May 20, 2022

Article: “The Trouble With Reference Rot”

From Nature:

Herbert Van de Sompel, an information scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Library in New Mexico, quantified the alarming extent of this ‘link rot’ and ‘content drift’ (together, ‘reference rot’) in a paper published last December (M. Klein et al. PLoS ONE 9, e115253; 2014). With a group of researchers under the auspices of the Hiberlink project (, he analysed more than 1 million ‘web-at-large’ links (defined as those beginning with ‘http://’ that point to sites other than research articles) in some 3.5 million articles published between 1997 and 2012. The Hiberlink team found that in articles from 2012, 13% of hyperlinks in arXiv papers and 22% of hyperlinks in papers from Elsevier journals were rotten (the proportion rises in older articles), and overall some 75% of links were not cached on any Internet archiving site within two weeks of the article’s publication date, meaning their content might no longer reflect the citing author’s original intent — although the reader may not know this.

Read the Complete Article (approx. 880 Words)

See Also: Research Article: “Scholarly Context Not Found: One in Five Articles Suffers from Reference Rot” (via PLOS; Jan. 13, 2015.)

See Also: “Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations” & Introducing (September 23, 2013)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.