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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeApr 16th 2013
    • (edited Apr 16th 2013)

    I wasn’t aware until recently of the CLOCKSS and Portico projects (although I dimly remembered something like them existed). These projects, jointly run by publishers and libraries, keep a “hidden” archive of the entire literature, with pre-determined conditions for triggering a release of certain parts. In particular, a publisher going out of business or ceasing to provide electronic access triggers a release.

    Two questions:

    1) Do we know that “all” the mathematical literature is actually being archived? CLOCKSS provides a list of journal names and ISSNs that they archive. I haven’t compared this against a list of mathematical journals, however.

    2) It seems to me that this system provides us with very strong incentives to kill off a publisher, if it is possible, or at least kill off their interest in mathematics. Suddenly, we gain free access to their entire corpus. Is this really the case?

    See also

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthordarij grinberg
    • CommentTimeApr 16th 2013
    • (edited Apr 16th 2013)

    Quoth the CLOCKSS FAQ:

    How does the CLOCKSS board define a trigger event?

    Trigger events include situations of non-availability of archived content in which:

    Publisher No Longer in Business

    The publisher is no longer in business or is no longer in the business of publishing content or providing access to previously published content and there are no successor interests or reversions or transfers of rights;

    Title No Longer Offered

    The publisher has stopped publishing and is no longer providing access to the content and there are no successor interests or reversion or transfer of rights;

    Back Issues No Longer Available

    The publisher has stopped offering or providing access to some or all of the back issues of the content and there are no successor interests or reversion or transfer of rights; or

    Catastrophic Failure

    While still publishing content, the publisher is not able to provide access to the content electronically due to technical or similar catastrophic and permanent failure.*

    I’m wondering how “there are no successor interests” is defined: how soon are they required to appear? What if liquidation/bancruptcy takes years of legal battles?

    (Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted by both projects.)

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeApr 16th 2013

    Do we know that “all” the mathematical literature is actually being archived?

    Unfortunately, I think it’s not even close. All the major publishers (Springer, Elsevier, etc. as well as major math societies) do this, as well as the more responsible among the smaller publishers (e.g., MSP). However, a lot of journals seem to pay inadequate attention to permanent archiving. For example, I can’t find any indication on the web that the New York Journal of Mathematics is involved in Portico, CLOCKSS, or anything similar, and I’d bet the number of journals in a similar position is in the hundreds. It’s a particular problem for volunteer-run journals, since doing this right requires knowledge, effort, and a bit of money.

    It seems to me that this system provides us with very strong incentives to kill off a publisher, if it is possible, or at least kill off their interest in mathematics. Suddenly, we gain free access to their entire corpus. Is this really the case?

    Theoretically, but I think this is impossible in practice for any serious commercial publisher. It would require the publisher to decide that their rights to the material were so worthless that they couldn’t be sold or transferred to anyone else, and that’s just not going to happen. Long before they reached that point, the publisher would prefer to sell the rights to someone: a math society, the Simons Foundation, whoever had money and interest.

    There would be pressure for the mathematical community to come up with the money, since the alternative would be a copyright troll, someone who has no intention of actually running a journal, but instead just wants to collect fees for access to back issues. That would be a horrible mess, since the new owner would not face the same constraints as academic publishers. (Elsevier may be bad, but at least they care about their reputation and want to continue publishing. A copyright troll could engage in all sorts of threats and lawsuits that Elsevier would never try.)

  1. This is very interesting, given that Springer seems not to provide access to K-Theory anymore.

    Maybe all back issues are now freely available, but I am not so sure about that.

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2013
    • (edited Apr 17th 2013)

    For OJAC we looked into CLOCKSS, but being a “zero budget” (meaning $200 is too much, since we have no income stream at all) operation, we decided just to go with LOCKSS. I see that other free journals such as EJC and JoCG have done the same thing.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2013

    As I understand it, LOCKSS enables libraries to archive material, but it doesn’t ensure that anyone actually will archive a specific journal. Does OJAC have a list of who is currently archiving it (and especially who is willing to commit to doing so in the long run)?

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeApr 18th 2013

    @Benoit, indeed, all the “Article” links from MathSciNet have gone dead as well. In fact, K-Theory is listed under CLOCKSS catalogue, so they have it. Perhaps we need to ask some librarian friends to put in requests for its release from CLOCKSS.

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeApr 18th 2013

    Huh, and my university is an archive node, with a seat on the board. Maybe I’ll go meet some librarians next week.

    • CommentRowNumber9.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2013

    The publisher has stopped offering or providing access to some … of the back issues of the content

    This is a bit vague. There were problems with Elsevier not providing electronic copies of the European Journal of Combinatorics (ScienceDirect link) does that mean the vault can be opened for them?

    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2013


    the European Journal of Combinatorics issue seems (correct me if I’m wrong) to be about older issues not being available at all. If this is the case, then there aren’t going to be any copies stored in CLOCKSS in the first place.

    • CommentRowNumber11.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2013

    Just for the sake of thoroughly hyperlinking, @DavidRoberts has posted about this on google+,

    • CommentRowNumber12.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2013

    I just think the wording is a little loopholey - just because some pre-web back-issues aren’t available, is that a trigger event for the journal (as a whole)?

  2. @DavidRoberts: as far as i know, it is not just some pre-web back-issues but all the content of the journal (which stopped being published only a few years ago).

    • CommentRowNumber14.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2013


    all the content of the journal

    yes, I know. I was just referring to “pre-web back issues” of the combinatorics journal I mentioned, as a thought experiment in whether that was a sufficient condition to get access. Even Elsevier couldn’t source physical copies to scan in (because they had to cut up/remove binding/otherwise destroy the physical item, and no one was willing to let them do it).

    • CommentRowNumber15.
    • CommentAuthordarij grinberg
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2013

    To be honest, the quality of some scans on sciencedirect (e. g., most of the pre-electronic Discrete Mathematics archive) can be easily achieved without cutting up the journals (and I think I’d do it better without cutting up the journals). Of course, I don’t want their scans to be of that quality, but I’m just saying that apparently they don’t think of this as a big issue…

    • CommentRowNumber16.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2013

    @Henry Cohn (#6) - I have spoken in person to the head of LOCKSS, and the answer is yes - Stanford, at least, will archive it. I also found out some interesting facts (and opinions) in this meeting. For example, only a very small fraction of requests from journals are approved by LOCKSS, so I feel honoured now :)

    • CommentRowNumber17.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeMay 12th 2013

    I have spoken in person to the head of LOCKSS, and the answer is yes - Stanford, at least, will archive it.

    That’s great.

    • CommentRowNumber18.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeMay 15th 2013
    • (edited May 15th 2013)


    my librarians asked Portico for access to K-theory, and got, in part, the following response:

    Unfortunately, the former publisher, Springer, has informed us that due to some legal issues related to the ownership of the content, we are not permitted to make it available to Portico participating libraries at this time.

    This is news to me. I wonder who is claiming ownership of the content?

    • CommentRowNumber19.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeMay 15th 2013

    The end of K-theory was apparently much more complicated and contentious than most other editorial board resignations (see the account by Wolfgang Lück, who helped close down the journal). I wonder whether this is fallout from those events. It would make a good story for a science journalist to investigate, since the community deserves to understand what’s going on here.

    • CommentRowNumber20.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeMay 15th 2013

    That the journal was available for so long before being pulled makes me wonder, but I can’t think of anything else other than the contentious ending that would make such action happen.

    • CommentRowNumber21.
    • CommentAuthordarij grinberg
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2013
    • (edited May 22nd 2013)

    I am way too far from the whole subject, but could anyone working in K-theory mail the people involved requesting an explanation of what is going on? (Even Lück, seeing that things probably changed since 2007.) This situation is seriously awful, because the content is being restricted by (someone in?) the scholarly community this time…

    • CommentRowNumber22.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2013

    +1 darij.

    • CommentRowNumber23.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeMay 27th 2013

    My local former editor of K-Theory is making enquiries; he wasn’t aware that it was offline.

    • CommentRowNumber24.
    • CommentAuthorSam Nead
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2013
    Elsevier has discontinued Topology.

    Any chance that Topology is now available via CLOCKSS? I assume not, as Elsevier is still in business... But hope springs eternal, and all that.
    • CommentRowNumber25.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2013

    Any chance that Topology is now available via CLOCKSS? I assume not, as Elsevier is still in business… But hope springs eternal, and all that.

    Nope, it’s not (here is a complete list of triggered content from CLOCKSS). I’m not certain whether Topology was ever archived using CLOCKSS, but in any case discontinuing a journal does not trigger any release of content unless the publisher also stops providing access. For example, the Archives of Family Medicine was discontinued in 2000 but was not released by CLOCKSS until 2012, since the AMA kept it available in the meantime.

    Currently, all of the back issues of Topology are available for free from Elsevier except for one special issue from 2009, which is behind a paywall and will become free by the end of the year. There’s no guarantee that they won’t impose a paywall again in the future, but for now the free access is very convenient.

    • CommentRowNumber26.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeJun 3rd 2013

    My librarian (who is on the CLOCKSS board) has asked that triggering K-Theory be on the agenda for this week’s board meeting!

    My guess is that they will not actually decide to release K-Theory at this point, as it appears that in practice the publishers have veto power (contrary, in my opinion, to both the supposed intent and public claims of CLOCKSS itself).

    • CommentRowNumber27.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeJun 4th 2013
    • (edited Jun 4th 2013)

    Who else is on the board, and can we contact them for support?

    • CommentRowNumber28.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeJun 4th 2013

    It can’t hurt to try, but I suspect it’s fruitless if there are indeed “legal issues related to the ownership of the content”. If there’s any question as to whether Springer has the right to distribute the articles, then the same doubt presumably extends to CLOCKSS (since their only authorization to distribute them would be that Springer agreed to this upon depositing the articles), and I assume they wouldn’t want to be drawn into a lawsuit. I have a hard time imagining a non-frivolous lawsuit of this sort, but it could still be a real mess.

    What I’d really like to know is what is going on here. I wrote to someone at Springer but never heard back. At the very least the community needs to know what happened, who is involved, and how this might end up being resolved. It’s crazy for a journal to disappear with no public explanation. I hope CLOCKSS can at least get a more specific explanation than “some legal issues” and can share it with the public.

    • CommentRowNumber29.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeAug 5th 2013

    Dear Aaron,

    Thanks for your patience, I have some great news. We have negotiated with the rights holder for K-Theory (ISSN 0920-3036) and Portico can move forward with triggering the full run of the journal.

    We’re hoping to make the title available to all Portico participants next week and will be available for access through the available titles link here,

    In addition, the journal information will appear with the rest of the triggered content here,

    Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

    I will follow up next week, when the testing is done and the content is opened up on Portico’s platform.

    All the best,

    Tonya Obraz Website Support Coordinator

    I just received the above from my subject librarian.

    • CommentRowNumber30.
    • CommentAuthordarij grinberg
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2013
    Hmm, it looks like I was rash in my delight, as Portico still is a closed garden. Why should it be?
  3. I should come by here more often…

    The Keepers Registry allows you to check the holdings of the CLOCKSS Archive, Global LOCKSS Network, HathiTrust, Portico, etc.