What’s the Latest on COUNTER 5

by Lorraine Estelle at ProjectCOUNTER

We released the first draft of the COUNTER Code of Practice Release 5 in January, and received great feedback from all our stakeholder, mostly positive. The innovative structure for the Code of Practice, with new Reports and new Metric Types and Attributes will represent usage in a much more accurate way than before.

However, there were some constructive suggestions and this input has helped us to improve and refine Release 5, and we have now published a second draft. We learned from the feedback that some of the proposed attributes and metric types we were difficult for publishers to capture in a consistent way. We have removed or simplified these. We also heard that our new metric types “investigations” and “requests” were difficult to understand, and so we have added more explanation and a graphics to further clarify these.  The list of standard reports has also been changed to allow librarians to run reports that are simpler to use (fewer rows) that align better with their intended purpose.

The three main befits for libraries will be:

  • Master Reports with filters and Standard Views will help in getting exactly the data they need for usage analyses.
  • The new Reports will provide comparability across content providers.
  • The new Metric Type “unique requests” addresses the interface effect when HTML and PDF of the same article is used in one session.

Some of the requests we received from libraries have not been possible to implement. For example, the desire to have zero usage in COUNTER reports. Including zero usage would greatly increase the size of reports. Also, many publishers cannot provide the integration between their usage report and access control services needed to determine zero usage titles.  We do understand that this is important and so we are sponsoring of the NISO KBART-Automation initiative which will provide libraries with a method of retrieving holdings data that could then be combined with usage data to identify content that was not used.

Another common request was to make headers optional for tabular reports or put to them in separate worksheet. However, the header is important component as it clearly identifies what is in a report. To address this problem, we have added a blank line between the header and body and that makes it very easy to sort and filter stats and create pivot tables. Both Excel and Google-Sheets have “Freeze Pane” options that allow easy scrolling. We hope also to create an opensource script to remove the header.

Some of our stakeholders were also concerned about the removal of the PDF and HTML metric types. These metrics were originally introduced to understand user interface behaviour; if HTML shows automatically on an article page, then HTML counts are much higher than PDF which MUST be clicked.

The new metric types of “total_item_requests” and “unique_item_requests” provide a more accurate way of monitoring the interface effect. Studies by three different content providers demonstrate that the “total_item_requests” count will be the same as “ft_total” in Release 4. “unique_item_requests” are typically 10 – 15% higher than “ft_pdf” counts, but about 20% lower than “total_item_requests”.  Therefore, for libraries that prefer to use “ft_total” to calculate cost per use, can continue to get the same numbers using “total_item_requests”; and, librarians that prefer to use “ft_pdf” for their cost per use, may choose to use “unique_item_requests” which provides a similar but more accurate number.

It is important to get used to the new vocabulary and structure of the COUNTER Code of Practice. To prepare for Release 5 we encourage librarians to attend webinars and presentations, look out for news on the COUNTER website and not to hesitate to contact COUNTER for questions!


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