Opening Access to PhD theses

Things are very busy around here right now so no time for any serious blogging I’m afraid. We are in the last throws of preparing the PLoS ONE manuscript tracking system to admit its first submissions. More on that next week I hope but for now I wanted to mention some initiatives to improve the availability of PhD theses.

I was at the European OpenScience Forum last week and while there spent a long time chatting to Daniel Mietchen who is involved with the World Academy of Young Scientists(WAYS). By this I mean that in his spare time he does a lot of work within this group, though how he finds the time given that he is a full time researcher looking at the processing of music I will never know.

There is a lot of potential common ground between PLoS and WAYS but one thing we talked about specifically was the need for some good electronic repositories for PhD theses. Theses get deposited in university libraries and are so, theoretically, publically available. In this day and age though, unless they are in electronic form and in some way available over the web, they might as well not have been written.

Many Universities deposit theses in their institutional repositories but not all of them, and coverage is often patchy. As far as I am aware (please correct me if I’m wrong) no country or funding agency currently mandates such submission and there is no centralised way of finding the e-copy of a thesis.

I couldn’t do much but sympathise with Daniel but I was pleased to see a press release from the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) later in the week called Theses unbound: consultation on a national e-theses service for the UK

It is widely recognised that PhD theses are an under-exploited research resource, and that when they are made available electronically, their use increases substantially. JISC has funded an 18 month project, EThOS, whose aim is to deliver a fully operational, easily scaleable and financially viable prototype UK online electronic PhD theses service, and supporting infrastructure.

Sounds good. And I know a really cool Open Source publishing platform they might like to consider using……

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4 Responses to Opening Access to PhD theses

  1. Peter Suber says:

    Chris: See my article from earlier this month, Open access to electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs).

    I don’t know of any nation or funder that mandates OA for ETDs but a growing number of universities does so. In my article, I make the case for an OA mandate.

    Peter

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  2. Chris Surridge says:

    Thanks for this link Peter. I knew you had written on the subject but couldn’t find the piece yesterday. I of course completely agree that an OA mandate is essential. I have difficulty even imagining any arguments against it.

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  3. It’s not quite what you’re talking about, but it’s a step in the right direction. MIT and HP have built DSpace, an online “digital repository system, DSpace captures, stores, indexes, preserves and redistributes an organization’s research material in digital formats.”

    http://www.dspace.org/

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  4. Chris Surridge says:

    DSpace is great. It is very effective at doing what it does. It works really well as a repository. I’m a huge fan. One other great thing; a technically minded bird tells me that DSpace is going to be/is already using the information repository Fedora at it’s core. TOPAZ, the publishing platform that we are going to use for PLoS ONE, and given a little time the rest of the PLoS journals, will also have a Fedora core. That means that it will be possible to get TOPAZ and DSpace to talk to each other.

    One more step to integrating the Open Access literature.

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