Can altmetric mentions predict later citations? A test of validity on data from ResearchGate and three social media platforms | Emerald Insight

Abstract:  Purpose

The main purpose of this study is to explore and validate the question “whether altmetric mentions can predict citations to scholarly articles”. The paper attempts to explore the nature and degree of correlation between altmetrics (from ResearchGate and three social media platforms) and citations.


A large size data sample of scholarly articles published from India for the year 2016 is obtained from the Web of Science database and the corresponding altmetric data are obtained from ResearchGate and three social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and blog through aggregator). Correlations are computed between early altmetric mentions and later citation counts, for data grouped in different disciplinary groups.


Results show that the correlation between altmetric mentions and citation counts are positive, but weak. Correlations are relatively higher in the case of data from ResearchGate as compared to the data from the three social media platforms. Further, significant disciplinary differences are observed in the degree of correlations between altmetrics and citations.

Research limitations/implications

The results support the idea that altmetrics do not necessarily reflect the same kind of impact as citations. However, articles that get higher altmetric attention early may actually have a slight citation advantage. Further, altmetrics from academic social networks like ResearchGate are more correlated with citations, as compared to social media platforms.


The paper has novelty in two respects. First, it takes altmetric data for a window of about 1–1.5 years after the article publication and citation counts for a longer citation window of about 3–4 years after the publication of article. Second, it is one of the first studies to analyze data from the ResearchGate platform, a popular academic social network, to understand the type and degree of correlations.