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Back when scientific publications came in paper form, libraries played a key role in ensuring that knowledge didn’t disappear. Copies went out to so many libraries that any failure—a publisher going bankrupt, a library getting closed—wouldn’t put us at risk of losing information. But, as with anything else, scientific content has gone digital, which has changed what’s involved with preservation.

Organizations have devised systems that should provide options for preserving digital material. But, according to a recently published survey, lots of digital documents aren’t consistently showing up in the archives that are meant to preserve it. And that puts us at risk of losing academic research—including science paid for with taxpayer money.

Tracking down references

The work was done by Martin Eve, a developer at Crossref. That’s the organization that organizes the DOI system, which provides a permanent pointer toward digital documents, including almost every scientific publication. If updates are done properly, a DOI will always resolve to a document, even if that document gets shifted to a new URL.

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