11
$\begingroup$

This is part (bad) news, part question. The publishers of Berg et al., Biochemistry have withdrawn the title from NCBI Bookshelf:

Berg withdrawn from NCBI Bookshelf

This raises the question of what to do about all my answers that have (now dead) links to this. I suppose I should check them and edit if they do not stand by themselves.

A great pity, because, although there are good texts on Molecular and Cell Biology on NCBI Bookshelf, there are no alternatives of this standard for Biochemistry there or elsewhere on the Internet to my knowledge.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I'd wish everyone here was as diligent as you are with referencing and keeping track of web sources. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Dec 6, 2021 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ I am not a lawyer, but is it illegal to link to an online archived copy of a particular webpage that you wish to reference? If it is, then you can do that and hence no rely on the unpredictable future whims of the publisher. $\endgroup$
    – user21820
    Dec 17, 2021 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ @user21820 — You’re thinking “Wayback Machine”? Wikipedia links to archived copies of web pages, so I assume it is not illegal as you they are very careful about copyright. However the NCBI pages are generated programmatically, so I doubt whether they are archived. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 17, 2021 at 17:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @David: Try archive.md, which captures a permanent snapshot after scripts have run. It usually works. $\endgroup$
    – user21820
    Dec 18, 2021 at 4:18

2 Answers 2

5
$\begingroup$

First off, the edition is about 2 decades old and it may not be best practice to cite such a dated work in your answers. But I agree that it may still be appropriate to use it as a reference for basic concepts on Biochemistry. I myself have cited an old edition of Neuroscience of Purves (2002) on the NCBI bookshelf quite a few times in my answers as a reference to basic concepts that are not subject to change over time.

Concerning the dead link, I guess editing your questions would be best, but given you have 550+ answers this likely becomes an overly burdensome task. I wouldn't know of an easy way to filter out all your answers that cite the work. Perhaps filtering them by the tag , or related tags would be of any help? At best you are left with a couple of handfuls of questions.

On the bright side; I found a full pdf on Google books of your edition, as well as a pdf of the 8th edition with just a cursory search on Google. Perhaps you can find even newer versions floating around with a more thorough search. How legitimate these copies are would need further investigation, because I would strongly discourage citing illegitimate copies of a book. It is also important to attempt to find a stable internet source for the book which can be expected to keep the book online for a decent amount of time to prevent the same issue from occurring in the future.

If you can find a decent replacement copy of the book, it may help you in the end in your quest solving the issue. It would greatly benefit your answers I think to use the newest version out there when you're on it.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks. The age of the edition is clearly a possible reason why the publishers decided to stop NCBI using it. The problem is that some of the basic biochemistry and chemistry has not changed. For example, I was looking for a reference to the ionization of water for a comment when I found this. My own problem is my own problem. It would be arrogant for me to think that more than a tenth of my answers are of general/permanent interest, and I have stated on many occasions the problems of relying on links, so I have only my self to blame. I need to decide which answers are worth the effort. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 6, 2021 at 20:20
4
$\begingroup$

As great as it is to link to an outside reference (thanks for doing that!), I don't think it's absolutely necessary if you provide a citation.

As such: Although not the best solution, I think as long as you provide a full citation and make sure your answer is complete without needing to go to the external link, then you've done your due diligence. If that's the case -- well, then sometimes links go dead -- Oh well.

  • I haven't looked at your Berg-linking answers, so I'm not sure how this recommendation would play out for you. However, I think it provides the minimum (though adequate) amount of effort -- especially if you've already adequately cited the textbook within the question.

I would, however, encourage you to find an alternative link for perhaps 1-2 posts per week or month to spread the editing load, and just slowly update dead links that way.

I know you're not interested in linking to illegitimate copies of published works, so you might not have much of a choice to move on in this case...

$\endgroup$
4
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As I commented to @AliceD, it is a problem of my own making and your suggestion is eminently reasonable. The cost of text books now is such that nobody is going to spend $100 on the 9th edition of Berg to read a couple of pages, but Wikipedia articles are generally much inferior. It is perhaps ironic that the open access movement (to which I do not subscribe) is keen on putting money into access to journal articles that are of interest to three people, while ignoring the educational value of doing likewise for textbooks that could educate thousands. Perhaps I should start a campaign. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 6, 2021 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ An open access campaign for educational material! Seconded. You are one of us, comrade. $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Dec 7, 2021 at 14:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @SPr — Yes. But everything costs — someone has to pay for open access. For research it is mainly the tax-payer through Research Councils like the NIH, MRC, DFG, INSERM etc. I don't know what deal NCBI does with the publishers for Bookshelf, but I suspect it does not involve much money on NCBI's part. And the publishers of the popular texts are hardly going to give them up without a mega sum. Perhaps there needs to be something like a joint international funding of initiatives to produce texts in a number of key areas. But it would have to be carefully costed to have any chance of flying. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 8, 2021 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ I certainly have no qualm with what you say. I do think "everything costs" with respect to access is more aphorism than reality. It will be a generational thing, I'd surely bet. I think there's a lot to be said on licensing, free vs. open access, full vs. hybrid access, green vs. gold standards of open access, all that, and the attitude of governments in pushing taxpayer-funded research to necessarily require publishing under eternally free licenses and permanently accessible ways. The scientific (and science publishing) community are decades behind in such endeavors for access. $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Dec 9, 2021 at 22:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .