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Re: Project COUNTER Progress Update - 5 years on

At 05:46 PM 5/16/2007, Gillingham Emily wrote:

Since the launch of the first COUNTER Code of Practice in 2002, libraries around the world have been able to compare and contrast the usage for different journals and databases across different subjects from different publishers.
As a former member of the Executive Board of Project COUNTER, and as a former science librarian, I only have great respect and admiration for this organization, its leadership, and its dedicated board members. Yet the standardization of downloads and reports has not resulted in panacea whereby librarians can simply compare usage across different publishers. In a study of six COUNTER-compliant publishers [see below], we report very large differences in download patterns across publisher interfaces -- even controlling for identical journal content. As a result, there needs to be more work on this front before librarians are persuaded that they can simply compare the usage of journals and databases across publisher platforms. At the least, Project COUNTER should be cautious in making over-simplified statements that can result in erroneous beliefs by those who are responsible for making sound collection decisions. At worse, publishers may exploit this myth to artificially inflate and manipulate the numbers they report.

eJournal interface can influence usage statistics: implications for libraries, publishers, and Project COUNTER.

Philip M. Davis and Jason S. Price
JASIST (2006, vol 57, issue 9, p.1243-1248).
copy available: http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/pmd8/

The design of a publisher's electronic interface can have a measurable effect on electronic journal usage statistics. A study of journal usage from six COUNTER-compliant publishers at thirty-two research institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden indicates that the ratio of PDF to HTML views is not consistent across publisher interfaces, even after controlling for differences in publisher content. The number of fulltext downloads may be artificially inflated when publishers require users to view HTML versions before accessing PDF versions or when linking mechanisms, such as CrossRef, direct users to the full text, rather than the abstract, of each article. These results suggest that usage reports from COUNTER-compliant publishers are not directly comparable in their current form. One solution may be to modify publisher numbers with 'adjustment factors' deemed to be representative of the benefit or disadvantage due to its interface. Standardization of some interface and linking protocols may obviate these differences and allow for more accurate cross-publisher comparisons.

Philip M. Davis
PhD Student (and former Science Librarian)
Department of Communication
336 Kennedy Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
email: pmd8@cornell.edu
work phone: 607 255-0354
web: http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/pmd8/