How Copyright May Destroy Our Access To The World’s Academic Knowledge

Article by Glyn Moody: “The shift from analogue to digital has had a massive impact on most aspects of life. One area where that shift has the potential for huge benefits is in the world of academic publishing. Academic papers are costly to publish and distribute on paper, but in a digital format they can be shared globally for almost no cost. That’s one of the driving forces behind the open access movement. But as Walled Culture has reported, resistance from the traditional publishing world has slowed the shift to open access, and undercut the benefits that could flow from it.

That in itself is bad news, but new research from Martin Paul Eve (available as open access) shows that the way the shift to digital has been managed by publishers brings with it a new problem. For all their flaws, analogue publications have the great virtue that they are durable: once a library has a copy, it is likely to be available for decades, if not centuries. Digital scholarly articles come with no such guarantee. The Internet is constantly in flux, with many publishers and sites closing down each year, often without notice. That’s a problem when sites holding archival copies of scholarly articles vanish, making it harder, perhaps impossible, to access important papers. Eve explored whether publishers were placing copies of the articles they published in key archives. Ideally, digital papers would be available in multiple archives to ensure resilience, but the reality is that very few publishers did this. Ars Technica has a good summary of Eve’s results:

When Eve broke down the results by publisher, less than 1 percent of the 204 publishers had put the majority of their content into multiple archives. (The cutoff was 75 percent of their content in three or more archives.) Fewer than 10 percent had put more than half their content in at least two archives. And a full third seemed to be doing no organized archiving at all.

At the individual publication level, under 60 percent were present in at least one archive, and over a quarter didn’t appear to be in any of the archives at all. (Another 14 percent were published too recently to have been archived or had incomplete records.)..(More)”.