SUSHI (the Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative) was launched in 2005, and is now well on its way to becoming a NISO standard. A new article in Learned Publishing by Oliver Pesch from EBSCO outlines the history, purpose, workings, and future of the protocol, which basically automates the gathering and consolidates the presentation of usage statistics in a more scalable, ERM-based way. It is a request-response protocol.
In the move from manual review of statistics to a services-based SOAP protocol integrating with enterprise data systems, we’ve come a long way. But where are we headed?
It’s interesting to contemplate what might come next. In the case of retail, EDI systems have been used by Wal-Mart and the like to drive efficiencies from wholesalers and other providers, anticipate replenishment needs based on buying patterns, and tighten the supply chain. It’s not clear to me what SUSHI provides buyers of institutional licenses other than convenience (which, by the way, may be enough). Scholarly publishing is not driven by customer needs in the short-term. Digital supplies are measured more by service-level agreements than by scarcity principles. And I doubt the phenomenon of a journal being purchased for niche users will be much moderated by aggregated usage statistics. After all, online usage statistics are only the tip of the entire user lifecycle measure of value (i.e., one PDF download distributed to users inside an institution via email will only count as one PDF download).
So, what could SUSHI unleash once rolled and sliced?
Well, if combined with semantic resources, it might be able for sophisticated users to compare the usage of comparable articles. Imagine a comparison of articles conceptually very similar but with widely disparate usage patterns, all revealed by the deep integration of data and semantics. What level of knowledge gap would this reveal in user preference studies?
If deployed widely, it might make it more possible for the Usage Factor to become a robust and nearly real-time measure of a journal’s importance to users beyond the traditional measures of impact.
Institutions may be able to construct dashboards from the live data feeds, providing Web 2.0 functionality to users, listing “most popular” articles or other resource-level items for users at that institution, and increasing engagement levels.
Whatever the future of SUSHI, it ranks in my book as one of the best acronyms of all time.