ALPSP Survey – long-term preservation strategies for e-journals

I have been reading through the report of a recent (July 2008) survey investigating preservation strategies amongst members of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP). It makes interesting reading and overall is a very worthwhile report. The report is available as a free pdf download from the ALPSP website.

The responses came from 68 publishers out of a total ALPSP membership of 240 (just over 23%) so results need to be treated with some caution and the respondents may be less representative than a true sample.

Key Findings were:

1. The majority of ALPSP publishers who responded to the survey believe long-term preservation to be a critical issue: 91% either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Long-term preservation is an issue which urgently needs to be addressed within the industry.” 9% were neutral; no-one disagreed.

2. ALPSP publishers are strongly motivated to engage with preservation because of its critical importance to their customers, with over 90% of respondents citing this as a major motivating factor: a heartening response for those in the library community.

3. Although 68% of publishers reported understanding of preservation issues within their organisation to be either ‘good’ or ‘reasonable’, the survey also revealed a wide range of concerns suggesting an overall lack of confidence, at least for the present. The survey revealed a strong desire amongst almost all publishers for the development of ‘best practice’ and industry standards.

4. There is some confusion surrounding the nature and extent of publisher participation in long-term preservation schemes, with high numbers of respondents declaring their organisation to be participating in one or more initiatives and yet the schemes themselves reporting substantially lower numbers presently taking part.

5. Publisher views on who should take responsibility for long-term preservation also reveal some interesting contradictions: despite presently supporting a range of preservation schemes, a significant majority of publishers indicated they would in fact prefer other groups and institutions to take this responsibility on. National libraries in particular were a popular choice.

6. Finally, the survey revealed most publishers are clear about the distinction between ensuring long-term access and ensuring long-term preservation, with the majority believing they have clear responsibility for long-term access. A worryingly high number however admit to either not trusting their present strategy or not currently having any strategy to deliver here.

Issus which particularly struck me were:

Key finding 4 – the high number of publishers (77%) who thought they were participating in one or more preservation schemes but in fact were/had been involved in time-limited trials which had lapsed, etc. The reality check showed the need to clarify which schemes publishers are truly and fully supporting.

Key findings 5 and 6 – there is still lack of clarity and understanding of digital preservation in terms of continuing/perpetual access (archiving guarantees and ongoing access rights of subscribers to paid content) and legal deposit (public good archiving for the long-term with limited access rights for non-subscribers). The issues can overlap in some services being offered by national libraries and both are “digital preservation” but the different user groups and rights mean it is helpful for them to be distinguished.

Perhaps a final key finding that could be added is that there is a significant and urgent opportunity to work with publishers on developing digital preservation strategies and practice. Whilst a majority of ALPSP publishers in the survey feel they have a responsibility for long-term (continuing/perpetual) access a substantial number do not have strategies in place to support this. The report suggests a strong need for an industry-wide working group, perhaps modelled on project COUNTER or project TRANSFER, through which publishers, librarians, preservation organisations and intermediaries, can map out the road ahead for digital preservation. The urgency is underlined by the fact that 75% of the respondents concurred with the survey statement question that “It is inevitable that, at some point in the future, access to some scholarly e-journals will be permanently lost due to a lack of preservatrion strategy”.

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