An important feature of published academic literature is that it is considered to represent a permanent record of advances in a particular field. Historically, the paper copies of bound journals stored in libraries around the world ensured that knowledge would be safe from localized disasters such as fires or floods. However, the spread of online journals has raised the issue of what happens to published research when an online journal goes offline.
Because they lack physical copies, online journals face the risk of access being lost when an individual publication or entire publisher closes. The consequences of such situations have been long discussed, but until recently, no formal research had been conducted.
In September 2020, European researchers led by a scientist at the Hanken School of Economics in Finland published a preprint of their investigation of open access web-based journals that had disappeared from the web between 2000 and 2019. The researchers identified 176 journals that had closed and had their published content go missing due to a lack of adequate online archiving.
Given that online journals are growing in popularity because of their lower costs and greater global reach, it is important that appropriate steps be taken to ensure that future scientists will continue to have access to published research even if it was published in a journal that is no longer active or by a publisher that has gone out of business.
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