The archival status of archived papers

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2002 01:27:15 +0000

 On Wed, 27 Nov 2002, Belinda Weaver wrote:

> We've had complaints from archive contributors because they
> cannot edit their papers once they have been deposited. If they
> want to make a change, they have to clone their paper, edit the
> clone and deposit that and then request removal of the original.
> This means an URL change which is the very thing we don't want
> to see - we promised permanent URLs and if they get a new URL
> for a cloned paper, then it's harder for them as they have often
> linked to the URL or mailed it out to colleagues.

> This became an issue as one staffer deposited a lot of materials which
> he wanted to upgrade a little later with references etc. Since I did
> not know about his plans, I moved them to the main archive and he thus
> lost control over them from an editing point of view - unless he asked
> me to bounce all 32 back which is rather time consuming. In the
> end he had to clone all 32 papers which seems really daft. Any
> hope of a change here? We couldn't leave the earlier records in
> the archive as the papers themselves were identical - only the
> metadata had changed a little.
> Belinda Weaver, Co-ordinator, UQ E-Print Archive
> University of Queensland Library
> University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia 4072.
> Tel : +617 336 58281 Fax : +617 336 57930
> Email :

An archive is an archive. What one deposits in there one presumably wants
to keep in there, permanently. If something is a working paper, and one
wants to archive it, that's fine, but if there is a subsequent revised
draft, that gets archived too. The first draft is linked to the update,
and anyone who accesses the one will always see the link to the other. And
so on for successive drafts, with dates.

That's how archiving and version control works. Now if a depositor
wants to use the archive for something other than archival purposes,
and the archive administrator allows it, that's fine too. The original
deposit can be deleted, and only the new draft left in. The old draft's
URL, however, for archival reasons, is suppressed if the paper has been
deleted. Internally, it is still an archival milestone, but now blank
and inaccessible.

Now it is conceivable that the eprints architecture can be slightly
modified, so that the old, suppressed URL for the deleted paper
automatically redirects to the new draft if someone tries to access
the old one. That I have to let Chris reply about. Here I have merely
explained the rationale for not having designed the archive so a paper
could be deposited, and then modified willy-nilly under the same URL.
For that would not have been an archive at all, and user complaints,
about trying to use and cite a moving target, would have far out-numbered
depositor complaints about what to do with after-thoughts and successive

There might also be a way to modify the architecture so that if the
changes are in the metadata only, and not the paper's text-body itself,
then this can be done while retaining the same URL. I again leave it to
Chris to reply about that.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Nov 27 2002 - 01:27:15 GMT

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