[Humanist] 26.499 default online publication of dissertations

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Nov 19 07:28:59 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 499.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2012 17:34:37 +0000
        From: Daniel Allington <daniel.allington at open.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re:  26.493 default online publication of dissertations
        In-Reply-To: <20121117093225.755A52E02 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Micah

McMillan et al 2011 is a very interesting study, and I'd like to thank you for drawing our attention to it. The devil is in the detail, though, and in this case the detail would seem to support the view that - depending upon his or her publication plans - there might still be very good reasons for a student's wanting access restrictions or an embargo:

Journal editors are more enthusiastic about receiving submissions based on ETDs than are university presses. Two-thirds of the journals “always welcome” submissions from ETDs, while one-tenth of the university presses do.

This is not to say the university presses discourage submissions based on ETDs. Nearly half consider ETD-based submissions on a case-by-case basis. Slightly more than one-quarter (26.8%) will consider submissions “ONLY IF the contents and conclusions in the manuscript are substantially different from the ETD.” There does not appear to be a significant relationship between the size of the enterprise and its policy or perspective on accepting manuscripts derived from ETDs.

However, university presses are about two-and-a-half times as likely to “never” accept ETD-based submissions, than are journal editors. Only university presses find access restrictions necessary. 

      McMillan et al 2011, http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=univ_lib_facpub


That study also indicates that there are university presses that would expect access to the thesis to be restricted after publication, even if it wasn't restricted before ('Another commented: “We ask authors to stop distribution of their ETD when we agree to publish their REVISED material.”', ibid.). My understanding (possibly incorrect) of my alma mater's policy was that once my thesis was out in the open, there would be no going back. Is this allowed for in your respository's 48-month policy?

We also need to be very clear about the benefits of open access to the individual. You mention citations: thankfully, they currently count for nothing in my discipline (at least in the UK!), but in contexts where they do count, not all citations count equally. For example, it's quite common practice to derive citation counts from the Web of Science, which only indexes cross-citations within a select subset of journals and conference proceedings - not theses. Those journals may accept ETD-based submissions, of course, but there's still a potential disadvantage in that the open access thesis could begin to act as a competitor of the article, when it is the latter alone whose citations can actually add up to something. It was with this in mind that I recently emailed the author of a thesis I had read a couple of years back and which I had already cited several times, asking her if the relevant work had since appeared in a publication that she would prefer me to cite. These are complex and unpleasantly important issues.

I write this, by the way, as someone who has uploaded almost all his research publications to an institutional repository. I'm not against open access, I just don't believe we should expect the most vulnerable people in the entire system (i.e. recent PhD graduates) to be the vanguard of change - and I very much believe that the decision of whether and when to open access to a thesis should belong to its author, and to its author alone.

best wishes


On 17 Nov 2012, at 09:32, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2012 14:24:53 +0000
>        From: "Vandegrift, Micah" <mvandegrift at fsu.edu>
>        Subject: 26.489 default online publication of dissertations
>        In-Reply-To: <mailman.5.1353063601.9135.humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>
> Morning all,
> I just wanted to weigh in on the ETD conversation, as it is one I am deeply involved in here at Florida State. First, I'd like to point out a recent study http://works.bepress.com/nancy_seamans/7/  that found that "96% of university presses and journals indicated that ETD based works would be eligible for consideration in their publication." The paper is available here<http://dl.cs.uct.ac.za/conferences/etd2011/papers/etd2011_mcmillan.pdf>. Also, early this year, even the American Historical Association released a statement<http://blog.historians.org/publications/1605/publishing-your-dissertation-onlineunderstanding-policies> saying "there is no conclusive evidence that electronic publication can make it more difficult to publish a revised version of a dissertation…" and that "some editors reported that they would be more likely to publish a dissertation that had attracted attention online."
> I'd also like to point out that if ever the humanities are going to move to embrace a more open model of scholarship, it should begin and be encouraged from the first scholarly work produced, the dissertation. I think a lot of the resistance to digital dissemination is simply a misunderstanding of the practicality and potential benefits of it. As the repository manager at Florida State, I get multiple requests for access to our theses and dissertations, so that that research can be consulted, built upon and revived. Regardless of the scholars like or dislike for their dissertation, that can only mean more citations and greater visibility of their work, broadly. Currently we allow students, with stated valid reason, to embargo up to 48 months from the time of graduation.
> Micah Vandegrift
> --
> Micah Vandegrift
> Scholarly Communication Librarian
> Florida State University
> 850-645-9756

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