>> One of the other things I've come to realise is that although it is
>> nice to be able to access material that is referenced, the reference
>> primarily recognises the work of others, and puts your work into
>> context - access is only a secondary concern. It is perfectly
>> possible and OK to reference material that is not generally
>> available, as a reader I may not have access to certain material,
>> and over time material is destroyed so when referencing rare or
>> unique texts it may become absolutely impossible to access the
>> referenced source.
>> I think for research publications there is a genuine and growing
>> issue - especially when we start to consider the practice of
>> referencing datasets which is just starting to become common
>> practice in scientific research. If the dataset grows over time,
>> will it be possible to see the version of the dataset used when
>> doing a specific piece of research?
> You might find the WebCite service  to be of some use. Of course it
> cannot work retroactively, so it is best if researchers use it
> in the first place.
... or maybe not. Seems WebCite is unreliable in several ways. Here
is a copy of a message that I sent them in July. No reply. A real
shame, as their service or something like it is badly needed.
First of all, if this is sent to the wrong address, will you please
forward it for me? For reasons that will become clear below,
[log in to unmask] is the only email address I could find on your
web-site, so that is where I am sending this message.
I want to start by saying how very necessary a service like WebCite
is, and how much I want WebCitation.org to be it. As a publishing
scientist who also writes a lot of substantial blog posts, I need to
be able to cite my own and others' web pages in formal publications,
and a deposit-a-snapshot service is a big step towards making that
possible in many more journals. For that reason, my colleagues and I
have written favourably about WebCite, here
and more so here
Back at the start of July I was putting the finishing touches to a
manuscript on the inevitability that electronically published works
will be recognised as valid for the purposes of zoological
nomenclature -- something that is explicitly ruled out by the current
draft of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. My
manuscript quotes and otherwise cites seven web pages, so before
submitting it to the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature, I went to
deposit snapshots of those pages -- only to find that the service was
down (see first attachment). I found that rather disturbing, as an
archive that comes and goes can hardly be considered permanent; these
worries were amplified by the wholly uninformative message
"Webcitation.org is undergoing maintenance and will be back shortly".
No hint of how long the outage would last: minutes, hours, days?
Days, as it happens, but I waited, and on July 9 I archived the seven
pages. They were:
I verified that the new archive URLs worked: they did. I submitted
the manuscript on July 10, handled reviewers' comments, had it
accepted, and today was sent the proof PDF for final checking. I am
cautious enough that I re-tested the archive URLs, and found to my
astonishment and dismay that all seven failed to work. I checked that
the URLs in the proof PDF matched those in the submitted manuscript;
they did. What has happened to them?
The extraordinary thing is that, as it turns out, the archived pages
have not simply been discarded: they have been moved to new URLs! I
discovered this by searching at webcitation.org for the URLs of the
original pages, and found that they have changed as follows:
The pattern makes no sense to me: in some of these URLs (e.g. the
first) only the last two characters have changed. Yet in the fourth,
all but the very first character of the key has changed.
How can this have happened? And why? And is there any reason to
think it won't happen again?
My instinct was simply to give up on WebCite and instruct the BZN to
remove all the WebCite URLs from the paper, but my colleague Matt
Wedel (copied on this email) persuaded me that I should instead try to
get the problem fixed. So I went to WebCitation.org and clicked the
Contact Us link at the bottom of the page, only to find that the
Contact page is itself broken (see second attachment). As with the
first site failure, the error message is not particularly helpful:
"Your request returned the following error: Invalid snapshot ID
contact requested". This is the reason that I am sending my message
to you, the owner of the only email address on the site.
Despite everything, I really want to use WebCite in the references for
this paper if I can. As I said at the beginning, this kind of service
is important and increasingly necessary; I am keen, if I can, to
increase its exposure by using it in an internationally distributed
and widely read journal. Is there a way I can do so?
What I can not do is request the BZN to change the "permanent links"
from the old to new versions -- it should be clear that this would
constitute an admission that the archiving scheme is broken, which in
turn would undermine the very arguments I make in the paper regarding
the persistence of electronic resources.
Instead, I must ask you, if you possibly can, to reinstate the old
URLs -- http://www.webcitation.org/5i9L7Heuu, etc. If you're able to
do this within 24 hours, then I can return the proof to BZN without
requiring changes to the references. Unfortunately, the journal's
printing deadlines mean that I can not delay the return of the proofs
for long, so if this isn't possible within the stated time, I think I
will have no option but to request the removal of the WebCite links --
something we're all keen to avoid.
Do please let me know the upshot of this as soon as you're able. I
appreciate that you're busy -- as I am -- but deadlines imposed
elsewhere constrain us.
Thanks for your attention,