No More 404s: Predicting Referenced Link Rot in Scholarly Articles for Pro-Active Archiving

Ke Zhou, Claire Grover, Martin Klein, Richard Tobin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The citation of resources is a fundamental part of scholarly discourse. Due to the popularity of the web, there is an increasing trend for scholarly articles to reference web resources (e.g. software, data). However, due to the dynamic nature of the web, the referenced links may become inaccessible ('rotten') sometime after publication, returning a "404 Not Found" HTTP error. In this paper we first present some preliminary findings of a study of the persistence and availability of web resources referenced from papers in a large-scale scholarly repository. We reaffirm previous research that link rot is a serious problem in the scholarly world and that current web archives do not always preserve all rotten links. Therefore, a more pro-active archival solution needs to be developed to further preserve web content referenced in scholarly articles. To this end, we propose to apply machine learning techniques to train a link rot predictor for use by an archival framework to prioritise pro-active archiving of links that are more likely to be rotten. We demonstrate that we can obtain a fairly high link rot prediction AUC (0.72) with only a small set of features. By simulation, we also show that our prediction framework is more effective than current web archives for preserving links that are likely to be rotten. This work has a potential impact for the scholarly world where publishers can utilise this framework to prioritise the archiving of links for digital preservation, especially when there is a large quantity of links to be archived.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 15th ACM/IEEE-CE on Joint Conference on Digital Libraries
Place of PublicationNew York, NY, USA
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2015

Publication series

NameJCDL '15


  • digital preservation, repositories, web persistence


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