| 14.09.2020

Mikael Laakso: "The scientific web has shortcomings that have led to thousands of articles disappearing for good"

How much scientific, openly published research on the web vanishes? A study on the subject, led by Hanken researcher Mikael Laakso, has been discussed in both Finnish and international media over the past week. Laakso emphasizes that there are economic, technical, as well as social reasons behind the problem of lost research.

“We have seen a sharp increase in scientific publications publishing their material openly available online over the past 20 years, which is also a result of persistent EU and Finnish science policy. The risk with digital material is that there are no proper backups and solid archiving.”

Laakso has conducted the survey together with colleagues from the universities in Berlin and Göttingen. The report, which concerns research that has been lost over the past 20 years, was recently made available on the ArXiv archive service.

Mikael Laakso has been focusing on open access research for over 10 years and started this study by comparing his own databases of active journals from 10 years ago with the current situation, to see which ones have disappeared over time. The result is bleak as a total of 176 journals and thousands of articles along with them have been deleted forever.

“Science is a construction of studies that pile up on each other like building blocks. The process is weakened if there are suddenly many building blocks missing that cannot be checked or recreated, says Laakso.”

The corona pandemic has created pressure to produce scientific results rapidly. As a result, many are in a hurry to publish in the various journals and platforms used to disseminate new results and pay less attention to thinking about how the work is stored for future reference. According to Laakso, all research organisations should encourage their researchers to submit their publications also to a solid archive. If not to increase its visibility and accessibility, then at least to ensure safe storage.

“From a technical perspective, the scientific web lags far behind in development globally if you compare with many other fields. It is difficult to find information, the archiving is inadequate and there is a lack of comprehensive cataloguing of everything that is published in scientific journals.”

Libraries are good at archiving research publications that they pay to get, but no one is actually responsible for archiving open access research even though it is readily available to all.

“Open science and completely digital publishing need a new approach in archiving compared to when research was printed on paper and placed on the shelves”, Laakso sums up.

You can read Mikael Laakso's entire research report here. His research has been cited in the prestigious scientific journals Science and Nature.