PLoS ONE accepts publication on Persistence and Availability of Web Services in Computational Biology
A publication on the Persistence and Availability of Web Services in Computational Biology by Sebastian J. Schultheiss, Marc-Christian Münch, Gergana D. Andreeva and Gunnar Rätsch has been accepted by PLoS ONE.
Fate of the URL links from the original abstract: More recent publications tend to have more working links
We have conducted a study on the long-term availability of bioinformatics web services: an observation of 927 web services published in the annual Nucleic Acids Research Web Server Issues between 2003 and 2009.
We found that 72% of web sites are still available at the published addresses, only 9% of services are completely unavailable. Older addresses often redirect to new pages. Subsequently, we checked the functionality of all available services: for 33%, we could not test functionality because there was no example data or a related problem; 13% were truly no longer working as expected; we could positively confirm functionality only for 45% of all services.
Additionally, we conducted a survey among 872 NAR Web Server Issue corresponding authors, 274 replied. 78% of respondents indicate their services have been developed solely by students and researchers without a permanent position. Consequently, these services are in danger of falling into disrepair after the original developers move to another institution, and indeed, for 24% of services, there is no plan for maintenance, according to the respondents.
We introduce a web service quality scoring system that correlates with the number of citations: services with a high score are cited 1.8 times more often than low-scoring services. We have identified key characteristics that are predictive of a service's survival, providing reviewers, editors, and web service developers with the means to assess or improve web services. A web service conforming to these criteria receives more citations and provides more reliable service for its users.
The most effective way of ensuring continued access to a service is a persistent Web address, offered either by the publishing journal, or created on the authors' own initiative, for example at bioweb.me. The community would benefit the most from a policy requiring any source code needed to reproduce results to be deposited in a public repository.
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