Lost Reasearch: Many online-only open-access journals have “gone dark” with publishers unable to maintain these

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September 28, 2020 6:30 AM

The study doesn’t cite examples of prominent journals or articles lost, nor does it give any data on the “vanished” journals impact factor and citation rates of articles.

But simply blaming publishers who may not have the means to sustain preservation and publication will be a fruitless exercise.But simply blaming publishers who may not have the means to sustain preservation and publication will be a fruitless exercise.

Earlier this month, a study found that 84 online-only, open access journals in the sciences and close to 100 in social sciences and humanities have “vanished” or “gone dark” from the internet over the past two decades as publishers stopped maintaining them. Another 900 journals are at the risk of vanishing, as per a report by Science on the study. Even with some of the studies published in them possibly available in universities to which the researchers who published in these journals were affiliated—or some studies perhaps now housed in publications that are paywalled—a wealth of research has perhaps been lost forever.

The study doesn’t cite examples of prominent journals or articles lost, nor does it give any data on the “vanished” journals impact factor and citation rates of articles. But, the fact that none of journals were from the stables of a large commercial publisher—instead, half were published by research institutions and associations of scholars—could be an indication that at least a significant number were only there for open-access knowledge dissemination, rather than to be part of any numbers-game that commercial publishers, with their financial heft, could easily win. While European research funders promoting open-access research publication have arrived at a mandate for publishers to have preservation plans, it is shocking that, in 2019, just a third of over 14,000 indexed open-access journals ensured long-term preservation of studies published. But simply blaming publishers who may not have the means to sustain preservation and publication will be a fruitless exercise. Preserving open-access content needs to be a collective responsibility of the academic and larger community making use of this.

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