What Happens When Science Just Disappears? | WIRED

“KAY DICKERSIN KNEW she was leaping to the front lines of scholarly publication when she joined The Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials. Scientific print-publishing was—and still is—slow and cumbersome, and reading its results sometimes required researchers to go to the library. But as associate editor at this electronic peer-reviewed journal—one of the very first, launched in the summer of 1992—Dickersin was poised to help bring scientists into the new digital age. Dickersin, an epidemiologist, acted as an associate editor, helping researchers publish their work. But the OJCCT was a bit ahead of its time. The journal was sold in 1994 to a publisher that eventually became part of Taylor & Francis, and which stopped the e-presses just a couple years later. And after that happened, its papers—reports, reviews, and meta-analysis of clinical trials—all disappeared. Dickersin wasn’t just sad to lose her editing gig: She was dismayed that the scientific community was losing those archives. “One of my important studies was in there,” she says, “and no one could get it.” Couldn’t, that is, until Dickersin decided to go spelunking for science. For more than a decade, Dickersin’s paper was missing along with about 80 others. Sometimes, the ex-editors would try to find out who had the rights to the articles, whether they could just take copies and put them on their own website. “We don’t want to do that,” they’d always conclude. “We don’t want to get in trouble.” Finally, Dickersin went to the librarians at Johns Hopkins University, where she is a professor, for help—and that’s how she found Portico. Portico is like a Wayback Machine for scholarly publications. The digital preservation service ingests, meta-tags, preserves, manages, and updates content for publishers and libraries, and then provides access to those archives. The company soon signed on to the project and got permission from Taylor & Francis to make the future archives open-access….”