March 17, 2018

Shutdown Rundown: How the Federal Shutdown Impacts Researchers So Far

As a result of the federal government shutdown, many resources that researchers, academics, and library patrons depend on—like the Library of Congress (LC) archives—have been rendered unavailable in the last week. The bad news is that 10 days in and with no clear end to this stalemate in sight, there’s no telling how long those resources might be on lock down. The good news is that a variety of other institutions are stepping up to fill in the gap and make sure a government shutdown doesn’t turn into an information shutdown.

Oxford University Press is offering free access to its databases during the government shutdown, meaning anyone who needs it will be able to make use of resources like Oxford Reference, American National Biography Online, and the demographics database Social Explorer. The shutdown has also closed EBSCO’s ERIC database of journal articles and government documents on education topics, prompting EBSCO to offer a free version of the service to users until the government is open for business again, though only the abstracts and indices—not the full-text articles—will be available.

The shutdown has also made workaround and archived versions of government websites all the more valuable. Over at, LJ’s Digital Libraries blogger and OCLC’s Senior Program Officer Roy Tennant has assembled a wide range of resources that can help knowledge seekers keep moving when the government has stopped. You can read all about the project on infoDOCKET, where you’ll also find links to great, clear-eyed analysis and historical context on the shutdown and its effects.

Other government databases aren’t in full shutdown, but are still affected by it. While health and science research archive PubMed remains searchable, its content is not being updated during the shutdown.

While the shutdown has seen librarians, vendors and institutions pull together to preserve access to information, the shutdown’s effects have been more deleterious elsewhere. There was no free archive or mirror site that could save the Depository Library Council Meeting and Federal Depository Library Conference. Scheduled to begin October 21st, the staff furloughs that hit the Government Printing Office, which puts on the event, made proceeding with planning impossible. Organizers are hoping to reschedule for the spring, when the federal government will presumably be again be open for business.

The flow of research funding could be impacted by the shutdown as well. While extant grants are being fulfilled, The National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, and Institute for Museum and Library Sciences have been forced to stop processing applications for new grants until their staffs are allowed to return to work.

Did we miss any of the ways the shutdown is affecting academic research? Probably. Let us know about other resources and workarounds you’re using, or how the shutdown has impacted your work in the comments.

Ian Chant About Ian Chant

Ian Chant is a former editor at LJ and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Scientific American and Popular Mechanics and on NPR.

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  1. A great deal of research is done at National Laboratories, such as Los Alamos National Laboratory, including library/digital library research, which are slated to shutdown at midnight 18th of October. This also will likely affect sub-contracts with universities doing research on their behalf: Oak Ridge has great relationships with Tennessee, LANL with UNM and so forth.

  2. At least some ERIC full-text is still retrievable using this base URL: (replace the x’s with the ED number from the record). So between EBSCO and this little hack, it’s still possible to get articles from ERIC, it’s just a little more annoying. ;-)

  3. I’m in Australia, and am writing my undergraduate thesis on Civil War commemoration – using huge amounts of online newspaper sources through the LoC’s Chronicling America Historic Newspapers archive. The site was down, and was wondering how I’d finalise my references without access – but the site is up as of this morning here – why is that, exactly? Submission is imminent, and so I’m very thankful, but also mindful of people who are truly deprived through this shutdown.