You have followed the mandate from your funding body and published your prized research in an open access (OA) journal, assuming that it will be publicly available forever. But is long-term storage guaranteed? What happens if your OA journal disappears? Will your article be lost?
A report by M. Laakso, L. Matthias and N. Jahn posted on the on the arXiv preprint server in September 2020 found that 176 OA journals had disappeared since 2000. As noted by M. Shelomi, in his comment on the article, this number could have included predatory journals that have been de-listed by the bibliographic indexes analysed in the study. However, this does raise an interesting question around the preservation of OA journals and articles.
The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists over 15,000 peer-reviewed OA journals. Digital preservation is one of the 7 criteria that must be fulfilled to receive the DOAJ seal, representing best practice in OA publishing. In addition, under Plan S, the open access initiative launched by the European consortium cOAlition S that came into effect in January, one of the mandatory publication venue requirements is deposition of content with a long-term digital preservation or archiving programme (such as CLOCKSS, Portico, or equivalent).
So, long-term storage is recognised as a condition of best OA practice. However, Laakso et al indicated that the limited funds of smaller journals may result in them opting for “lightweight technical solutions” that do not protect against technical instabilities.
The limited funds of smaller open access journals may result in them opting for “lightweight technical solutions” that do not protect against technical instabilities.
This has prompted a joint initiative by the DOAJ, the CLOCKSS Archive, Internet Archive, Keepers Registry/ISSN International Centre and Public Knowledge Project to improve OA journal preservation. The plan to provide an affordable archiving option, announced in November 2020, is specifically directed at small-scale, article processing charge-free OA journals, as these are the journals thought to be at risk of disappearing. The collaboration will also aim to raise awareness of the importance of OA journals joining a long-term preservation programme.
Hopefully, this initiative will ensure that all OA publications remain accessible for future generations and scholarly learnings will not just disappear.
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