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Title: Scholarly context not found: One in five articles suffers from reference rot

The emergence of the web has fundamentally affected most aspects of information communication, including scholarly communication. The immediacy that characterizes publishing information to the web, as well as accessing it, allows for a dramatic increase in the speed of dissemination of scholarly knowledge. But, the transition from a paper-based to a web-based scholarly communication system also poses challenges. In this paper, we focus on reference rot, the combination of link rot and content drift to which references to web resources included in Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM) articles are subject. We investigate the extent to which reference rot impacts the ability to revisit the web context that surrounds STM articles some time after their publication. We do so on the basis of a vast collection of articles from three corpora that span publication years 1997 to 2012. For over one million references to web resources extracted from over 3.5 million articles, we determine whether the HTTP URI is still responsive on the live web and whether web archives contain an archived snapshot representative of the state the referenced resource had at the time it was referenced. We observe that the fraction of articles containing references to web resources is growingmore » steadily over time. We find one out of five STM articles suffering from reference rot, meaning it is impossible to revisit the web context that surrounds them some time after their publication. When only considering STM articles that contain references to web resources, this fraction increases to seven out of ten.« less
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  1. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  2. The Univ. of Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom)
  3. Bar-llan Univ., (Israel)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 9; Journal Issue: 12; Journal ID: ISSN 1932-6203
Public Library of Science
Research Org:
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States