Eighty-four online-only, open-access (OA) journals in the sciences, and nearly 100 more in the social sciences and humanities, have disappeared from the internet over the past 2 decades as publishers stopped maintaining them, potentially depriving scholars of useful research findings, a study has found.
A downside of questionable publishers that isn’t often discussed. Many of the vanished titles are under 10 years old and have disappeared without a trace or backup. If the point of the exercise was to bolster CVs, the longevity of the not cheap investment isn’t great. Interesting to know whether these are ‘high’ quality rather than poor quality work that has been lost. We can’t assume this but there is a question over the reproducibility of articles published in the questionable versions of journals – and ones that can’t sustain may be telling us something about how they are run or viewed by the scientific community. The disappearance of at least some of these titles may not be a bad thing. It does throw up the whole question of publishing and who is responsible for maintaining copies of published papers.
The study didn’t identify examples of prominent journals or articles that were lost, nor collect data on the journals’ impact factors and citation rates to the articles. About half of the journals were published by research institutions or scholarly societies; none of the societies are large players in the natural sciences. None of the now-dark journals was produced by a large commercial publisher.
Still, “The analysis demonstrates that research integrity and the scholarly record preservation … are at risk across all academic disciplines and geographical regions,” says Andrea Marchitelli, managing editor of JLIS.it, the Italian Journal of Library, Archives, and Information Science, who was not involved in the study. Publishers should dedicate money to improve preservation, he says.