COUNTER Code of Practice, Release 5 – Frequently Asked Questions



What is COUNTER Code of Practice, Release 5 (COP5)?

COUNTER rolled out its new Code of Practice, Release 5 (COP5) in January 2019.

Comprised of libraries, publishers and vendors – including Elsevier, a founding member – COUNTER is a non-profit organization that develops standards for reporting on the usage of electronic resources.

These standards are continuously updated to reflect changes in the information landscape, with COP5 being the latest iteration. COP5 has been developed to improve the clarity, consistency and comparability of usage reporting.

Join the Director of COUNTER, Lorraine Estelle and Elsevier’s Director of Analytics, Elena Zapryanova-Hadjinikolova at the Library Connect webinar “Deep Dive into COUNTER Code of Practice 5” to learn more about what is changing in COP5.

Why is there a need for new metrics?

Technology and publisher platform innovation have immensely transformed researcher workflows since the last Code of Practice was published in 2012, which has led to a need for additional usage metrics to better measure online user behaviour:

  1. Distributed Usage Logging (DUL) is a new CrossRef-facilitated standard that allows for reporting of usage on 3rd party platforms (e.g. Mendeley, ReadCube)
  2. Investigations measure content interactions beyond the full-text (e.g. abstracts, videos, research data)
  3. Unique Item Requests measure usage independent of the content format and user interface, replacing the current separate HTML and PDF metrics (i.e. an HTML and a pdf download of the same article in the same user session count as a single Unique_Item_Request)
  4. Unique Title Requests (Books only) provide a total count of unique requests for a given e-book title, regardless of how many ‘sections’ (e.g. pages, chapters or an entire e-book) the user downloaded during a session
  5. Access type attributes: standard journal reports will include a filter to identify usage of “Controlled” content (content behind license / subscription) vs “Gold OA” content

The metrics simplify comparisons between vendors and will be added to Elsevier’s wide ranging “basket of metrics” we provide to help you if you’re evaluating collections, or if you’re reporting upwards about the value the library provides. Visit the COUNTER website to learn more about these new metrics.

When will I get the new metrics in my reports?

The new metrics will be available in the January 2019 customer reports.

Where can I find the new reports?

Initially the reports will be available in the AdminTool, just as they are now. In the longer term, we are planning to move our usage reporting to the free E-PIC service, to give our customers a more holistic view of their Elsevier content across products. E-PIC will show both the Unique Item Requests and Total Item Requests metrics from 2019.

For how long will I still be able to access the Release 4 reports?

Customers will be able to access both Release 4 and Release 5 reports during a 3-month transition period (January to March 2019). Our Release 5 reports will contain current month + 24 months of historical data and therefore our customers will not need to download both sets of reports for analysis.

Note that this applies to all Release 4 metrics which continue to be reported under Release 5, e.g. Total Item Requests. Discontinued metrics, such as separate HTML and PDF requests, will not be reported under Release 5 and will be accessible only until March 2019 via the Release 4 reports.

Below are the key changes to the COUNTER Standard reports under COP5:

Changes to the COUNTER Standard reports under COP5

Will I be able to see a retroactive view of the new metric types for my usage?

Unfortunately not – there are 2 reasons for that:

  1. COUNTER mandates that the new Release 5 metrics are reported with data from January 2019 going forward only.
  2. We had to implement some changes in our data/tracking to enable us to calculate the new metrics. These changes cannot be applied retrospectively.

How will turnaways be counted?

The same as before. A turnaway will be registered when a user tries to access an article but has no access entitlement to the content.  The user will be directed to the abstract of the article at that time.

Will Elsevier have any usage via the Investigations metric, since you don’t send customers to article abstracts?

Investigations measure any content interaction, including abstracts, abstract & references, metadata, videos, supplementary materials (e.g. research data), images.

Elsevier has developed new and innovative ways to provide value to researchers leveraging different content types and metadata beyond “flat PDFs” and the Investigations metric allows us to track and showcase that value. Note that an active user request needs to be present to record an Investigation, i.e. embedded content does not count unless user requests it.

Are either the old, or new metrics implemented differently depending on what country you access ScienceDirect from?

No, the processing of the logs is handled in the same way for all users.

Will there be any changes to consortium reporting?

Yes – separate consortium reports will not be provided under COP5. (for example Release 4 Consortium Report 1: Number of successful full-text journal article or book chapter requests by month and title, broken down by consortium member will be discontinued.) Consortium managers will be able to access any Release 5 report for their members and pull an overall report containing aggregate usage statistics for all members of their consortium.

What is DUL and why has it been introduced as part of COUNTER Release 5?

DUL (Distributed Usage Logging) is a new CrossRef-facilitated standard to report usage of DOI-identified content on 3rd party platform such as aggregators, repositories and SCNs. Technology has facilitated more interactive ways of accessing content, sharing and collaborating on non-publisher platforms such aggregators, repositories and SCNs. DUL enables a more complete representation of content value. Mendeley and Digital Science announced in October that they are working with a group of publishers, including Elsevier, to set up DUL usage reporting for content usage on their platforms in time for the COP5 launch in January 2019.

Where can I learn more about these new metrics and reporting?

For detailed information and helpful guides on the Counter COP5 metrics and how you will benefit from even more transparent reporting we encourage you to visit the COUNTER website.

Still have questions?

Your Elsevier Account Manager and Customer Consultant are both always available to answer questions and give training and support for your reporting needs.