Epidemiologist Kay Dickersin joined The Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials in 1992 when online scientific publishing was brand new and being hailed as the wave of the future — but she didn't realize that the journal being online instead of in print might result in the loss of every single study it had ever published, according to Wired.
Dickersin worked as an associate editor at the journal. The journal was sold in 1994 to a publisher that eventually became part of Taylor & Francis, and that company eventually shut the OJCCT down. When that happened, Wired says, all the papers, reports, reviews, and meta-analyses of clinical trials that had ever been published in the journal "disappeared."
"One of my important studies was in there," Dickersin tells the magazine, "and no one could get it."
For more than 10 years, her paper and about 80 others were all missing, and no one could figure out how to get the rights to them so they could be posted on other websites, until Dickersin went searching for a solution and found Portico.
Portico is like a Wayback Machine for scholarly publications, Wired says. "The digital preservation service ingests, meta-tags, preserves, manages, and updates content for publishers and libraries, and then provides access to those archives," according to the article. "The company soon signed on to the project and got permission from Taylor & Francis to make the future archives open-access."
Then the journal's former editors and contributors had to actually find their old articles. They managed to find about 50 of them, which they shared with Portico. Several are still missing, Wired notes. Portico has asked other researchers to look around for other papers they may have and send them in.
And Portico isn't the only site trying to find old studies that may have disappeared into the ether. Leslie Johnston, director of digital preservation at the National Archives and Records Administration, is the person in charge of figuring out how to cache and maintain digital government and historical records for the US, Wired says. And the government certainly funds a lot of research.