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Geographic variation in social media metrics: an analysis of Latin American journal articles

Juan Pablo Alperin (Publishing Program & Public Knowledge Project, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver,Canada)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 18 May 2015




The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of how the potential of altmetrics varies around the world by measuring the percentage of articles with non-zero metrics (coverage) for articles published from a developing region (Latin America).


This study uses article metadata from a prominent Latin American journal portal, SciELO, and combines it with altmetrics data from and with data collected by author-written scripts. The study is primarily descriptive, focusing on coverage levels disaggregated by year, country, subject area, and language.


Coverage levels for most of the social media sources studied was zero or negligible. Only three metrics had coverage levels above 2 per cent – Mendeley, Twitter, and Facebook. Of these, Twitter showed the most significant differences with previous studies. Mendeley coverage levels reach those found by previous studies, but it takes up to two years longer for articles to be saved in the reference manager. For the most recent year, coverage was less than half than what was found in previous studies. The coverage levels of Facebook appear similar (around 3 per cent) to that of previous studies.

Research limitations/implications

The data used for some of the analyses were collected for a six month period. For other analyses, data were only available for a single country (Brazil).


The results of this study have implications for the altmetrics research community and for any stakeholders interested in using altmetrics for evaluation. It suggests the need of careful sample selection when wishing to make generalizable claims about altmetrics.



© Juan Pablo Alperin 2015

This research was supported by the project “Quality in the Open Scholarly Communication of Latin America”: IDRC Grant reference number: 106660-001. The author also wishes to thank Euan Adie ( for granting access to data, and Fabio Batalha (SciELO Brazil) for tolerating countless e-mails and phone calls asking for the SciELO download data to be updated.


Alperin, J.P. (2015), "Geographic variation in social media metrics: an analysis of Latin American journal articles", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 67 No. 3, pp. 289-304.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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