Increasing the persistence of online Open Notebooks
Weird. I came across WebCite this morning while having a quick scan through the Eysenbach paper on Open Access increasing number of citations in PLoS Biology. At the bottom was the comment that all the web pages have been archived on WebCite. Going across to WebCite I find the following:
What is WebCite®?
WebCite® is an archiving system for webreferences (cited webpages and websites), which can be used by authors, editors, and publishers of scholarly papers and books, to ensure that cited webmaterial will remain available to readers in the future. If cited webreferences in journal articles, books etc. are not archived, future readers may encounter a “404 File Not Found” error when clicking on a cited URL.
A WebCite® reference is an archived webcitation, and rather than linking to the live website (which can and probably will disappear in the future), authors of scholarly works will link to the archived WebCite® copy on webcitation.org.
Now this is interesting in its own right but my thoughts went back to a question I was asked several times during the talks I’ve given recently, ‘How do you know it will still be there in X years time?’ So might this be a good secondary archive for pages of electronic lab books, particularly when we wish to refer to specific pages in a peer reviewed paper.
Part of the answer to this may be to have many independent copies in different forms. However another answer is explicit archiving, whether that be in institutional repositories, general online repositories, embedded in supplementary information, or just trusting in Google. WebCite or something similar could have a useful role to play here. It could also provide a method of getting third party datestamps on the notebook.
That’s not the weird bit:
Some of the comments on Jon’s blog mirror my own concerns. The business model for this doesn’t seem to be well thought out. I can’t see many publishers buying into a system which is essentially trying to bridge the gap between their collapsing business model and a future of online publishing. In this context it is interesting that the list of members does not for instance include Nature Publishing Group or any PLoS journals who you would think wouldbe at the forefront of this kind of initiative. I would support the comment by Jon Galloway that this would be a good case for contextual advertising.
So I can see that this could well be useful as an archive for cited web pages, and I will use it when citing material from the web in future in my own papers. In terms of using it more generally as an archive for the notebooks there are two major issues. Firstly, will there be objections to us dumping large quantities of material into the system? The FAQ explicitly excludes charging authors but currently only asks people to be considerate in terms of what they archive. Secondly I would want to see a more clearly sustainable business model.