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More than two million scholarly articles are not being properly archived according to a new analysis.

A study published in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication in January reviewed more than seven million documents with digital object identifiers (DOIs). The DOIs are unique identifiers given to most—but not all—scholarly articles, acting as a digital fingerprint.

Of the 7,438,037 articles, roughly 28 percent, or more than two million works, did not appear in the reviewed archives despite having a DOI. A little more than half the works (4.3 million articles) were in more than one archive, according to the study. Fewer than 1 percent of institutions preserve 75 percent of their works in three or more archives, which Martin Paul Eve, the head researcher on the study, called “alarming.”

“The threat posed by the disappearance of the scholarly record is real,” Eve said in the study. “Without active understanding and intervention, we will continue to lose valuable material and threaten the persistence of digital links to scholarship and research.”

The study recommended that DOI registration agencies update contractual agreements with institutions to define a standard of preservation rather than encouraging institutions to use their “best efforts,” as is currently the case. The study also urged the agencies to further educate libraries and institutions on the importance of digital preservation, including through webinars.

The study acknowledges disagreement over who exactly is responsible for archiving, with some believing it is librarians and others believing it is publishers.

It is also costly to archive, with smaller institutions’ papers being more at risk than those from larger, more cash-flush institutions, which can afford multiple archivals. The study points out resources like the Public Knowledge Project’s Private LOCKSS Network and national preservation networks, which can help circumvent that by offering archiving at affordable rates. However, it acknowledges that many institutions do not know about these alternatives and recommends more awareness efforts.