Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reference rot: an emerging problem in academia

Newly published research by RCSI library staff has highlighted the emerging problem of reference rot.

The sourcing of the original references of scholarly articles is an integral part of academic learning. The increased use of on-line resourcing and the referencing of same has resulted in the emerging phenomena of 'reference rot'. This relates to the combination of two elements which are commonly found when attempting to access web pages which are:

1. Link rot - the article or webpage resource identified by the URL no longer exists or has moved to another site, resulting in the ubiquitous '404 not found' error message.

2. Content drift - where the resource identified changes over time and may evolve into a resource that bears no resemblance to the content originally referenced.

Research by RCSI library staff, published by Emergency Medicine Australasia (EMA), found that over 34% of URL references between 2010-2014 in the journal EMA suffered from reference rot and were no longer accessible 1 . This is in the midrange of previous studies which found rates of reference rot ranging from 20% to 70% 2,3,4 .

The problem of reference rot is a serious one. URL references are becoming more prevalent; the number of URL references in the journal EMA increased each year between 2012-2014. A continuance of this trend allied to the problem of reference rot will mean ever more references will become inaccessible. Academic scholarship relies on references to support the claims made by authors; reference rot makes academic papers vulnerable to references which no longer support these claims.

Some solutions to the problem of reference rot have been suggested. The use of DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) rather than URLs is one,  these may provide a more reliable and robust mechanism for citing digital, scholarly articles 5 . Archiving websites, which attempt to archive portions of the web in order to ensure future access , such as the Internet Archive and Webcite, provide an alternative solution. Neither of these solutions are flawless however and both have their own problems 6 .

1. O'Connor, C. & O'Connor A. (2015), 'Reference rot': A developing problem in Emergency Medicine Australasia. Emergency Medicine Australasia. doi: 10.1111/1742-6723.12459

2. Klein M, Van de Sompel H, Sanderson R, Shankar H, Balakireva L, Zhou K, et al. Scolarly Context not Found: One in five articles Suffers from Reference Rot. PloS one. 2014; 9(12):e115253

3. Gul S, Mahajan I, Ali A. The growth and decay of URLs citation: A case of an online Library & Information Science Journal. Malaysian Journal of Library & Information Science. 2014;19(3):27-39.

4. Zittrain J, Albert K, Lessig L. Perma: Scoping and addressing the problem of link and reference rot in legal citations. Legal Information Management. 2014; 14902):88-89

5. Keele BJ, Pearse M. How Librarians Can Help Improve Law Journal Publishing. Law Library Journal.  2012; 104:383

6.  Klein M, Van de Sompel H, Sanderson R, Shankar H, Balakireva L, Zhou K, et al. Scolarly Context not Found: One in five articles Suffers from Reference Rot. PloS one. 2014; 9(12):e115253


Thursday, August 6, 2015

RCSI Open Access Publications now in National Portal

RCSI Libraries are pleased to announce that RIAN, the national portal for open access research output in Ireland is now harvesting data from RCSI’s institutional open access repository, e-publications@RCSI

RIAN,,  aggregates the content of 15 open access research repositories from the higher education and health sectors in Ireland and is the primary source for Irish open access research publications.

RCSI’s inclusion in RIAN makes the open access output of RCSI researchers easier to discover and more visible and is another vehicle for promoting RCSI research output.

Open Access:
Open Access is the free, immediate, on-line availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.  Making published research open access is increasingly a mandatory requirement of research funders.  Funders with open access mandates include the HRB, SFI, Wellcome Foundation and the HEA. European research funding  including H2020 is also increasingly requiring text and research data to be made open access.  One way to fulfil a funders mandate is to deposit your output in the RCSI institutional open access repository e-publications@RCSI.  For further information please email  

Check out the live downloads from e-publications@RCSI on

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

World Breastfeeding Week 2015

This week (August 1st-7th) is World Breastfeeding week, an event which aims to promote the benefits of breastfeeding and highlight the vital importance of a practice which gives children the healthiest start in life. The theme for this years event is "Women and work - let's make it work" which emphasizes the need for better support systems and policies to enable working women to breastfeed. You can find out more at the official website at http://www, is the resource for breastfeeding in Ireland. It contains links to resources and publications as well as guidelines for mothers.

The Cochrane Library has a special collection of Cochrane reviews dedicated to the topic of breastfeeding; you can access it here

Monday, July 27, 2015

World Head and Neck Cancer Day

Today is World Head and Neck Cancer Day. RCSI is hosting a Head and Neck symposium on the day that aims to raise awareness of Head and Neck Cancer as well as highlighting its risks and promoting early detection and prevention of such cancers. The symposium, which is open to RCSI staff, will take place in the Albert Lecture Theatre of the College at 123 St. Stephen's Green at 6:30 pm.

A screening clinic will be held today at Beaumont Hospital, one of six hospitals in Ireland running similar events that aim to raise awareness of head and Neck Cancer. The screening clinic will be held at the Beaumont Hospital's ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) outpatients department between 12:30-1:30pm.

Both events are being organised by Professor James Paul O'Neil, Head of the Department of Otolaryngology, RCSI in conjunction with the International Federation of Head Neck Oncologic societies (IFHNOS) which will see a number of medical and surgical consultant oncologists contributing to the lecture.

The National Cancer Institute, at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has produced a fact sheet about the risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and rehabilitation for cancers of the head and neck - you can access this at

The Irish Cancer Society has information and links to publications about head and neck cancer at


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Clinical Medicine Resources

With medical students beginning their intern year this is a good time to look at a selection of clinical resources available from RCSI library.

RCSI library has access to a number of resources which will be useful during your intern year. All of these resources can be accessed through the library website at 

  • UpToDate: UpToDate is a comprehensive health resource which provides answers to clinical questions quickly and easily at the point of care. UpToDate is updated regularly and is peer reviewed; a particularly useful feature is the summary and recommendations section of each topic which synthesises information and provides practical information regarding treatment.
  • ClinicalKey: ClinicalKey is an advanced online search tool aimed at clinicians, researchers, academics and students which contained all of Elsevier's medical and surgical content. The content includes over 500 electronic books some of which are core undergraduate texts and over 900 journals as well as millions of copyright cleared images.

Download the UpToDate app, UpToDate Anywhere, to get access from your mobile phone or  tablet; the app is available for Android, Apple & Windows 8 devices. You can find UpToDate in the 'Find Clinical Summaries' section of the library website.

Ebooks of particular interest in ClinicalKey may be the 'Current Diagnosis and Treatment'  series which includes topics such as cardiology, emergency medicine, pediatrics, Otolaryngology and more. Just search clinical key and use the search menu to limit to books. 

ClinicalKey also includes over 9,000 procedural videos; to view these search for your topic and limit the source type to video.

        Other ebooks

  • Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine: The standard in internal medicine texts. Available as an ebook; just search the RCSI library catalogue and click the 'electronic book' link.

  • Clinical neuroanatomy: A text that has been a vital resource for trainees, doctors and clinicians in practice in gaining an understanding of neuroanatomy, its functional underpinnings and its relationship to the clinic for over 70 years. Again, search the library catalogue and click the link.

        Print Books

  • The ICU Book (Marino, Paul L. 2014): A key text in critical care (available in Beaumont library at 616.028 MARI) 
  • Pocket Medicine (Sabatine, Marc S. 2014): Handy, pocket sized reference text that addresses commonly encountered diseases and guides the reader from diagnosis to management (available in Beaumont library at 616 SABA)
  •  House of God (Shem, Samuel. 2003): Not a clinical resource but a classic novel of life as  a medical intern. Definitely worth a read (Available in Mercer library at 823 SHEM)

          If you have any questions about the above, or any other, resources please contact the library at    or ask in person in Beaumont or Mercer libraries.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Free access to Ovid resources this month

Ovid are offering free access to a number of their resources this month.

The PsycEXTRA Database is a unique grey literature database ideal for researchers, students and health professionals working in psychological, psychiatric, and mental healthcare and support. Sign up for access here.

Pain Medicine is the official journal is the American Academy of Pain Medicine and the Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists  - you can sign up for one month's access here.

The Journal of Physician Assistant Education is dedicated to advancing Physician Assistant Education. Sign up for free July access here.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

UpToDate Anywhere - an update!

UptoDate Anywhere has announced an enhancement to their service. Currently users must confirm their ongoing affiliation with RCSI every 30 days; from 1st July this re-verification period will be extended to 90 days. So users who log in from the RCSI network at least once every 90 days will maintain their UpToDate Anywhere access rights with no disruption.

So what is UpToDate Anywhere? See below for details