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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: 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:  As a publisher, can I count journal home page views as “investigations”?

A:  No, “requests” and “investigations” relate to viewing or interacting with actual content published within a journal.

Q:  As a publisher, can I count table of content views as “investigations”?

A:  No, “requests” and “investigations” relate to viewing or interacting with actual content published within a journal.  Note that if a user links from the ToC to an article within the journal, the subsequent interaction with the article would be counted as an “investigation” and possibly a “request” if full text was requested.

Q: Should we count the purchase of a document (e.g. a dissertation) through our interface as a full-text retrieval?

A:  If the purchase of the article results in delivery of that article to the user from the host as a result of the purchase (e.g. pay-per-view), then yes that would be a full text retrieval.  If the “purchase” activity is related to document delivery or ILL type of activity, then that would be an “investigation”.


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: Section 5 of the COUNTER 5 Code of Practice has a bullet which reads as follows:

 “Usage MUST be processed for the entire month before any usage for that month can be included in reports. If usage for a given month is not available yet, no usage for that month MUST be returned and an exception included in the report/response to indicate partial data is being returned.”

Does this mean COUNTER 5 Code of Practice would forbid any usage being delivered for January until after the 31st and whatever processing time would be needed for January log data?

A:  Correct.  Full months only (all-or-nothing) and partial usage exception is used when a range of months requested and not all months available. For the current/incomplete month the cells should be empty, not zero.



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.


Partial Usage

Q: The SUSHI examples on the SwaggerHub website, gave the impression that the SUSHI should interface should ONLY return an error if the user requested a date range including a month with only partial usage. Does COUNTER 5 require a report of zero (0) usage for that month with the error code in addition to reporting the other months in the requested range per normal. Others might be having the same misunderstanding, so I thought it worth mentioning.

A: There are two issues here.  COUNTER does not allow for a MONTH to have partial usage, it either has usage or not.  “Partial Usage” error is because one of the MONTHS requested did not have usage.  When that scenario occurs, the month without usage MUST BE EXCLUDED from the report – to output the month with ZERO usage would NOT be correct.


Q: In Report Response, Exception is included in Report_Header element, so when user want to exclude report_header using exclude_report_header=true then how the Exceptions will be handled?

A: Based on the current Swagger, a simple exception can be provided as “Default” (e.g. not a return code of 200).  In that case, I would recommend that if “Exclude_report_headers” was true, then if an exception occurs, simply return the exception and don’t attempt to return the partial report – without the header it would be nearly impossible to tell what was different about the report from the request.

/reports path response

Q: For /reports request, report_filters and report_attributes are not specified in Swagger API where as it is mentioned in the COUNTER Code of Practice. Will the Swagger API will be updated?

A: We simplified the response for the /reports path response to eliminate the return of supported filters and attributes since these would also be included in the site’s Swagger/API documentation.  The Swagger is correct, and we will update the COUNTER Code of Practice to match.


Q: For /reports, search parameter should be based on report_id like TR, DR or report_name like ‘Title Master Report’?

A: Both should to be supported (name and report ID) by search.



Q: Is there a JSON schema for all response or any standards for naming convention? For example, metric_type or MetricType?

A: All element names in the response should be Camel_Case.



Q: If we develop the ability for offline viewing, where data can be sent to the user once the user is back online, should these requests and/or these deliveries be counted in COUNTER reports?

A: These requests/deliveries SHOULD be counted in COUNTER reports. And should be counted in the month when the data is received to avoid having to reprocess previously generated monthly statistics.

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