Open access to electronic theses soon to be commonplace

Doctoral theses can attract significant attention when made openly accessible in electronic form according to the respondents of a sector-wide survey of information professionals.

The JISC-funded survey gives a clearer picture of progress toward electronic thesis deposit in the UK, and how universities are achieving it.

The respondents to the survey were library and repository staff from 144 higher education institutions – and their responses suggested that 81% of their organisations will be providing open access to doctoral theses in five years time.

Neil Jacobs, programme director at JISC, said: “Doctoral theses are important records of research.  Many of them are already openly accessible via repositories and the UK EThOS Service, which most UK universities have joined.  The resulting high visibility benefits both researchers and universities, and suggests that electronic theses will have a significant role to play in accelerating sharing our knowledge in the future.”

This publication was a joint venture between UKCGE, and UCL Library Services, based on a JISC project by UCL Library Services

Tina Barnes, senior research fellow at the University of Warwick, is one of the authors of the report.  She said: “The move to electronic theses is a very positive development that wholly supports the academic principle of sharing knowledge for the common good and for the advancement of science and human development.”

Paul Ayris, director of UCL library services and co-chair of the DART-Europe partnership, said: “DART-Europe provides access to the full-text of over 280,000 Open Access research theses from 403 European universities in 20 countries. Open Access to such a critical mass of blue skies research is good for research and good for the researcher .”

The report shows there are a number of reasons why researchers may not make their theses available electronically, but the principal reason may be the inclusion of sensitive material.

Concerns regarding third-party copyright, plagiarism and restrictions on future publications are having little impact on access so far.

The report also suggests that theses need to be preserved over the long term – something that the British Library service, EThOS, originally a JISC project, aims to do.

Watch the presentation for more on the key findings of the report