This blog post is cross-posted on the COUNTER site.

The COUNTER Code of Practice for Research Data provided a key milestone in data evaluation practices by making it possible to report comparable usage counts across platforms. Over the last months, Make Data Count and COUNTER have collaborated to explore what a suitable direction would be for an update to the Code of Practice for Research Data, and we are now sharing our proposal to merge the Code of Practice for Research Data with COUNTER R5.1 for public consultation.

Read on for the context and motivation for this update, and details on how you can share feedback on the proposal.

The COUNTER Code of Practice for Research Data

The COUNTER Code of Practice for Research Data was released in 2017 as a framework to enable repositories and data-publishing platforms to report the usage of datasets in a standardized way. By providing a common framework to process and report counts for data views and downloads (e.g. noting whether usage originated from humans or machines, filtering out activity from web robots and spiders), the Code of Practice made it possible to report usage counts comparable across platforms. This framework has been implemented by a number of repositories, including Zenodo, Dryad and the Environmental Protection Agency repository.

The development of the Code of Practice for Research Data drew from COUNTER’s experience with standards for usage metrics for scholarly resources, and its recommendations aligned as much as possible with Release 5 of the COUNTER Code of Practice. At the time, the main COUNTER Code of Practice was tailored towards publisher platforms, and the data community felt it was important to have a dedicated framework for reporting on the use of datasets. However, there was also interest in maintaining close communication about updates to both Codes, and in exploring further alignment across the codes in future releases.

Aligning the Codes

In the six years since the release of the Code of Practice for Research Data, repository infrastructure has developed substantially, and COUNTER completed Release 5.1 of the main Code (R5.1), which has extended the type of outputs for which usage reports can be reported, including datasets. The Make Data Count and COUNTER teams have resumed the discussions about an update for the Code of Practice for Research Data, and based on our exploration of the current status of both codes, we are proposing to merge the Code of Practice for Research Data with R5.1. We base this recommendation on the following factors:

  • Many repositories host diverse research outputs, including articles, data, theses and many others. In order to report usage counts for the variety of resources hosted, the repositories would need to maintain two Codes, resulting in duplication of effort and resources, and a risk of data usage counts being processed differently over time depending on the Code the repository is applying. Having a single Code to implement simplifies implementation by mixed-content repositories, and ensures consistency in usage reports. 
  • One of the items that arose early on as part of discussions for a revision to the Code of Practice for Research Data was how to accommodate additional granularity to report usage of datasets that included multiple files. R5.1 now includes Components, which allows reporting usage for both an item and for files nested within the item. This structure allows repositories to report on usage of the dataset as a whole, or to report usage of individual files within the data record at a more granular level. 
  • Key aspects of the Code of Practice for Research Data and R5.1 overlap or have matching attributes. While some differences between the Codes exist, we feel that these can be addressed by providing dedicated guidance to repositories that report data usage on how to complete those fields (e.g instances where the fields do not apply to data and may be left blank).

This update will require some changes to the implementation of how usage reports are created for data, but it is important to note that the process for reporting usage reports does not change. Processed data usage reports can be sent to DataCite for aggregation, and are made accessible via DataCite’s API.

As part of our work on this proposal, we have consulted with members of repository teams for their input. We thank Zach Crockett (KBase), Alex Ioannidis (Zenodo), Pablo Saiz (Zenodo) and Ana van Gulick (Figshare) for their input and suggestions.

Share your feedback on the proposal

We are confident that this proposal to merge the Code of Practice for Research Data with R5.1 will bring efficiencies to repository teams and ensure consistent and robust reporting of data usage, but of course, we want your feedback!

Please check the details of the proposal and share your feedback on the suggested implementation by repositories hosting data via this form, or the COUNTER Github repository. You can also email us with any comments, queries or concerns: Iratxe Puebla (Make Data Count), Tasha Mellins-Cohen (COUNTER). The proposal is open for public consultation until 31 July 2024. We’ll present the proposal at the COUNTER conference on May 16, do join the session to hear more.