Long Term Archiving and PeerJ

by | Jan 8, 2013 | regular

Now that PeerJ is fully open for submissions we thought that readers might be interested in learning about some of the work that went on behind the scenes to get us here. This is the third in a series of three blog posts which describe some of the groups we have been working with, or expect to work with, as we move forwards.

Effective Long Term Archiving of the scholarly literature is extremely important. Scholarly journal articles are some of the most intellectually valuable content that our society produces and so they should be appropriately protected.  From the collapse of civilization, down to deliberate alterations of the scholarly record, it is very important that this knowledge it preserved, protected, and propagated forwards in time.

These days, most journal content is distributed electronically (as opposed to via print) and so it is vitally important that an online ‘immutable version of record’ is maintained, to which readers can expect that the content has not changed since original publication, and that copies will remain accessible for future researchers. In addition of course, much of the content published today actually cannot be reproduced in print anyway (e.g. multimedia elements, or large supplemental files). Clearly this is not a trivial problem, but fortunately there are several industry standard solutions for the long term preservation and archiving of the literature. Obviously we have our own local backups, as well as storage at Amazon (which will also be made available as an open data mining resource in the future), but in addition we will make use of PubMed Central and CLOCKSS to ensure the ‘industry standard’ archiving of our content.

PubMed Central

PubMed Central (PMC) is a free archive of ‘full text’ biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM). In keeping with the NLM’s mandate to collect and preserve the biomedical literature, PMC serves as a repository for journal literature deposited by participating publishers, and that content is copied into various other international archives. PeerJ will, of course, be depositing all our articles into PubMed Central, which will then act as a permanent publicly accessible archive of that content.


CLOCKSS (which stands for Controlled Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe), of which PeerJ is a member, is “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”. As such, CLOCKSS represents one of the few industry standard solutions for permanently archiving journal content and works via cloning and maintaining content in several locations (with repeated cross checks that all versions are identical).


Global LOCKSS (Global Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) is related to CLOCKSS but operates under a different principle. CLOCKSS maintains a central archive of content, whereas LOCKSS allows individual journals to keep their own archives. A description of the differences can be found at the CLOCKSS site, but suffice to say that by being a part of both services we are doubly archived.

(update) Additional Service – Portico

As of January 2015 we also use Portico as an additional archiving solution. Portico is among the largest community-supported digital archives in the world. Working with libraries and publishers, they preserve e-journals, e-books, and other electronic scholarly content to ensure researchers and students will have access to it in the future.

The Disks of Millions

Although clearly not a formal archiving solution, it is certainly a fact that because our content is fully Open Access, there will be copies of published articles distributed across many individual users worldwide (in the past we have heard of individuals who carry the entire PLOS corpus around in their pocket on a thumb drive). This is an interesting strength of Open Access and helps ensure that even in the most extreme of scenarios, copies could still exist somewhere in the world.

These are not the only solutions of course (others include the Royal Dutch Library) but going forwards, we will keep abreast of developments in the archiving world and ensure that our published content remains effectively protected in all foreseeable scenarios.

In the meantime, we encourage anyone who is interested in experiencing the PeerJ publication process to submit their work to us now. We are fully open for submissions and expect to publish our first articles soon – submit now to be among our earliest publications.

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