Los Alamos National Laboratory
As research and research communication nowadays happen on the web, scholarly articles increasingly link to resources that are not necessarily considered part of the scholarly record but are rather so-called web-at-large resources such as project websites, online debates, presentations, blogs, videos, etc. Our research (reported in PLOS ONE ) found overwhelming evidence for this trend and showed the severity of link rot for such references. Our more recent study (currently under peer-review) provides unprecedented insight into the vast extent of content drift for these references. We speak of content drift when the content of a referenced resource evolves after the publication of the referencing article, in many cases, beyond recognition. Reference rot, the combination of link rot and content drift, makes it impossible to revisit the context that surrounded these research papers as it was at the time of writing and must therefore be considered a significant detriment to scholarly communication. In order to introduce a level of persistence for the scholarly context we devised the Robust Links approach that consists of archiving referenced web-at-large resources and referencing them using Link Decoration . The proposed approach is aimed at providing optimal guarantees that referenced web-at-large resources can be revisited as they were when a paper referenced them.
In this presentation we will report on both studies, provide a reliable quantification of the reference rot problem and discuss our solution to address it. Robust Links are demonstrated in a recently published paper .