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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about COUNTER Code of Practice: Release 5

Below you’ll find answers to the questions we get asked the most about the implementation of Release 5. The numbers refer to the relevant sections in the Code of Practice.



Q: Our platform search tool can be customized to filter only on a single title. Is it OK to include these types of searches in the Platform Report?

A: Yes.


Q: If a report is requested which includes a timespan which has not been processed (e.g. because it lies in the future), should the fields be populated by zeros, left blank, or should the columns be excluded from the report?

A: The report should only include the months for which usage has been processed. If the request was for months that are not yet processed, an exception to that effect should be included in the header.


Q: Is it OK to include book series, online versions of loose-leaf products and other irregularly updating products in the journals reports?

A: Yes, if they have an ISSN and providing they are not being included in a “Book” report, as may be the case with books that are part of a monographic series.
Q: Our reference works have their own search tool and index. The standard views for book title reports do not include metrics for search activity, but we feel that the search counts are important. Would it be OK to include these titles in the Database Reports?

A: Yes. The searches in these titles should then only be counted in the Database Reports, not in the Platform Report.
Q: Is a search counted any time the system executes a search to retrieve a new set of results?

A: Yes, some examples are as follows:


Q: Some publishers present abstracts, full text and references on different pages, others within the same HTML page, usually with tabs or anchors. Will the first solution not generate a lot more “Investigations” than the second?

A: Yes, but the “unique” metrics were created to alleviate these differences.
Q: When a user uses a mobile app offline, the activity cannot be reported until the user goes online again. In cases where this happens only in the following months or even later, is it OK to add the usage to the month where it was reported back, rather than when it occurred?

Q: May the following events be counted towards “Investigations”?

A user views an abstract which pops up while scanning a table of contents.

A: Yes, if the popup was opened then an investigation may be counted.
Q: May the following events be counted towards “Requests”?

  1. When a service offers a “Download the full text of all search results” button.

A: Yes, if an individual user triggers the downloads rather than a harvesting program or push towards the user by the service without the user’s prior request.

  1. When the full text is delivered to the user’s screen in “thumbnail” size within a larger page.

A: No.

  1. When only a part of the full text, e.g. the first page, is delivered as a preview and the rest of the article is obscured.

A: This may count towards “Investigations” but not “Requests”.
Q: May the following be counted towards “Access Denied”?

A user clicks a link to the full text but does not have a license. The access control system redirects the user to the abstract page. No actual “Access Denied” page is displayed.

A: Yes, this may count as “No_License”. The view of the abstract can be counted as “Investigation”.


Q: May the following events be counted towards “Searches_Regular”?

A host who publishes a society’s journals has allowed the society to implement their search tool on the society’s website, so that users can start a search on the society’s site and view the results there as well, while the search is run on the host’s site.

A: Yes.



Q: Which security measures do content providers need to apply, so that customers can be sure that their usage data are protected?

A: It is the content provider’s responsibility to implement sufficient security measures.



Q: How often is the list of internet robots, crawlers and spiders updated and within which timeframe do content providers need to implement the new list?

A: The list of internet robots, crawlers and spiders is reviewed on a regular basis and a notice of updates is published in the COUNTER newsletter and on Twitter. Content providers should update as immediately as possible. Please use the form at: to let COUNTER know of any user agents that should be included in this list or to suggest other amendments.

The current list will be held on GitHub, and should be pulled whenever usage is being processed. If you are re-processing old data, please pull the archived copy of the list which is relevant to that time period.



Q: Is it OK to count “Requests” when a service offers a “Download the full text of all search results” button?

A: Yes, as long as the downloads are triggered by an individual user rather than a harvesting program or pushed towards the user by the service without prior request.



Q: A user has downloaded more content than he/she could possibly read, without registering for text mining. Should this usage be excluded from the reports?

A: The COUNTER Robots & Crawlers Working Group is working on guidelines to help content providers identify systematic mass downloads for exclusion. Publishers who wish to show customers a report of usage that was classified as “crawler/robot/abuse” can do so by introducing a custom element into their dataset (see section 11.3).



Q: Now that consortia reports are not required, what is the simplest way to retrieve reports for a complete consortium?

A: SUSHI implementation for R5 includes the requirement to provide a consortium with a list of their member sites and corresponding SUSHI credentials so that the consortium can pull the desired usage reports for each member.  COUNTER will facilitate the creation of tools that will further simplify this process so that obtaining consortia usage is a one-step process for the consortium administrator.


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