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COUNTER posting from Peter Shepherd

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 22 May 2007 14:22:56 +0000
From: Peter Shepherd <pt_shepherd@hotmail.com>
To: ann.okerson@yale.edu
Subject: COUNTER posting Peter Shepherd

Ann: As I do not subscribe to Liblicense, could you do me a huge favour and arrange for the response to Phil Davis's message to be posted for me?

Thank you for your help, Peter


I write in response to Phil Davis's recent comments on the comparablity of the online usage statistics from different COUNTER-compliant vendors. While I agree with Phil that COUNTER is no panacea, I am confident that the COUNTER compliant usage statistics from different�vendors are much more comparable than he believes.�The results of the 2005 study that he reports are interesting, but two siginificant developments have taken place since it was published that render some of its conclusions rather questionable. These developments are:

1. In 2005 only one COUNTER-compliant �vendor required users to download the full-text�html version of an article before accessing the full-text PDF. This vendor has since changed�its interface so that this is no longer a requirement and the user can go straight to the�PDF. While it is not COUNTER's job to instruct vendors on the design of their user interfaces, we do specify in the Code of Practice that it is not best practice for vendors to require users to download html first.

2. In 2005 and 2006 we carried out a research project (sponsored by JISC) which investigated ways of mitigating possible 'interface' effects' on COUNTER usage data. The results of this project are reported in full on the JISC website at�


These results tend to call into question the wisdom of drawing too may conclusions about usage data based on the poportion of PDF/html ful text downloads observed for different publishers.�I think that the following results are particularly�noteworthy:

a) When a unique article filter is applied to the�usage statistics contained in Journal Report 1 ( Number of successful full text article requests - in all formats), which reduces the count to the number of unique article requests per session,�the reduction�in the count is not�particularly dramatic. Only in a minority of�cases do users download an article in more than one format in a single session and it��seems reasonable to assume that in�these cases users�may actually want�to use an article in more than one format. ( Further studies into the use of different article �formats by users would shed more light n this).

2. There does not apear to be any relationship between the reduction�in the count�produced by the application of the unique article filter and the proportion of PDF/html downloads. The publisher with a PDF/html ratio of 0.64 sees a similar reduction in count,�when the unique article filter is applied,�to the publisher with a PDF/html ratio of 7.69. These results indicate that�it would be ill-advised to�draw any conclusions about 'inflation' of usage statistics from PDF/html download ratios.��

While�we continue with the work�to further �improve the COUNTER usage statistics, we stand by the statements we have made in our recent message.�COUNTER has made usage statistics from different vendors more comparable. The COUNTER statistics are not perfect, but we�feel that�they are comparable enough for the purposes of most librarians.

We�must, of course, be�alive to the dangers of over-simplification, but�the siren voices of over-interpretation are�equally tempting and just as�hazardous;�their call�can, indeed,�be irresistible when�so much data is so readily available. There are many reasons why PDF/html ratios may vary from publisher to publisher ( archive formats; different practices in different subject fields, to name but two) and not too much should be read into them.

Peter Shepherd, PhD


>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
Cornell University
email: pmd8@cornell.edu
work phone: 607 255-0354
web: http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/pmd8/