The question “What content can we trust?” has always been central to users of scholarly information and there is no simple answer to it. Traditional indicators of trust have included the reputation of the author and the institute in which her or his research was done; the status of a journal in which an article appears; and the reputation of a particular publisher. More recently, citation data have become a popular, if overused, indicator, and now usage statistics have entered the frame.
In an era in which data is becoming ever more central to the decision-making process, it is inevitable that citation and usage data will become factors in the assessment of the impact, status, influence, value, utility and perhaps even the trustworthiness of content.
COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) and SUSHI (Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative) are complementary initiatives designed to improve, respectively, the reliability and usability of online usage statistics. The role of COUNTER is to ensure that usage statistics are credible, compatible and consistent, while the role of SUSHI, which is sponsored by NISO (the National Information Standards Organization), is to ensure that they are easy to obtain.
As documented on the web site, COUNTER (http://www.projectcounter.org/) is an international initiative serving librarians, publishers and intermediaries by setting standards that facilitate the recording and reporting of online usage statistics in a consistent, credible and compatible way. This is achieved by the publication of Codes of Practice that specify the content, format, delivery mechanisms and data processing rules for a set of core usage reports that are easily implemented by vendors and easily understood by librarians and others who use them.”
The main objectives of COUNTER usage reports are to provide tools that will facilitate the consolidation, management and analysis of the COUNTER usage statistics; to improve the COUNTER usage reports for library consortia; and to improve the reporting of the usage of journal archives.