Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, June 06, 2008

OA theses and dissertations at U of British Columbia

Meg Walker, Bringing Theses to the Web, University of British Columbia Public Affairs, June 5, 2008.  Excerpt:

...In early summer the 500th title will be added to the UBC Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) initiative, a program co-created by the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FoGS) and the Library.

University Archivist Chris Hives is excited about the dramatic increase in audience that the ETDs will allow. The [OA] electronic theses are fully text-searchable and will show up on internet engine searches for anyone to stumble across.

Hives expects digitization will promote interdisciplinarity. Researchers are well aware of what is happening in their particular field. Putting theses on the Internet and making them searchable “will allow researchers to access material easily in allied fields,” Hives says.

UBC theses typically were submitted in paper form and then sent periodically for microfilming and, more recently, digitization. It could easily take up to a year before a graduate student’s work would be accessible....

John Willinsky, a leading advocate for open access dissemination of publicly funded research, agrees that it is time for theses to be circulated as widely as possible....

Work by Master’s students will undergo the largest change. Until now, their theses have simply been microfiched and archived. PhD theses, on the other hand, have been both microfilmed and digitized -- and users have generally had to pay to access the information.

Read points to studies that show how scholarly articles and theses distributed online are cited much more frequently than those that aren’t. If the thesis is a graduate student’s calling card, online dissemination will make a positive difference.

But for some disciplines, such as the creative arts of film, creative writing and music, there are concerns that dissemination will have a negative effect. If a student’s thesis is a novel, for example, what rights can a publisher buy if it can already be read online? ...Through discussions with FoGS, a solution has been found for now. The title and abstract of creative writing theses will be cited online, but the work itself will remain exclusively available on microfiche at the Library....

To provide access to research in older UBC theses created prior to the ETD project, the Library is currently undertaking a pilot project to assess the feasibility of digitizing more than 33,000 theses submitted between 1919 and 2007.