Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, June 08, 2007

More on OA for ETDs

Peter Murray-Rust, Electronic Theses (ETD2007), A Scientist and the Web, June 8, 2007.  Excerpt:

I am honoured to be asked to speak at the meeting next week in Uppsala on electronic theses (The Power of the Electronic Scientific Thesis)....Some snippets:

Yet our own work in the SPECTRa project has shown that 80% (or more) of scientific data is never published….Electronic theses have the power to change all this. The thesis has several major advantages over current methods of publication

  • the author and/or its institution retain complete control over the copyright of the work and are not forced to hand it over to the publisher
  • there is a strict quality control system of internal and external examiners. The candidate has to convince them that the data are fit for purpose.
  • the student cannot be “lazy” about the means of authoring. If a university insists on XML then the student will have to do it.
  • an electronic thesis can (and I argue must) be openly available in an institutional repository.
  • an unlimited amount of supporting data can be copublished.

There are technical and socio-political barriers....

My utopian vision is that students prepare their thesis in XML....

I also prepared a “manifesto” for the JISC meeting - it overlaps with the rules but adds

  • Theses must be born-digital (i.e. NOT PDF)
  • Domain ontologies must be used
  • All data must be included in theses
  • Data must be validated before submission
  • Theses must be openly exposed to data and metadata crawlers...

My interpretation of Open Access is strict BOAI (Budapest Open Access Initiative):

By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.

Unfortunately it is common practice for many at the JISC meeting to talk of “Open Access” when they mean “Toll Free”. I asked several organizers of thesis repositories specifically whether my robots could download these “Open Access” theses, text-mine them, and publish the results. In all cases I was told that for existing theses this was not allowed. However most agreed that born-digital theses had the opportunity for authors to make their theses fully Open.
The single most important rule, therefore, is that authors should be very strongly encouraged to make their theses fully Open under the BOAI and given the technical and legal tools to do so....

PS:  Hear, hear.  For a supporting argument, see my article from last July, Open access to electronic theses and dissertations.