For Peter Burnhill, director of EDINA (Jisc’s centre for service delivery & digital expertise), the indefinite article isn’t just a tiny word used before a noun – it’s way more important than that.
He’s coined the term to describe the dangerous state in which many electronically published scholarly journal articles now exist. Here he describes how an international initiative called Keepers Registry informs and motivates actions that will make sure that content published today remains available for the scholars of tomorrow.
e-publishing is a hugely positive development for ensuring ease of access to journal articles. Students and researchers can choose and use content anytime and anywhere, regardless of where on the planet it has been published. That is hugely beneficial for the productivity of research as well as for the quality of students’ education. However there is a real risk that what can accessed today won’t be available tomorrow.
Articles are not on a library’s shelves nor even in the library’s digital archives. Indeed the term ‘e-connections’ might be a more accurate way to describe a library’s list of titles rather than an ‘e-collection’. This is understood by a growing number of librarians. And they are still the go-to people for those looking for help to find and use content, despite the diminishing amount of control over where, how or even IF articles are kept.
Ensuring continuity of access to the scholarly record has global impact and any solution needs to be agreed and supported at an international level. The Keepers Registry is one such solution, a global monitor of the archiving arrangements for electronic journals.
The Keepers participating in the Keepers Registry include the world’s ten leading archiving organisations. These range from the web-scale agencies (CLOCKSS & Portico), to a growing number of national libraries (British Library, Library of Congress etc) and library consortia (such as HathiTrust & LOCKSS), each stewarding digital content and making their metadata available. They contribute regular updates so that librarians can easily discover which journal series, volumes and editions each Keeper holds, how they are being kept and the terms on which they can be accessed and used.
The Keepers Registry is now being used show what is being kept and also what is not yet being preserved. This feeds into the development of the evidence-based preservation and curation strategies used by libraries, publishers and policy-makers.
Despite several years of hard work by the archiving organisations and leading publishers, the evidence indicates that less than one-third of online sources (having ISSN) consulted by UK universities in 2012 are being kept safe. Urgent action is required, at national and international levels.
Peter and others acknowledge the commitment of many of the larger journal publishers to archiving initiatives. They share a concern that the content most at risk is from the ‘long tail’ of the very many journals published by myriad smaller publishers.
Those publishers, whether dependent on subscriptions or using an open access business model, are hard to reach. Developing and implementing a strategy for ensuring that important scholarly content is not lost will build upon the pioneering work of the Journals Archiving Implementation Group (Jarvig) that brought together representatives of the library customer community alongside significant stakeholders.
- Keep up with EDINA’s work on e-journals on Twitter and catch up with developments on the Keepers Registry blog
- Read this article on link rot and the work to preserve online references. You may also be interested in the work being carried out in the Hiberlink project
- There is more detail on the matters discussed in Tales from The Keepers Registry: Serial Issues About Archiving & the Web
This article originally featured in issue 40 of Jisc Inform (via the Wayback Machine).