What’s the Latest at COUNTER?

by Byron Russell, Head of ingentaconnect
Library Bulletin, Autumn 2015

lorraine-estelle-lgLorraine Estelle is the Director of Project COUNTER, having been appointed to the post in March this year. Byron Russell of ingentaconnect caught up with her at the ALPSP conference to ask her more about the COUNTER project, and its development roadmap.

Q. Is there a roadmap for where COUNTER is heading as a standard?

Lorraine: Our current stakeholder consultation, which we are running over the next six months, will inform the roadmap for COUNTER. Stakeholders here include vendors, publishers and librarians and library consortia, and our aim is to meet the needs of these groups. The demand for article level metrics will also inform the roadmap. The recent HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) report, The Metric Tide, makes a recommendation to publishers for the implementation of article level metrics and COUNTER can work to address this by building on Release 1 of the Code of Practice for Articles.

Q. Where does the impetus for change to the COUNTER standard come from?

Lorraine: There is little point in having a standard if it doesn’t meet the needs of stakeholders – and so the needs of the groups we serve are the impetus for change! We also have to look at the current context and changing environment – for example, the growth in Gold Open Access was driver for change when we released the GOA1 reports. We have also conducted consultation about eBooks and there is a defined demand for improved statistics reporting in this area. Another impetus for change is the demand for machine-to-machine collections of COUNTER data, so our next release is likely to see a greater focus on automated, machine-readable reports rather than Excel downloads.

Q. Do you think over the last 5/10/15 years, usage metrics have increased in importance?

Lorraine: Yes! COUNTER was born thirteen years ago, arising out of a need for consistent and reliable standards so that publishers can to prove the value of their content and for librarians, to inform collection building decisions. Increasingly we’re seeing COUNTER data being mashed with other data, such as student usage and Altmetric data. The power of statistics depends on bringing together data from different sources to create meaningful, multi-dimensional reports.

Q. What are the types of organization or service for which COUNTER standard statistics would be appropriate?

Lorraine: Clearly, academic librarians, publishers and other vendors of academic resources. Institutional repositories (IRs) are another area for usage statistics; for example, in IRUS-UK (Institutional Repository Usage Statistics UK) COUNTER-compliant statistics provide opportunities to demonstrate the value and impact of IRs.

NISO (National Information Standards Organization) currently has a working group looking at data metrics for non-traditional research outputs such as research data. COUNTER standards could be used for consistently recording downloads of research data and other research outputs.

COUNTER wants to work with more publishers – especially those publishing non-English content – to become COUNTER compliant. COUNTER is a global organisation, but there are challenges – languages and time zones, but we aim to increase the international reach of COUNTER and compliance with the Code of Practice.

Q. How closely does Project COUNTER work with other bodies which also aim to improve statistics provision? For example ARL Statistics and Assessment or NISO SUSHI.

Lorraine: Collaboration is essential. The power of standards lies in their being all applied accurately, and working with each other – so for example SUSHI is essential to, and interdependent with, COUNTER. Members of the COUNTER Technical Advisory Group are also members of the NISO working groups to ensure there is good join-up. There is an increasing amount of collaboration between groups and I see it as part of my brief to help facilitate such collaboration.

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