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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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So, it looks, with the easy reach of software such as Open Journal Systems and Annotum, as though anybody can create a journal. This is, to a large extent, true. It comes, however, with a problem. Even assuming that you get the editorial board together, have a great first issue and the journal continues, what happens (to take an extreme case) if the server admin dies (I mean real, physical human death)? What happens to the content? How do we preserve content beyond the span of a human life in a digital environment?

One of the systems that has been designed to make this possible is called LOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe), and OJS supports this "out of the box". LOCKSS is an advanced, decentralized preservation system that crawls publisher websites, pulls content into a local LOCKSS box and then polls other boxes in the network, at random, to gain consensus on whether there has been damage to its own local copy. The conditions for membership of the UK LOCKSS Alliance are: 1.) that the journal has been running for 2 years; 2.) that 6 members of the Alliance vote in its favour for preservation.

Other alternatives include CLOCKSS (Controlled Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe). This is, as they put it:

a not for profit joint venture between the world’s leading scholarly publishers and research libraries whose mission is to build a sustainable, geographically distributed dark archive with which to ensure the long-term survival of Web-based scholarly publications for the benefit of the greater global research community.

CLOCKSS is for the entire world's benefit. Content no longer available from any publisher ("triggered content") is available for free. CLOCKSS uniquely assigns this abandoned and orphaned content with a creative commons license to ensure it remains available, forever.

However, unlike LOCKSS, CLOCKSS charges a fee for publishers whose revenue falls below $250,000 (!) The fee, for non-profit OA journals, is $200.

Both of these systems operate on the basis of a "dark archive". By this it is meant that content is not accessible in the archive until a "trigger event" (for instance, the journal goes offline) is detected. At that point, CLOCKSS will re-release the content to the world under a CC license, while LOCKSS will make it available to its own member institutions.

Interestingly, both these models were conceived to archive traditional, paywalled content. As a result of OA, therefore, it actually becomes harder to participate in LOCKSS. As the content is provided "free", participating libraries will be, I suspect, less likely to vote for inclusion of OA content; they're more interested in preserving content for which they paid $$s.

I'm pretty sure that I'm going to opt for CLOCKSS for Excursions and Orbit and have applied to be voted for LOCKSS inclusion on Excursions (Orbit will get its vote when it reaches the age requirement). This does mean, though, that I need to get the funding, year in, year out, for preservation of this content. I am not keen on any form of author-pays scheme to subsidise; if anything, authors should be paid for their work! On the other hand, what do we, as small scholarly OA journals do, in terms of digital preservation?