1.1 General Information

1.1.1 Purpose

The purpose of the COUNTER Code of Practice is to facilitate the recording, exchange, and interpretation of online usage data by establishing open international standards and protocols for the provision of content-provider-generated usage statistics that are consistent, comparable, and credible.

1.1.2 Scope

This COUNTER Code of Practice provides a framework for the recording and exchange of online usage statistics for the major categories of e-resources (journals, databases, books, reference works, and multimedia databases) at an international level. In doing so, it covers the following areas: data elements to be measured, definitions of these data elements, content and format of usage reports, requirements for data processing, requirements for auditing, and guidelines to avoid duplicate counting.

1.1.3 Application

COUNTER is designed for librarians, content providers and others who require reliable online usage statistics. The guidelines provided by this Code of Practice enable librarians to compare statistics from different platforms, to make better-informed purchasing decisions, and to plan more effectively. COUNTER also provides content providers with the detailed specifications they need to follow to generate data in a format useful to their customers, to compare the relative usage of different delivery channels, and to learn more about online usage patterns. COUNTER also provides guidance to others interested in information about online usage statistics.

1.1.4 Strategy

COUNTER provides an open Code of Practice that evolves in response to the demands of the international library and content provider communities. The Code of Practice is continually under review; feedback on its scope and application are actively sought from all interested parties. See Section 12 below.

1.1.5 Governance

The COUNTER Code of Practice is owned and developed by Counter Online Metrics (COUNTER), a non-profit distributing company registered in England. A Board of Directors governs Counter Online Metrics. An Executive Committee reports to the Board, and the day-to-day management of COUNTER is the responsibility of the Project Director.

1.1.6 Definitions

This Code of Practice provides definitions of data elements and other terms that are relevant, not only to the usage reports specified in Release 5 (R5), but also to other reports that content providers may wish to generate. Every effort has been made to use existing ISO, NISO, etc. definitions where appropriate, and these sources are cited (see Appendix A).

1.1.7 Versions

The COUNTER Code of Practice will be extended and upgraded as necessary based on input from the communities it serves. Each new version will be made available as a numbered release on the COUNTER website; users will be alerted to its availability. R5 of the Code of Practice replaces Release 4 (R4) of the Code of Practice. The deadline date for implementation of this Release is 01-Jan-2019. After this date, only those content providers compliant with R5 will be deemed compliant with the Code of Practice.

COUNTER R5 introduces a continuous maintenance process (see Section 12 below) that will allow the Code of Practice to evolve over time minimizing the need for major version changes.

1.1.8 Auditing and COUNTER Compliance

An independent annual audit is REQUIRED of each content provider’s reports and processes to certify that they are COUNTER compliant. The auditing process is designed to be simple, straightforward and not unduly burdensome or costly to the content provider while providing reassurance to customers of the reliability of the COUNTER usage data. See Section 9 below and Appendix E for more details.

1.1.9 Relationship to other Standards, Protocols and Codes

The COUNTER Code of Practice builds on several existing industry initiatives and standards that address content provider-based online performance measures. Where appropriate, definitions of data elements and other terms from these sources have been used in this Code of Practice, and these are identified in Appendix A.

1.1.10 Making Comments on the Code of Practice

The COUNTER Executive Committee welcomes comments on the Code of Practice (see Section 12 below).