Preservation of digital materials in sharp focus

Preservation of digital materials has just come into sharp focus. An email I have just received on the ALA ScholCom list from Charles W. Bailey, well known as a digital scholarly communication expert, announces the deletion of an entire open access journal: The Public Access-Computer Systems Review. This journal ran over 9 years, got 4.2 million file requests and today, the University of Houston Libraries have deleted this open access journal from their website. Gone.

They have also deleted archives of discussion lists, newsletters and more. Gone.

And, significantly for the idea of preservation through laissez-faire duplication, it doesn’t look like anyone ever downloaded the archive of the journal, even though the copyright license allowed it.

So, err, gone.

I do hope that some record for this comes out of the woodwork. The Internet Archive might have done something, but even their records can be partial and often just not there: we cannot outsource responsibilities like that. This is a shocking reminder of the need to formalise preservation and get protective policies in place . . .


Update: 3 hours later – the files have now been restored! Phew! Whatever else it demonstrates a fair degree of fragility: will someone now download and archive the content for a backup outside Houston?


About Bill Hubbard
Bill Hubbard is the Director of the Centre for Research Communications (CRC), incorporating the work of SHERPA. Bill has a background in Higher Education and IT; in particular in work aiming to embed IT into university functions and working practices. Previous work has looked at the use of Expert Systems in supporting decision making, designing information systems for managing research funding and a number of years working with the introduction of multimedia into university teaching. Bill's commercial experience includes three years as a project manager in virtual reality applications for communications, installations and broadcast, specialising in virtual heritage environments. Before this he worked as a senior lecturer at De Montfort University, Leicester, leading a BA degree course in Multimedia Design and has been an honorary lecturer in the School of Computing Sciences at the University of East Anglia. Bill speaks widely on open access and related issues - repository network development, institutional integration, cultural change, IPR and Open Access policy development. He is also involved in archaeological and heritage applications of new media and sits on the Channel 4 Award jury for new media archaeology.

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