Top articles of 2016 revealed

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It doesn’t seem long ago that I talked about the top 100 journal articles for 2015 as ranked by analysis of altmetrics. Altmetrics – literally alternative metrics – explore the impact of research. To consider altmetrics is to look at how many times an article is tweeted about, how many likes it gets, how many times it is mentioned in the media, how often it is blogged about and whether or not it gets any Wikipedia mentions.

One of the organisations that measures impact in this way is Altmetrics: you may have seen the brightly-coloured ‘doughnuts’ appearing next to journal articles on some platforms. Each year, Altmetrics publishes its top 100 articles and just like last year, the results are fascinating. Something that struck me immediately was that many of the highest ranked articles this year concern world events and concerns: for example, in the No. 1 position is an article about Barack Obama. Others that appear in the top 20 include articles on the Zika Virus, and an article by Robin Williams’ widow on her late husband’s illness. Compare this to the 2015 list, which contained articles on equally emotive topics – for example, plastic waste in oceans and antibiotic resistance – but did not have as great an emphasis on what we might term articles relating to ‘popular culture’.

Of course, that might not indicate anything at all, but it’s interesting. Barack Obama has been very much in the news this year; the Zika Virus was another subject of intense media coverage. When people are looking for information on either of those topics, the likelihood is that they will turn to a search engine, and their search may well have led them to an open access, academic article.

A number of these are articles are open access articles, so they can be accessed without having to login to anything, and access does not depend on having an institutional subscription.

The full list of the top 100 articles as ranked by Altmetrics is available here.

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