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Consultation: Code of Practice for Research Data

09 May 2024


The COUNTER Code of Practice for Research Data provided a key milestone in data evaluation practices by making it possible to report comparable usage counts across platforms. Over the last months, Make Data Count and COUNTER have collaborated to explore an update to the Code of Practice for Research Data, and we are now sharing our proposal to merge the Code of Practice for Research Data with COUNTER R5.1. Read on for the context and motivation for this update, and details on how you can share feedback on the proposal.

The Code for Research Data

The Code for Research Data was released as a framework to enable repositories and data-publishing platforms to report the usage of datasets in a standardized way. By providing a common framework to process and report counts for data views and downloads (e.g. noting whether usage originated from humans or machines, filtering out activity from web robots and spiders), the Code made it possible to report usage counts comparable across platforms. This framework has been implemented by a number of repositories, including Zenodo, Dryad and the US Environmental Protection Agency repository.

The development of the Code drew from COUNTER’s experience with standards for usage metrics for scholarly resources, and its recommendations aligned as much as possible with Release 5 of the COUNTER Code of Practice. At the time, the main COUNTER Code of Practice was tailored towards publisher platforms, and the data community felt it was important to have a dedicated framework for reporting on the use of datasets. However, there was also interest in maintaining close communication about updates to both Codes, and in exploring further alignment across the codes in future releases.

Aligning the Codes

In the years since the release of the Code for Research Data repository infrastructure has developed substantially. COUNTER has also published Release 5.1 of the main Code of Practice (R5.1), which has extended the type of outputs for which usage reports can be reported. Based on our discussions, the Make Data Count and COUNTER teams are proposing to merge the Code for Research Data with R5.1.

We base this recommendation on the following factors:

  • Many repositories host diverse research outputs, including articles, data, theses and many others. In order to report usage for everything they host, repositories would need to maintain two Codes. This is a duplication of effort and resources, and creates a risk of data usage counts being processed differently over time depending on the Code the repository is applying. Having a single Code to implement simplifies implementation by mixed-content repositories and ensures consistency in usage reports.
  • One of the items that arose early on as part of discussions for a revision to the Code for Research Data was how to granularly report usage of datasets that included multiple files. The Components attribute of R5.1, which allows reporting usage for both an item and for files nested within the item, allows repositories to report on usage of the dataset as a whole and to report usage of individual files within the data record at a more granular level.
  • Key aspects of the Code for Research Data and R5.1 overlap or have matching attributes. While some differences between the Codes exist, we feel that these can be addressed by providing dedicated guidance to repositories that report data usage on how to complete those fields (e.g. where the fields do not apply to datasets and may be left blank).

This update will require some changes to the implementation of how usage reports are created for data, but it is important to note that, for repositories already working with DataCite, the process for reporting usage does not change. Processed usage data can be sent to DataCite for aggregation, and will be made accessible via DataCite’s reporting API.


As part of our work on this proposal, we have consulted with members of repository teams for their input. We thank Zach Crockett (KBase), Alex Ioannidis (Zenodo), Pablo Saiz (Zenodo) and Ana van Gulick (Figshare) for their input and suggestions.

Learn more

Download the full text of the consultation or read it online at GitHub. You can also read the Make Data Count blog post about the consultation, and join our session on the proposal at the COUNTER Conference on the 16th of May 2024.

Have your say

While we are confident that this proposal to merge the Code for Research Data with R5.1 will bring efficiencies to repository teams, and ensure consistent and robust reporting of data usage, we want your feedback!

Please share your feedback either on the COUNTER Github repository (, by filling in our survey ( or by emailing Tasha with any comments, queries or concerns. The proposal is open for public consultation until the end of July 2024.

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