NISO’s webinar on item-level (i.e. article) usage statistics

On September 15, I “attended” a webinar presented by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) which focused on the improving capacity to measure usage at the article level.  The presenters contend that article-level usage information more accurately reflects scholarly impact than the current ‘gold-standard,’ citation-based measures.

The first presenter was Paul Needham describing the progress of the PIRUS 2 project. Their mission is to establish global standards for finding article-level usage information.  (It is funded by Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK and Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources (COUNTER), the group that established protocols for journal-level usage statistics, participates.)  Needham reported that PIRUS has loaded data from six publishers that includes 555,000 articles from 5500 journals, and just shy of 17 million download events.  They expect there will be upwards of 3 billion article download events to ‘count’ each year when most publishers are participating.  They are also working with institutional repositories.  More information can be found at their website:

The second presenter was Johan Bollen describing the Metrics from Scholarly Usage of Resources (MESUR) project.   “The project’s major objective is enriching the toolkit used for the assessment of the impact of scholarly communication items, and hence of scholars, with metrics that derive from usage data.”  Bollen contends that impact factors based on citation data does not honor the full scope of scholarly activities; further citation tracking takes more than two years to develop.  In contrast, usage data is real-time and can use large scales of data.  He described MESUR as a “scientific project to study science itself from real-time indicators.”  The usage data he’s been working with includes “clickstreams” so they can follow what articles are clicked on after a given article is downloaded.  One of his articles on his research is available at and includes a graphic that shows how citation-based metrics do not reflect actual usage. It is fascinating in an academic scholarly kind of way.

1 thought on “NISO’s webinar on item-level (i.e. article) usage statistics

  1. Brenda

    I wonder how these projects will account for article usage within full-text databases (ex. full text within Academic onefile, as opposed to clicking thru to the same article from the publisher website). To be comprehensive, both need to be measured. It also won’t count print usage, for those journals that are still published and received in print. Presumably this will diminish over time. I think there will be a need for both kinds of measurement – general article usage data (the downloads and click throughs) but also the traditional citation usage. To actually be cited by a peer-reviewed article is a much higher threshold (and indication of impact on research) than simply being read. No doubt someone will come up with a rating that weighs both.


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