COUNTER - Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources

Usage Factor

Last updated: October 2015

Introduction to Release 1 of the COUNTER Code of Practice for Usage Factors

The widespread availability of reliable usage data for online journals has made it feasible to develop usage-based measures of journal impact, value and status. Since 2002 COUNTER ( has provided a standard for the recording and reporting of vendor-generated usage statistics for individual libraries and library consortia.

While the ISI journal Impact Factor (IF), based on citation data, has become generally accepted as a valid measure of the quality of scholarly journals, and is widely used by publishers, authors, funding agencies and librarians as a measure of journal impact and quality, there are misgivings about an over-reliance on Impact Factor alone in this respect. The availability of the majority of significant scholarly journals online, combined with the availability of credible COUNTER-compliant online usage statistics, has made possible a parallel usage-based measure of journal performance. This measure is termed 'Usage Factor: Journals' (UFJ),

The UFJ provides information about the average use of the items in an online journal. Like Impact Factor, it is scale independent. In other words it can be used to compare journals irrespective of their size.

The Usage Factor (UF) metric may, in principle, be applied to any category of online publication, and it is planned to extend the scope of this Code of Practice beyond journals to other products in subsequent Releases. This Release, however, focuses firmly on journals, where the demand for UF is strongest and where the other standards, such as DOI, on which the efficient and accurate calculation of UF depends, are well-established.

Release 1 of the COUNTER Code of Practice for Usage Factors is based on well-established COUNTER standards, procedures and protocols; it is designed to enable the recording and reporting by publishers of credible, consistent and compatible global Usage Factors for online publications hosted by them (and incorporating usage of these publications on other platforms that are capable of delivering COUNTER-compliant usage statistics). While Release 1 of this Code of Practice focuses on Usage Factors for journals, it is envisaged that its scope will be extended in subsequent Releases to cover other online publications, such as books and reference works.

The COUNTER Code of Practice for Usage Factors provides specifications for the recording and reporting of Usage Factors that are consistent with the COUNTER Code of Practice for e-Resources and with the COUNTER Code of Practice for Articles. Only those publishers that are already COUNTER and COUNTER Articles compliant will be in a position to provide valid Usage Factors. The Code of Practice for Usage Factors contains the following features:

  • A list of Definitions and other terms that are relevant to Usage Factors
  • A methodology for the calculation of Usage Factors as a median value, including specifications for the metadata to be recorded, the content types and article versions whose usage may be counted, as well as the Publication Period and Usage Period to be used.
  • Specifications for the reporting of the Usage Factor, including the report Usage Factor: Journals 1 (UFJ1): Median Usage Factor by Journal for All Content (UFJ1a) and Articles Only (UFJ1b)
  • Data processing rules to ensure that Usage Factors are credible, consistent and compatible, including guidance for identifying and dealing with attempts to game the Usage Factor
  • Specifications for the independent auditing of Usage Factors
  • A description of the role of the Central Registry for Usage Factors in the consolidation of usage data and in the publication of Usage Factors

Further information on the calculation and implementation of Usage Factors will be found below in the full documentation relating to Release 1 of the COUNTER Code of Practice for Usage Factors:

Registry of Usage Factors

First Registry to be published in 2016.

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