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This FAQ is designed to help people who are already using COUNTER reports find the answers to their questions. If you need an introduction to COUNTER, we suggest starting with the Education pages, or reading more about who we are on our About pages. And of course, if the answer you’re looking for isn’t here, please get in touch with Tasha.

FAQ's
FAQ Category
Q

I'm an e-resources librarian and I really value normalised metrics. How can I persuade more publishers to offer COUNTER reports?

First off, thank you – it’s great to know we’re helping our community! There are a few things that you can do to boost COUNTER compliance from your publishing partners. The first is as simple as asking them: some may simply not know that you want these metrics. If they need information, just introduce them to tasha@countermetrics.org. Secondly, you can include a requirement for COUNTER reporting in your license agreements. There’s some standard terminology in section 10.1 of the Code of Practice. Lastly, you can collaborate with your fellow librarians to help show just how widespread the demand for COUNTER reporting is!

Q

How many years of back-data should I be able to request from publishers?

We ask report providers to make sure they have usage reports available for the year-to-date plus the previous 24 months. That means that from the 28th of April 2024, we would expect compliant providers to be offering January, February and March 2024 reports, plus 2022 and 2023 reports.

The only exception to this is for new report providers, where we only expect reports from the date when they first became COUNTER-compliant.

Q

Can A&I databases offer a Title Report?

We don’t recommend it, but we know that there are some publishers who have chosen to offer Title Reports for A&I databases. This typically happens where specialist publishers have added contextual information like reviews on the source articles, and where subject-specialist librarians in the same field have explicitly requested that the publisher offers a TR so that they can understand usage patterns for titles within the database. Where this is done, the TR for the A&I database must be completely separate from any other TR that the publisher offers (e.g. for their journal platform).

As database publishers they are still required to offer the appropriate Database Report, and we recommend that the DR should be used in place of the TR.

Q

Who at COUNTER does the audits?

While we develop and maintain the Code of Practice, audits for COUNTER compliance are conducted by independent third party auditors – either ones that we work with frequently, or Chartered Accountants or their equivalent.

Q

Why doesn’t COUNTER require report providers to include all titles that we subscribe to in our reports, even if there is no usage?

Our goal is to ensure that usage reporting is consistent and comparable across different report providers and over time. Including zero usage creates challenges for both report providers and report consumers:

  • First, many if not most report providers have different systems for access control and usage reporting. Adding the access control layer to the reporting system increases the complexity and cost of producing reports and creates an unsustainably high barrier to compliance. 
  • Second, report consumers tell us that Title and Item Reports are already so large that they sometimes struggle to work with them. Adding zero usage would create even larger reports. 

Instead, we recommend using KBART (https://www.niso.org/standards-committees/kbart) as a way to match subscription holdings against COUNTER reports.

Q

Can I ask my report provider to break their reports down by day or week?

Report providers are only obliged to offer reports on a monthly basis. If they are able to offer more frequent reports while remaining compliant with our processing rules they can do so, provided they very clearly mark the resultant report so as not to accidentally cause problems (e.g. a report consumer mis-interpreting a one-day report as an entire month’s usage). One way to do this would be for the report provider to change the Report_Name and Report_ID to a non-standard value to prevent the report from being mistaken for a true COUNTER report. These non-standard reports would not be subject to audit and could not be considered fully COUNTER-compliant.

Q

Can we add custom information to our COUNTER Reports?

We know that some report providers may want to provide custom reports for their content, so we’ve a whole section in the Code of Practice that describes how you can extend your reports – it’s in Section 11 of the Code of Practice. If you do choose to extend your reports, you need to abide by two rules:

  1. You can only deliver those custom elements and values as extensions to the four COUNTER Reports (Platform, Database, Title, Item) but not the Standard Views of the COUNTER Reports. 
  2. You can only deliver extended reports when they are requested – that is, you can’t make them the default or a substitute for your COUNTER Reports.
Q

Our platform doesn’t have denials, do I still need to do the denial Standard View to be compliant?

No, you don’t need to deliver DR_D2, TR_B2 or TR_J2 denial-based Standard Views if you never turn users away from your platform.

Q

We only have one database, so do we have to deliver the Database Report or is the Platform Report enough?

It’s quite common for a platform to include only one database. Where this is the case, the publisher needs to offer both the Platform Report and its PR_P1 Standard View, and the Database Report and the DR_D1 and DR_D2 Standard Views.

Q

Can you tell me more about the consortia harvesting tools?

Many of our community members have developed special tools for consortia to make it easier to gather COUNTER reports. They’re all listed in our Tools and Services page and you will also find useful information about them on the Consortia page. Since we didn’t build these tools ourselves, we aren’t the best people to give you detailed information about them.

Q

Do consortia reports have different names than the regular COUNTER Reports?

No, the naming of consortia reports matches the naming of other COUNTER reports. For example, if a consortium manager requests a consortium-level summary of the Title Report, the report name is still Title Report.

Q

We want all usage to be reported at the consortium level, as though the members were just departments in an institution. How should that work?

Where consortia operate as one extra-large institution, the typical COUNTER Reports apply – just be aware that there won’t be a mechanism to break down usage for the members of the consortium. 

We know that some consortia are set up in such a way that the consortium leader is an institution in its own right, similar to the way some groups like to have a parent organisation with multiple children (e.g. universities with multiple campuses). If users can gain access to content directly from the consortium leader, the leader would need a Customer_ID separate from those of the member institutions and usage would accrue to the consortium directly. That means the consortium administrator should be able to download a regular report showing just the usage for the consortium’s Customer_ID.

Q

What does COUNTER recommend should be included in a consortium-wide annual statistical survey?

It depends on what you are tracking! Typically we hear that consortia want to report on book and journal usage: requesting a Title Report (TR) covering the dates you are interested in and taking the Unique_Item_Requests for Data_Types Book and Journal (plus Reference_Work in Release 5.1) would be the minimum required to meet that need.

If the community would like COUNTER to develop recommendations for consortial or regional data collection, we’re happy to run that project in future: please get in touch with tasha@countermetrics.org.

Q

What kinds of consortia reports are included in Release 5.1?

There are three types of consortia reporting covered by the Release 5 and Release 5.1, which you can read about on our education pages. Mandatory reports are the summary report (total consortium usage, not broken down by institution) and the separate institutional reports, which consortia managers can collect using harvesting tools. There are also detailed reports, which collate the institutional reports into a single file, but these are optional – not every report provider offers them.

Q

We’re building an AI interface that will generate summaries as part of the answers to prompts. Can we count usage metrics for the summaries?

Unless the content generated by your AI interface is going to be allocated a persistent identifier and become a static piece of content in your platform, you should not be counting any Investigations or Requests for that generated content.

Q

We’re building an AI interface to our content that will identify and cite relevant content as part of answers to prompts. Should this be counted as a search?

Yes: if a user is typing in a prompt and the AI is using search functionality to find the relevant content in your database, you should count 1 Searches_Platform for each user prompt. If your interface does not bring up a list of relevant content, you should not count a Searches_Platform. 

Q

We’re experimenting with generative AI - how should we report on use of this new content?

Generative AI is being used in a lot of different ways, so counting usage will be different depending on what the tool is doing. 

Scenario one: Content is generated by AI tools based on the complete corpus, with a list of references displayed either in-line or beneath the generated text. This should be counted as a Search, with Investigations/Requests triggered only if the user clicks through to one of the references.

Scenario two: Content relating to one specific Item is generated by AI tools. Unless the content generated by your AI interface is going to be allocated a persistent identifier and become a static piece of content in your platform, you should not be counting any Investigations or Requests for that generated content. If the generated text is rendered as part of the regular content page (e.g. a journal abstract page which includes an AI-generated lay summary), then the usual Investigation should be counted for that item.

Scenario three: Completely new material is generated as a topic summary. As before, unless this content is going to be allocated a persistent identifier and become a static Item in your platform, you should not be counting any Investigations or Requests for thegenerated content.

Q

What is COUNTER Metrics?

We are a membership organisation created in 2003 by the knowledge community, including libraries, consortia, publishers, aggregators, and technology providers. We bring the community together to define, update and use the COUNTER Code of Practice, which is the global standard for measuring and reporting content usage. Compliance with the Code means that publishers, aggregators and technology providers can deliver credible, consistent, comparable usage metrics to libraries and consortia around the world. You can learn more on our About page.

Q

Can I get the COUNTER newsletter even if my organisation isn’t a member?

Of course, everyone is welcome to sign up for the newsletter – it’s the best way to stay abreast of COUNTER news! There’s a quick sign-up link at the bottom of the Members page.

Q

How do I add my details to my organisation’s membership?

Being part of a COUNTER member organisation gives you access to a wide range of opportunities, including attending the COUNTER conference, but you will need to make sure that your contact details are registered on our membership CRM (GlueUp). You can do this by getting in touch with your membership administrator, or by contacting us.

Q

How do we pay our membership fees?

We issue invoices through our accounting and membership software that include instructions on how to pay by credit card, using our secure Stripe payment server, or by bank transfer. Please note that we are unable to accept payment by cheque.

Q

How can my organisation join COUNTER?

It’s easy to become a member: just visit the Members page, select the type of organisation that best matches you, and complete the short registration form. We’ll get in touch with you to finish the process.

Q

I have an idea for a future release - how do I send it to COUNTER?

Drop a line to our Executive Director, tasha@countermetrics.org, explaining your idea and why you think it enhances the Code of Practice. The TAG will consider whether the idea can feasibly be implemented, and then make a recommendation to the Executive Committee explaining when and how that should be done.

Q

My library is part of a consortium that is a COUNTER member; how do I add my details to that membership?

Libraries affiliated with a COUNTER member consortium are entitled to many of the regular member benefits, including being able to attend the members-only COUNTER conference. However, only the consortium can vote in the AGM or be a member of the COUNTER Board.

Just like a regular organisational member, you will need to make sure that your contact details are registered on our membership CRM (GlueUp). You can do this by getting in touch with your consortium membership administrator, or by contacting us.

Q

How should we roll up usage into a global report?

Global reports are the sum of all usage on your platform, whether that is non-attributed (i.e. not linked to an institution) or attributed. If your platform can attribute usage to multiple institutions simultaneously, you must only count the attributed usage once.

Q

Why should we use COUNTER to report on OA usage?

The COUNTER Code of Practice is a standard developed and maintained by the knowledge community, and as such it’s a trusted and trustworthy way of reporting usage so that it can be compared across publishing platforms and over time. For OA publishers, in particular, it offers a way to prove claims that open access is an effective way to increase global dissemination and use of scholarly content.

Q

Can we map global usage of open access materials to different geographic regions?

Yes, the Code of Practice includes options for you to break down global usage by country and by state (called Country_Subdomain in the Code). What we don’t recommend is any kind of ‘best guess’ mapping of IP addresses to a smaller area like a city, because it’s difficult to define the boundaries of a city and because many people use IP randomisation and obfuscation tools to hide their location. 

Report providers can also choose to work with IP databases to match on-campus usage to specific institutions, and use this information to provide institutional COUNTER Reports for OA content.

Q

If a book is published under a Creative Commons license but is indexed on another platform behind a paywall, should it be reported as open access?

We apply the principle that Access_Type (Open, Controlled, Free_To_Read) applies on the platform being used, as we simply don’t have capacity to start auditing licenses and so on. To take a common example, an open access book from Platform A is included in a subscriber-only database on Platform B. In this case, usage of the book should be reported with Access_Type=Open on Platform A, but Access_Type=Controlled on Platform B.

While not strictly a COUNTER issue, we always recommend checking on the Directory of OA Books (https://doabooks.org/) to find out if something was published under an OA license.

Q

We’re an OA publisher - can I offer COUNTER Reports even if I can’t identify institutional usage?

Absolutely! That’s what the Global reports are for: they show all usage from around the world, whether it can be attributed to an institution or not. There’s a whole section on COUNTER for OA in our education pages if you want to find out more.

Q

Is there an API for the Registry?

Yes, the Registry can be accessed without using the interface, from registry.projectcounter.org/api/v1. There are four endpoints:

  • /platform, for information about publisher platforms that are COUNTER-compliant.
  • /usage-data-host, for information about COUNTER-compliant technology providers supporting the different platforms.
  • /counter-release, for information about which Release is available.
  • /notification, for alerts about migrations, outages and more.
Q

Who is responsible for telling COUNTER when we need to restate data?

We know that there will be occasions where a report provider needs to restate their data, and that’s accounted for in Section 7.11 of the Code of Practice, which says that if you find an error, you have three months to correct it.

The organisation which is audited, listed under ‘Usage Data Hosts’ in the Registry, is responsible for alerting us to the problem. Publishers working with third-party usage data hosts are also welcome to contact us directly. Please email tasha@countermetrics.org as soon as the problem is spotted, so that she can add a notification to the Registry, and again when the correction is made.

Q

There’s something strange about the reports I’m downloading from this publisher, can you help?

It depends on what’s strange: typically, the first thing to do is check the Registry – if you can’t find the platform in the Registry, the publisher isn’t COUNTER-compliant and there’s unfortunately not much we can do beyond reminding them about the value of standardised metrics. If the platform is in the Registry, you’ll find a contact email for the publisher. Please send them a message outlining the problem you are having, cc tasha@countermetrics.org.

Q

I’m getting reports from a publisher who’s not listed on the COUNTER Registry. Are they compliant?

We operate an open standard, meaning that any publisher may offer reports using our format, and many do so without formal compliance – this is why we introduced the Registry as a source of information about audited providers. If you are receiving something that looks like a COUNTER Report from a publisher who isn’t on the Registry, we suggest that you run their reports through the COUNTER Validation Tool (this will show you if there are major issues with the reports), and then get in touch with the publisher to ask them about their compliance status. Tasha adds report providers to the Registry whenever she receives proof of a successful audit.

Q

Why does COUNTER specify TSV for tabular reports?

We ask report providers to deliver either Excel or tab-separated-value (TSV) files, or both. Additional file formats that can be easily imported into spreadsheet programs without loss or corruption may be offered at the vendor’s discretion.

Q

Why do I sometimes see usage for content that I haven’t licensed?

If a user has visited a publisher website and can be attributed to your institution (e.g. through IP recognition or single sign-on), the publisher will show that usage in your COUNTER Reports. Searches, denials and Investigation metrics are to be expected.

Requests may also show up. This typically means that user is dual-attributed with both your institution and another institution which does hold a license for the content. We’re working on developing a policy to increase the transparency around this dual- or multi-attribution process.

Q

Where should we report usage of audiobooks?

Audiobooks are typically allocated an ISBN or other identifier to distinguish them from other formats. This means you should be reporting usage of audiobooks under the Data_Type Book, with the same rules around chapter-level usage and so on, and listing the audiobook ISBN in the appropriate field of the report.

We know that some publishers have elected to code audiobooks to Multimedia to help users distinguish audiobook usage from use of text-based book content. This is not recommended and publishers are asked to use Book.

Q

How can I open TSV files in Excel?

In Excel, navigate to the ‘Data’ ribbon, then click the ‘From Text/CSV’ button. This will open a file navigator popup.

First make sure that you have selected ‘All files’ in the dropdown menu next at the bottom of the popup, then choose your COUNTER report in .tsv format and click ‘Open’.

You will see a new popup with three control options at the top: leave the ‘File Origin’ and ‘Data Type Detection’ controls alone, and make sure that ‘Delimiter’ is set to Tab, then click ‘Load’.

That’s it, you have your TSV-formatted COUNTER Report in Excel, ready to be worked on.

Q

Can A&I databases offer a Title Report?

We don’t recommend it, but we know that there are some publishers who have chosen to offer Title Reports for A&I databases. This typically happens where specialist publishers have added contextual information like reviews on the source articles, and where subject-specialist librarians in the same field have explicitly requested that the publisher offers a TR so that they can understand usage patterns for titles within the database. Where this is done, the TR for the A&I database must be completely separate from any other TR that the publisher offers (e.g. for their journal platform).

As database publishers they are still required to offer the appropriate Database Report, and we recommend that the DR should be used in place of the TR.

Q

Why doesn’t COUNTER require report providers to include all titles that we subscribe to in our reports, even if there is no usage?

Our goal is to ensure that usage reporting is consistent and comparable across different report providers and over time. Including zero usage creates challenges for both report providers and report consumers:

  • First, many if not most report providers have different systems for access control and usage reporting. Adding the access control layer to the reporting system increases the complexity and cost of producing reports and creates an unsustainably high barrier to compliance. 
  • Second, report consumers tell us that Title and Item Reports are already so large that they sometimes struggle to work with them. Adding zero usage would create even larger reports. 

Instead, we recommend using KBART (https://www.niso.org/standards-committees/kbart) as a way to match subscription holdings against COUNTER reports.

Q

What is a COUNTER Report?

The four COUNTER Reports – the Platform, Database, Title, and Item Reports – are the way that COUNTER usage data is presented. The contents of the COUNTER Reports are defined by the Code of Practice and there’s a lot more information about them on our COUNTER Reports page.

Q

There’s something strange about the reports I’m downloading from this publisher, can you help?

It depends on what’s strange: typically, the first thing to do is check the Registry – if you can’t find the platform in the Registry, the publisher isn’t COUNTER-compliant and there’s unfortunately not much we can do beyond reminding them about the value of standardised metrics. If the platform is in the Registry, you’ll find a contact email for the publisher. Please send them a message outlining the problem you are having, cc tasha@countermetrics.org.

Q

Why aren’t all the COUNTER metrics showing in the Standard View I’m using?

This is the most common question we receive from librarians and other report consumers! Standard Views are pre-canned snippets of the four main COUNTER Reports and only include limited information.  If the metric you want isn’t in the Standard View, please take a look at the COUNTER Report instead. You can always filter COUNTER Reports to show only the information you’re interested in.

Q

Are Release 5.1 reports comparable to Release 5 reports?

Yes! Release 5.1 reports are broadly comparable to Release 5, provided some care is applied.

  • To compare book and reference work usage across releases, use the Unique_Title_Investigations and Unique_Title_Requests instead of Item-level metrics.
  • Use the Title Report to gain a full understanding of usage for all titles – the TR_B and TR_J series of Standard Views will not include e.g. conference content.
  • Again, use the Title Report to understand content usage by Access_Type: the TR_B1, TR_J1 and TR_J4 Standard Views of the Title Report will show only Controlled content without Open and Free_To_Read materials.
  • If you are using the Item Report, be aware the Release 5.1 does not require Components – the Unique_Item_Investigations and Unique_Item_Requests will allow you to compare usage across releases.
Q

Can I ask my report provider to break their reports down by day or week?

Report providers are only obliged to offer reports on a monthly basis. If they are able to offer more frequent reports while remaining compliant with our processing rules they can do so, provided they very clearly mark the resultant report so as not to accidentally cause problems (e.g. a report consumer mis-interpreting a one-day report as an entire month’s usage). One way to do this would be for the report provider to change the Report_Name and Report_ID to a non-standard value to prevent the report from being mistaken for a true COUNTER report. These non-standard reports would not be subject to audit and could not be considered fully COUNTER-compliant.

Q

Why is the sum of Total_Item_Requests in my Title Report greater than the sum of Total_Item_Requests in my TR_B1 and TR_J1 reports?

If you take a look at column K in the tabular version of the Title Report, you’ll see the heading Data_Type. As many publisher platforms include lots of different types of content, their Title Reports will necessarily include quite a few Data Types that aren’t journals or books, including conferences, magazines, etc. This means the Title Report usage metrics will often exceed the total of the book and journal Standard Views.

Q

Can we add custom information to our COUNTER Reports?

We know that some report providers may want to provide custom reports for their content, so we’ve a whole section in the Code of Practice that describes how you can extend your reports – it’s in Section 11 of the Code of Practice. If you do choose to extend your reports, you need to abide by two rules:

  1. You can only deliver those custom elements and values as extensions to the four COUNTER Reports (Platform, Database, Title, Item) but not the Standard Views of the COUNTER Reports. 
  2. You can only deliver extended reports when they are requested – that is, you can’t make them the default or a substitute for your COUNTER Reports.
Q

I’ve set up my system to harvest COUNTER Reports on the 10th of each month but I keep seeing errors - why can’t I download my reports?

We know that it can be complicated to process raw usage data into COUNTER-compliant metrics, so the Code of Practice allows up to 28 days for report providers to make their monthly COUNTER Reports available. If you are setting up automated harvests, we recommend configuring your system to do this after the 28th. 

Q

Should usage of journal articles or book chapters appear in both Database and Title Reports?

It depends. For Aggregated_Full_Content databases – those databases which include content that is aggregated or collected up by title – you should expect to see both a Database Report and a Title Report.

Q

We only have one database, so do we have to deliver the Database Report or is the Platform Report enough?

It’s quite common for a platform to include only one database. Where this is the case, the publisher needs to offer both the Platform Report and its PR_P1 Standard View, and the Database Report and the DR_D1 and DR_D2 Standard Views.

Q

When there are Data_Type and Parent_Data_Type pairings, such as Article and Journal, which attribute should show in the Platform Report?

To ensure that there is no double-counting, platforms that always associate the Data_Type with a Parent_Data_Type must only show the Parent_Data_Type in the Platform Report and PR_P1 Standard View. Only platforms that have the Data_Type without a Parent_Data_Type should show the Data_Type in the Platform Report. This applies to all Data_Type and Parent_Data_Type pairings:

  • Article with Journal
  • Book_Segment with Book
  • Conference Item with Conference
  • News Item with Newspaper_or_Newsletter
  • Reference Item with Reference Work

The same applies to the Database Report and Title Reports and their associated Standard Views.

Q

What are the COUNTER metrics?

There are three types of COUNTER metric – the usage, search, and denial metrics. They are defined by the Code of Practice. Usage metrics include Investigations and Requests, and they describe user interactions with pieces of content. Search metrics are what you would expect: information about the number of searches on a given platform or database. Denial metrics, sometimes called turnaways, count the number of times users are refused access to pieces of content. There’s a lot more information about the metrics on our Education pages.

Q

Does filtering or faceting a set of search results count as a new search?

Any time a platform has to execute a new search, a search metric should be counted. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Multi-tab user interfaces where a separate search is conducted to present a different set of results per tab
  • Refining search results by faceting or filtering
  • Browse interfaces where clicking on a browsable topic conducts a search

Typically, users moving between pages on a paginated search results interface should not be treated as additional searches, with one exception as outlined in the search metrics FAQ about landing on a trending content page.

Q

How should platforms count denials when they require registration even for viewing metadata?

Some platforms are exclusively for subscribers or registered users. They can still track and report No_License denials for users who land on the platform, for example by using an IP database to determine the users’ likely institutional affiliation.

Q

I don’t understand the different types of search metric, can you explain them in simple terms?

One of our search metrics, Searches_Platform, refers to search activity across a whole site and it appears only in the Platform Report and the PR_P1 Standard View.

The other three search metrics appear in the Database Report and the DR_D1 Standard View. 

For simple platforms with only one database, Searches_Regular is the relevant COUNTER search metric. 

For more complex platforms with multiple databases, the search metric depends on the user interface: if the user can choose which database they want to search, Searches_Regular applies. If the user cannot choose, and has to search every database on the platform, then Searches_Automated applies.

Lastly, Searches_Federated shows you the number of searches happening remotely – for example, if your library database is linked to and can search the platform.

Q

We’re building an AI interface to our content that will identify and cite relevant content as part of answers to prompts. Should this be counted as a search?

Yes: if a user is typing in a prompt and the AI is using search functionality to find the relevant content in your database, you should count 1 Searches_Platform for each user prompt. If your interface does not bring up a list of relevant content, you should not count a Searches_Platform. 

Q

When a user lands on our platform, they are presented with a list of trending content that’s generated on-the-fly. Does this count as a search?

No: while the search system might be generating the list of trending content, it’s not a search that has been executed by the user so it should not be counted. The same applies for things like ‘most read’ or ‘most cited’ lists. The only exception to this would be if a user specifically elected to explore more of the list – for example by clicking a ‘view more’ link, or moving to another page on a paginated search results interface (in the sole exception to the rule about pagination described in the search metrics FAQ on filtering and faceting).

Q

What’s the difference between the COUNTER API and SUSHI? 

The original SUSHI standard described a SOAP protocol for collecting usage reports. Feedback from our community was that the original protocol was too cumbersome, so Release 5 of the COUNTER Code of Practice was based on a technical report that we worked on with NISO in 2016/17, called SUSHI-lite, which described a way to harvest usage reports using a restful protocol. More recently it has become clear that the name ‘SUSHI’ was confusing for people who are new to COUNTER, so we are working towards relabelling it more clearly as the COUNTER API (formerly sushi) across all of our resources. 

Q

We’re struggling to separate out conferences and textbooks from our other books - can we keep using Data_Type Book for everything?

Yes, if you cannot differentiate between Books, Conferences and Reference_Works, please continue to use Book. We added these new Data_Types to help report providers who have distinct conference series or textbook programmes.

Q

We’ve been using Multimedia for images and videos in our database. Do we have to start using the Image and Audiovisual Data_Types instead?

Using the more granular multimedia Data_Types isn’t mandatory: we introduced them to help those report providers who are already using DataCite resource types and want to show them in their usage reporting.

Q

What are Customer_ID and Requestor_ID - does COUNTER specify them?

Users need a Customer_ID and Requestor_ID to call reports from the COUNTER API (formerly sushi). The Customer_ID is usually the report provider’s internal identifier for the institution, while the Requestor_ID is a system-generated identifier for the API session.

Q

What are Items and Titles?

Items are individual pieces of content – book chapters, journal articles, videos, etc. Some content can be rolled up or aggregated into Titles like books or journals.

Q

What are report providers and report consumers?

Report providers include publishers, aggregators, technology providers, syndicated platforms, and other groups who offer COUNTER Reports. 

Report consumers include librarians, consortia, OA teams, technology providers, funders, publishers, and others who use COUNTER Reports within their work for any reason.

Q

What is a Book_Segment? Is it the same as a chapter?

A chapter could be a Book_Segment, but we often see other terms like ‘essay’, or different divisions like ‘part’ or ‘section’. We therefore use the term Book_Segment to indicate the Items within a Title. Book_Segments need to have unique identifiers (such as a DOI) to be countable. 

If we take the example of an edited volume with sixteen chapters, where each chapter has a DOI but the front matter (foreword, etc.) does not, then a download of the entire book should count as 16 Total_Item_Investigations, 16 Unique_Item_Investigations, 16 Total_Item_Requests, 16 Unique_Item_Requests, 1 Unique_Title_Investigation and 1 Unique_Title_Request.

Q

Are Release 5.1 reports comparable to Release 5 reports?

Yes! Release 5.1 reports are broadly comparable to Release 5, provided some care is applied.

  • To compare book and reference work usage across releases, use the Unique_Title_Investigations and Unique_Title_Requests instead of Item-level metrics.
  • Use the Title Report to gain a full understanding of usage for all titles – the TR_B and TR_J series of Standard Views will not include e.g. conference content.
  • Again, use the Title Report to understand content usage by Access_Type: the TR_B1, TR_J1 and TR_J4 Standard Views of the Title Report will show only Controlled content without Open and Free_To_Read materials.
  • If you are using the Item Report, be aware the Release 5.1 does not require Components – the Unique_Item_Investigations and Unique_Item_Requests will allow you to compare usage across releases.
Q

Do we have to reprocess our old usage data from 2023 and 2024 to be Release 5.1 compliant after January 2025?

Report providers don’t need to reprocess data from before the cutover date to comply with Release 5.1: you just need to keep the old Release 5 reports available so that report consumers can still get hold of reports covering the current year plus the prior 24 months.

If you choose to go back and reprocess data to provide Release 5.1 report from before the transition, please 

  • Apply the R5.1 Data_Type to all items 
  • Use R5.1 Access_Type Open where R5 Access_Type OA_Gold would have applied, and R5.1 Access_Type Controlled for everything else.
Q

How can I find a mapping from old to new releases of the Code of Practice?

There’s not much change from Release 5 to Release 5.1, but we have included a detailed description of the changes and how to map them in Appendix B of the Code of Practice. There is also a Friendly Guide specifically about what’s new in R5.1.  Similarly, for mapping Release 4 to Release 5 the detail is in Appendix B, and the Release 5 Friendly Guide for Librarians has a summary table that might be useful for you.

Q

I have an idea for a future release - how do I send it to COUNTER?

Drop a line to our Executive Director, tasha@countermetrics.org, explaining your idea and why you think it enhances the Code of Practice. The TAG will consider whether the idea can feasibly be implemented, and then make a recommendation to the Executive Committee explaining when and how that should be done.

Q

We’re changing the interface for our platform - do we need to differentiate between them in our reports?

No! Provided the platform URL isn’t changing and the content is not being given new identifiers, you don’t need to separate out usage for the old and new interfaces.

Q

We’re moving to a new technology platform. Whose responsibility is it to keep our old COUNTER reports available?

When you move between report providers, just like when you upgrade to the latest release of the Code of Practice, you need to ensure reports are available for the year-to-date plus the previous 24 months – so if you are transitioning to a new provider in April, you’d need January, February and March 2024 reports, plus 2022 and 2023 reports, from your old provider. The responsibility for making sure those older reports remain available rests with the publisher (you), not the old report provider.

You can do that by keeping the old service running until the reports age out; moving the old reports to the new service; or keeping a data dump of the old reports available through your customer service tools, provided they are secure enough to ensure that customer data isn’t improperly shared.

Q

We’re struggling to separate out conferences and textbooks from our other books - can we keep using Data_Type Book for everything?

Yes, if you cannot differentiate between Books, Conferences and Reference_Works, please continue to use Book. We added these new Data_Types to help report providers who have distinct conference series or textbook programmes.

Q

We’ve been using Multimedia for images and videos in our database. Do we have to start using the Image and Audiovisual Data_Types instead?

Using the more granular multimedia Data_Types isn’t mandatory: we introduced them to help those report providers who are already using DataCite resource types and want to show them in their usage reporting.

Q

What are the COUNTER metrics?

There are three types of COUNTER metric – the usage, search, and denial metrics. They are defined by the Code of Practice. Usage metrics include Investigations and Requests, and they describe user interactions with pieces of content. Search metrics are what you would expect: information about the number of searches on a given platform or database. Denial metrics, sometimes called turnaways, count the number of times users are refused access to pieces of content. There’s a lot more information about the metrics on our Education pages.

Q

Why do I see Investigations and denials for the same content in my COUNTER Reports? 

If a user successfully accesses metadata about an item – a journal article abstract, for example – that counts as an Investigation. If they are then denied access to the full text, perhaps because your institution doesn’t subscribe to the journal, a No_License denial has to be counted for the same item.

Q

Some publishers load multiple versions of a full text PDF for one piece of content, which are surfaced depending on what country the user is in when accessing the content. How should we count this usage?

Usage metrics in this scenario will reflect user experience:

• The user cannot see any PDF download options, but the interface offers up the HTML instead. The user clicks the HTML link to successfully access the item: 1 Total_Item_Request is counted.

• The user can see a PDF download option, but when they click it they are automatically redirected to the HTML that they are licensed to use: 1 Total_Item_Request is counted. 

• The user can see a PDF download option, but when they click it they are not automatically redirected to HTML. As the user is being turned away from content they want to use, and not offered an alternative format for the same content, 1 No_License is counted.

Q

Where should we report usage of audiobooks?

Audiobooks are typically allocated an ISBN or other identifier to distinguish them from other formats. This means you should be reporting usage of audiobooks under the Data_Type Book, with the same rules around chapter-level usage and so on, and listing the audiobook ISBN in the appropriate field of the report.

We know that some publishers have elected to code audiobooks to Multimedia to help users distinguish audiobook usage from use of text-based book content. This is not recommended and publishers are asked to use Book.

Q

Why am I seeing Requests for an A&I database?

A&I databases that create value-add content around the materials that they index – for example, lay summaries or expert commentaries – often count that value-add content as a Request. We don’t recommend using Requests to assess the usage of A&I databases.

Q

What are the COUNTER metrics?

There are three types of COUNTER metric – the usage, search, and denial metrics. They are defined by the Code of Practice. Usage metrics include Investigations and Requests, and they describe user interactions with pieces of content. Search metrics are what you would expect: information about the number of searches on a given platform or database. Denial metrics, sometimes called turnaways, count the number of times users are refused access to pieces of content. There’s a lot more information about the metrics on our Education pages.

Q

Why do I see Investigations and denials for the same content in my COUNTER Reports? 

If a user successfully accesses metadata about an item – a journal article abstract, for example – that counts as an Investigation. If they are then denied access to the full text, perhaps because your institution doesn’t subscribe to the journal, a No_License denial has to be counted for the same item.

Q

Why is the sum of Total_Item_Requests in my Title Report greater than the sum of Total_Item_Requests in my TR_B1 and TR_J1 reports?

If you take a look at column K in the tabular version of the Title Report, you’ll see the heading Data_Type. As many publisher platforms include lots of different types of content, their Title Reports will necessarily include quite a few Data Types that aren’t journals or books, including conferences, magazines, etc. This means the Title Report usage metrics will often exceed the total of the book and journal Standard Views.

Q

Can you explain the difference between Investigations and Requests?

Both Investigations and Requests measure usage of pieces of content (‘Items’). Every interaction with an item generates an Investigation, whether that is a user looking at a journal abstract or a video thumbnail, downloading a book chapter, or sharing the item from a link embedded in the page. When a user chooses to interact with the complete content item – downloading full text or hitting play on a video, for example – that is counted as both an Investigation and a Request.

That means you should expect to see a lot more Investigations than Requests in COUNTER Reports.

Q

Do home pages or tables of contents get counted for Investigations and Requests?

Report providers may count Investigations when users access home pages or tables of contents for two COUNTER Data_Types: Books and Reference_Works. No other home pages or tables of contents (e.g. journals) can be counted as Investigations or Requests. 

As a rule of thumb, only usage of items with a unique identifier such as a DOI or ISBN should be counted.

Q

How do these special types of interaction get counted?

Count an Investigation, but not a Request, when:

  • A user views metadata about an item in a pop-up
  • A user chooses to download metadata about search results from a list
  • A user previews an item (e.g. thumbnail of a first page)
  • A user is diverted to a metadata page or preview after being denied access to full text
  • A user clicks a link from one platform to another, third-party platform (e.g. an abstracting service into publisher full text)

Do not count an Investigation or a Request when:

  • A user visits a journal home page
  • A new content item automatically pops up when the user reaches the end of a page
  • Any activity is being carried out by a bot 
  • A user clicks to ‘view more’ to show hidden metadata fields on an item page
  • A user clicks navigation tags to move between headings in an item
Q

How does COUNTER make sure publishers can’t inflate their Investigation and Request metrics by changing the user interface?

In Release 5 we introduced the concept of ‘Unique’ metrics, which deduplicate Investigations and Requests by each user within a single user session. For example: if a user reads a book chapter on screen and then downloads the same chapter to read offline later, that would count as 2 Total_Item_Investigations and 2 Total_Item_Requests, but only 1 Unique_Item_Investigation and 1 Unique_Item_Request.

By contrast, if the user read a book chapter on screen, closed their browser window and re-visited the same chapter on screen later in the same day, that would count as 2 Total_Item_Investigations, 2 Total_Item_Requests, 2 Unique_Item_Investigations and 2 Unique_Item_Requests – that is, there’s no deduplication because the activity happens in two sessions.

Q

How long does a user need to watch a video before a Request is counted?

The Request is counted as soon as the user hits play: as with downloading a book chapter, if the content is available and the user has clicked to access it, the action counts as a Request.

Q

We have a database that includes scanned images of old magazine articles. When a user clicks to view a scanned page of the magazine, they can also scroll through the rest of the images for that issue. How should we count that usage?

How you count usage will depend on whether you can uniquely identify each page of the magazine. If each page has a unique identifier, it can be considered an item with Data_Type News_Item. That would mean that if a user looks at four scanned pages, you would count 1 Total_Item_Request for each page. 

On the other hand, if you only have a unique identifier for the issue of the magazine then the whole issue would be considered an item with Data_Type Newspaper_or_Newsletter, and the same user scrolling through the same four scanned pages would only count as 1 Total_Item_Request.

Q

What is special about the Title metrics?

The Unique_Title_Investigation and Unique_Title_Request metrics only apply to Books and Reference_Works (e.g. encyclopaedias). They only increase by 1 no matter how many chapters of the work are accessed in a given user session. 

For example: if a user downloads five book chapters in a single session, that would count as 1 Unique_Title_Investigation and 1 Unique_Title_Request. By contrast, if the user downloaded five chapters, closed their browser window and downloaded two more chapters from the same book later in the same day, that would count as 2 Unique_Title_Investigations and 2 Unique_Title_Requests – there’s no deduplication because the activity happens in two sessions. There are Item metrics too, but we’ve not reported them here.

Q

Which metric is best for comparing the use of different types of databases?

It can be challenging to compare use of an abstracting and indexing service (A&I_Database) with a database that contains full content items. We suggest using search metrics to identify whether your users are exploring databases, and to compare levels of interest across all the databases to which you have access. You can also use Unique_Item_Investigations to compare the number of interactions with content in the databases.

Q

Which metric should I use?

It depends on what you’re trying to measure!

We typically recommend Unique_Item_Requests for calculating cost per use, except for abstracting and indexing services (which appear in the Registry with Host_Type A&I_Database), where Unique_Item_Investigations is more appropriate. 

Equally, search metrics are great for identifying whether your users are exploring databases and denials can be a helpful indication of where there may be gaps in your collection.

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