Posted by Brian Kelly on August 19th, 2009
A blog post from Richard Gatarski begins with the blunt announcement:
“A year ago my academic web site disappeared. And those who made it go away probably ignored that such a thing could happen.“
The article goes on to describe how last year Richard “found out that the School of Business had redesigned their web site. And in the process they just ignored my research. About ten years worth of virtually daily updates were gone That included most of the manuscripts for my published work. The same thing happened to lecture notes, powerpoint slides, course documentations, useful links, etc. It had all disappeared from the Web!“.
Richard did have some good news to report: “Courtesy of the Internet Archive you can still find most of my academic stuff on the Web through their Wayback machine.” although Richard did wonder why he had to rely on the Internet Archive (“a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library”) – after all, wouldn’t you expect your institutional library to provide this service?
Richard’s losses of his digital resources have continued – a blog he set up at Stockholm University was deleted after he left the institution – although, again a copy is archived on the Internet Archive.
Richard’s experiences have left him disillusioned with the attitudes towards the digital preservation of scholarly resources. He concludes by recommending that academics take responsibility themselves for preserving their resources:
Meanwhile, for those of you who publish stuff on the Web while working with an organisation, including universities. Try to put your content where you control it. Most likely you will move between work places, temporary assignments, and soforth. If you want your stuff to be preserved, it is your responsability to make sure it is.
But how easy will this be for the typical academic? Richard doubts whether “the issues I bring forward today are heavily discussed among university chancellors, political leaders, educational policy makers, and scientific philosophers.“ But surely we need to ensure that this debate takes place. And, in today’s economic climate, that debate needs to include discussions of the costs of digital preservation (disk storage may be cheap but management of content is not).
Richard’s tale is based on his experiences as an academic in Sweden. Is the situation different in the UK, I wonder? Judging by Stuart Smith’s lament that “Mummy I lost my MP3!“, which I summarised in a post on “Disappearing Resources On Institutional Web Sites” in December 2008 it would seem that we have similar experiences in the UK higher education sector. Does anyone have any positive experiences to share?