Link Rot

With so much information online, a significant problem in scholarship is “link rot” — broken URLs that prevent us from being able to go to original sources to verify information.

Out of curiosity, I conducted an experiment this weekend. Two years ago, I co-authored a book chapter on barriers to media development in Global Journalism: Topical Issues and Media Systems (Allyn & Bacon, 2009).

Our reference list included 41 electronic citations. How many of these would I still be able to access?

The answer is 34. Actually, that’s better than I had expected, having read that “link rot” can be up to 20 percent a year. Of course, many of our electronic sources are informational mainstays — Freedom House, BusinessWeek, Columbia Journalism Review, the CIA World Factbook.

But I couldn’t access seven citations. In the case of a pro-Palestinian website cited in our chapter, I specifically received an “Access Denied” message upon typing in the URL given in our book chapter.

“Link rot” is a problem for both student papers and faculty scholarship, and publishers are working to create a “persistent citation” approach that would give each source a unique string of alphanumeric code, like the ISBN number given to every book published.

I’m glad that good minds are at work to solve this problem.

Explore posts in the same categories: Communications Today, Research, Technology

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