Thing 19: Open Access and Your Thesis
making my PhD thesis Open Access, I hope to inspire people around the
world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet; to wonder
about our place in the universe and to try and make sense of the
cosmos.” (Stephen Hawking on the release of his 1966 PhD thesis)
requires consideration of a number of concepts: institutional policy;
attitudes of prospective publishers; 3rd-party copyright; and indexing
in search engines, including the effect on citation and impact of your
work. This installment of 23 Research Things aims to shed some light on
Institutional PoliciesAll universities have policies and procedures for enabling public
access to higher degree theses. The specifics of the University of
Melbourne policy are laid out at My Thesis in the Library and Preparation of Graduate Research Theses Rules. Advice elsewhere will reflect particular institutional requirements.
Over the last 20 years universities have supplemented public access
to print copies of theses on library shelves with online access via
institutional repositories, such as Minerva Access.
How Are Theses Discovered?Theses are a link in the scholarly communications chain and the
provision of public access to them is long-standing university practice.
Discovery of print theses in university libraries has been facilitated
by discovery services like Google Books, Google Scholar and Trove. Online open access extends this discovery and access, but comes with particular challenges and opportunities.
Why Make Your Thesis OA – Impact, Engagement and ProfileWhy is OA important? An online thesis is one way you can establish your profile in a subject area, bringing you to the attention of potential collaborators, colleagues and employers. Theses indexed in Google Scholar will include citation data if referred to in other publications. Repositories provide counts for downloads and views, indicating both volume and location of your readership. Some institutions
have begun to track “alt-metric” counts for theses, providing further
indications of impact and engagement. You may never reach the dizzying
heights of Stephen Hawking’s thesis download or altmetric count but you can always dream!
Should You Embargo Your Thesis?So, if OA theses are both personally rewarding and a social good, why
would you choose an embargo? In fact, embargoes are a legitimate
response to institutional and individual concerns around immediate OA.
While there can be commercial and legal issues, or issues of cultural
sensitivity which demand embargo, most often the concern is around the
perceived threat to subsequent publication from the thesis. Is such
concern warranted? A 2014 survey of science publishers
found that over 80% would, with some qualification, accept article
submissions from work based on OA theses. A 2017 in-house survey of 50 key business and economics journals
found none would outright exclude a publication stemming from an OA
thesis. Two of the 50 commented they would reserve the right to refuse
if there was considerable duplication between the thesis and the
submitted journal article, however it was also noted that it would be
rare for a thesis to simply be repurposed as an article without
What about books? Some publishers, based on their public statements,
see OA theses as advantageous, allowing for the early identification of
viable new publications. Another large-scale publisher survey
found that 50% of university presses in social sciences and humanities
would accept submissions based on OA theses. However, a substantial
minority would not or would do so on a case-by-case basis.
Copyright and Your ThesisIn most parts of the world, including Australia, an OA thesis is
considered to be “published” which means that using copyright material
created by other people – “third party copyright” such as text, images
and graphs etc – requires not only explicit acknowledgment but may also
require permission from the copyright owner. However, there are some
circumstances where permission may not be required, for example for
purposes of criticism or review [or for satire or parody]. For more
information about these circumstances, see here.
Reusing your own, already-published work in your online
“thesis-by/with-publication” may also require permission from other
copyright owners. Publisher author rights policies generally support the
use of the author-accepted-manuscript (see Sherpa/Romeo). However, for OA papers published with a Creative Commons Licence, and subscription papers from some publishers like Elsevier, there is no problem using the final published version.
- The MIT Library page on theses and article publishing provides a selective guide to publisher policy covering using published versions of your own papers in OA theses, as well as publisher policy on publishing from your OA thesis.
- Look at Cambridge University’s advice on publishing a book from your thesis (some prominent publishers have no problem with it).
- COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) recently suggested to its 11,000 journal-editor members that OA theses should not be considered as prior publication.
Thing 19: Open Access and Your Thesis – 23 Research Things (2017)