Some COUNTER history by Richard Gedye
My memory is fading a little now, and all my historic COUNTER files are I suspect lurking on some CD or USB drive that possibly I may never locate again, but below I’ve adapted a section of Hazel and Helen’s 2010 Serials profile of me and supplemented it with a few other recollections.
In 2000 I was approached by Sally Morris from ALPSP, who reported that
the PALS (Publishers and Library Solutions) group wanted to develop a code of practice for usage statistics. Would I be prepared to form and lead a working group to bring some order to the area? Rashly I accepted the challenge and, after a thorough study of existing initiatives and their accumulated expertise (most notably ICOLC’s guidelines and ARL’s E-Metrics project), we convened an international meeting in London of some 50 specially invited experts from all sections of the information community, facilitated by consultants Bev Bruce and Judy Luther (and informally supplemented it has to be said by the facilitation skills of Hazel). An incredibly intensive and productive day-long session ensued, out of which emerged the basic structure of what became COUNTER’s first Code of Practice, although we hadn’t conjured up the name COUNTER at that point. The meeting was critical for the success of the COUNTER project in at least two other ways. Firstly it was an essential part of ensuring that all the key stakeholders were involved from the beginning. Secondly it led to the discovery of people with key skills and knowledge, like Oliver Pesch from EBSCO, Marthyn Borghuis from Elsevier, David Sommer from Blackwell Scientific, Hazel Woodward from Cranfield University, Kathy Perry from the VIVA consortium, and Timo Hannay from Nature Publishing, who were working in the area and who went on to contribute generously and incredibly effectively to the successful transition of COUNTER from a research project to the authoritative body on usage statistics that it is today.
Nevertheless it became apparent quite early on that, to achieve all its aims, COUNTER needed an investment in human resource that volunteers alone could not supply. The consequent appointment of Peter Shepherd as COUNTER director was probably the most important decision I made on behalf of the project. Peter became both the glue that kept all the constituent aspects of COUNTER working effectively together and the administrative energy that ensured it maintained the kind of momentum that quickly attracted over 100 publishers, vendors, and hosts to produce COUNTER-compliant usage reports and ensured that the Codes evolved at an appropriate pace to keep up with changes in product development, information technology and user behaviour.
In terms of roles, I chaired COUNTER’s Executive Committee from the foundation of COUNTER until I retired from OUP at the end of 2010 and was succeeded by David Sommer. I think Hazel was COUNTER’s first Chair of the Board of Directors but I’m sure she can confirm (or deny) that.
Although it is not apparent from the current COUNTER web site, the title was originally an acronym which stood for Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources, a title which was conjured up by David and Hazel during a coffee break in one of our pre-COUNTER informal meetings, along with the original logo which David sketched out on a napkin and smartened up subsequently for our stationery and the web site. I guess, like OCLC and Jisc, the brand profile of the acronym is now so strong and the intrinsic meaning of the word COUNTER is now so relevant to what it does that the organisation has outgrown the need to spell out what the acronym originally stood for.