Dealing with reference rot

One in five articles has been indicated to suffer from reference rot (Klein et al., 2014), which means that weblinks are used as references, but that these references do not operate anymore. Considering that the Internet is a dynamic place, where pages are created, but moreover, deleted on a daily basis, reference rot is problematic when writing papers.

With increasing amounts of blogging and publishing of reports being done on the Internet, it is becoming more important to tackle this issue as an academic. Several options are available, such as the Wayback Machine by the Web Archive, or Perma.cc. Using weblinks provided by these services for the page you saved, decreases the probability of reference rot.

My personal preference goes out to the Wayback machine, because you can insta-save any webpage that allows crawling. Subsequently, I just import this link instead of the original into my reference library.

Note that perma.cc is also similarly easy, but only saves your link for two years at a time, requiring resaving afterwards — except if the link is, as they call, ‘vested’. This means that an archived web page and its Perma link become permanently saved. This might have benefits over the wayback machine, by linking to libraries, but I am not quite clear yet.

Also, the Wayback machine requires less work, because it has a bookmarklet that directly saves a page (perma.cc probably will get it as well). Just save this link to your bookmarks and you are a-go! I now do this with any webpage I import into my reference manager.

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