Hundreds of scholarly journals are disappearing from the internet as a result of a lack preservation programs to save social sciences knowledge. Roadmap to getting published in an open-access journal. After all this struggle, can you imagine some journals vanishing from the web? (Image credit: Stoney Brook University)


For anyone who has ever written an academic document, journals are key to provide and preserve accurate and noteworthy information. If we consider that the internet has been available to the public since 1991, we can imagine that thousands of journals have been published online since. But journals have been around even before the birth of the internet. Although most of us won’t need to access information older than 10 years, all the data published in any journal this century or before remains valuable. Unfortunately, with the internet and online publications, many journals began to disappear as they are no longer published, and even some of the ones that used to be published online vanished as if they never existed. One could think that there is an invisible evil fairy wiping old data from websites.


The truth is that only Open Access Journals in the fields of social sciences and humanities are at risk of vanishing, and a little over 100 of them are already “extinct.” Why? There could be many reasons for this phenomenon. For example, it could be due to the fact that over the last 2 decades, many countries’ education systems have been more focused on subjects such as economy, business or engineering to the detriment of subjects like music, sociology, psychology, etc. And while we all agree that the latter is necessary these days, we cannot afford to neglect the data in the social sciences/humanities journals because they inform us about our identity and how it has been evolving. That said, a study has recently found another reason for the vanishing journals.


Using the Internet’s Archive Wayback Machine, the study determined that Open-Access journal than stopped production after 6 years or whose contents disappeared after 5 years of their existence constituted the bulk of all of the journals that went “dark.”  Although the study didn’t give examples of those journals, it counted 176 “extinct” journals and suggested that another 900 journals are at risk of disappearing as well. It means that they are no longer available for consultation. An open access (OA) journal is a journal that is available to all for free, while subscription-based journals are only available to those who pay the subscription fees. Because of their “free” nature, it is often difficult for publishers to maintain publications of OA journals that have been around for more than 10 years and became inactive.


Preservation of art, whether an article or a painting, takes a lot of time and money, which OA journals can’t always afford, especially if they are published by small research institutions or scholarly societies. Subscription-based journal is usually safe from extinction thanks to their hard copies available on shelves or their electronic copies, although there are not enough data to evaluate how many subscription-based journals go “dark.” Some journals are also kept “alive” inside universities’ libraries or other libraries thanks to programs such as the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), the CLOCKSS or Portico, which preserve copies of journals on servers of libraries that have subscribed to their services, even after the publisher is no longer active. However, it still means that the only way OA journals can be preserved is if they are part of such programs. Some research funders came up with a mandate that will force the creation of more inclusive preservation programs that will preserve journals for free, as the Public Knowledge Project Preservation Network does.


There is no way to hold any particular entity responsible for the loss of journals. In addition, regardless of the solution that is offered, it will require funds to implement. So, the answer might be in promoting the preservations of humanities and social sciences journals to potential funders so that more and more of them will support the cause.


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