The focus of the Hiberlink project is to assess the extent of so-called ‘reference rot’. This two-year study investigates how web links in online scientific and other academic articles fail to lead to the resources that were originally referenced.
Citation of sources is a fundamental part of scholarly discourse. Typically, these references used to be to published articles or books. But today’s web-based scholarly communication includes links to an increasingly vast range of materials. Many of these are resources needed or created in research activity such as software, datasets, websites, presentations, blogs, videos etc as well as scientific workflows and ontologies.
These resources often evolve over time, unlike traditional scholarly articles. This highly dynamic nature poses a significant challenge: the content at the end of any given http:// link is liable to change over time. The issue is two-fold: a link may no longer work or the content referenced has dramatically changed from what it was originally.
As a result, what is online at the time of citation is less likely to be there when scholars wish to look up the citation. The ‘reference rot’ problem occurs whenever the original version of a linked resource is not available any more.
The Hiberlink project aims to provide empirical evidence that will characterise the full extent of the ‘reference rot’. The project will examine a vast corpus of online scholarly publication in order to assess what links still work as intended and what web content has been successfully archived using text mining and information extracting tools together with Memento technology
The Hiberlink project aims to identify practical solutions to the ‘reference rot’ problem, and to develop approaches that can be integrated easily in the publication process. The project intends to work with academic publishers and other web-based publication venues to ensure more effective preservation of web-based resources in order to increase the prospect of continued access for future generations of researchers, students and their teachers. Hiberlink is an international collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the Los Alamos National Laboratory coordinated by EDINA and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation. The project started in March 2013.
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