. With that in mind, let’s now turn our attention to what altmetrics can tell us about how often and on what platforms dental clinical trials are being discussed online.

  Are dental researchers successfully engaging the public? Top

For the purposes of this article, I have used and the Altmetric Explorer for Institutions database to explore the attention being paid to dental clinical trials, as compared to clinical trials in general.

First, I retrieved identifiers for all dental clinical trials indexed on To do so, I used the site’s Advanced Search function to query dentistry-related search terms (“pedodontic OR dental OR orthodontic OR periodontic OR endodontic OR prosthodontic”). This returned a list of 2709 dental clinical trials and their National Clinical Trial (NCT) identifiers out of 237013 clinical trials total available on the site.

Next, I entered the list of 2709 NCT identifiers into the Altmetric Explorer for Institutions database Advanced Search. This returned a total of 81 dental clinical trials (2.9%) that have received attention online. This attention came in the form of 368 mentions across 6 platforms: news articles, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, and Google+.

By comparison, of the 237,013 clinical trials registered on, 18517 (7.8%) were found to have received attention online within Altmetric Explorer for Institutions. This attention came in the form of 78835 mentions across 10 platforms: news articles, blogs, public policy documents, Twitter, Sina Weibo, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google+, Stack Overflow, and YouTube.

In short, clinical trials across all disciplines received more attention across a greater number of online platforms than dental clinical trials did.

From this comparison, we might learn that dental researchers are missing opportunities to engage members of the public, researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholder groups across a number of online platforms: Sina Weibo, Stack Overflow, Youtube, and in public policy.

  Strategies for online engagement Top

From the altmetrics data above, we can devise a number of strategies dental researchers can use to engage the public and other scholars online, some more obvious than others.

Post to relevant patient groups, social media accounts, and hashtags

Patient advocates and laypersons interested in medical research often use social media to share scholarship. Seek out Facebook groups, Twitter accounts, and hashtags used by these groups to share information relevant to your area of research, and share your articles there. Offer to be a resource to these groups − for example, by answering questions or participating in a Twitter chat. In this manner, you are not only asking others to read your research, but you are also giving back to the community.

Share with relevant researcher and public health blogs

Blogs are another excellent way to share your research with the communities that stand to benefit the most from it. Find researcher-run blogs and dental-oriented public health blogs that usually discuss research similar to the topic you study. Often, such blogs will have a means of contacting the editors; you can send them a message introducing yourself, sharing a link to your work, and offering an interview opportunity. Many bloggers will appreciate your offer, as it means an easy blog post for them!

Invite other researchers to openly peer review your work

You can encourage other researchers to engage with your work by asking them to openly peer review it on a site like Pubpeer or Publons. It may seem risky to open yourself up to criticism, but by practicing open peer review, you will have a chance to learn from your peers and improve your research, while at the same time making your research more broadly known amongst your colleagues.

Go forth and engage

Dental researchers interested in sharing their research with the public and other scholars can use social media to their advantage. Social media sites make it relatively easy to connect with groups interested in dental research. Adding altmetrics tools such as the Altmetric bookmarklet into one’s engagement strategy can help dental researchers understand if their outreach efforts are working.

  References Top

Kolahi J, Khazaei S. Altmetric: Top 50 dental articles. Br Dent J 2016; 10;220:569-74.  Back to cited text no. 1
Kolahi J. Altmetrics: A new emerging issue for dental research scientists. Dent Hypotheses 2015; 6:1-2.  Back to cited text no. 2
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  [Figure 1]

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