Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

University of Chicago requires electronic submission of theses and dissertations

The University of Chicago has stopped accepting paper copies of theses and dissertations and now requires electronic submission.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

Comment.  But does Chicago require or even provide OA for these electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs)?  After studying many university ETD policies in 2006, I concluded:

In principle, universities could require electronic submission of the dissertation without requiring deposit in the institutional repository.  They could also require deposit in the repository without requiring OA.  But in practice, most universities don't draw these distinctions.  Most universities that encourage or require electronic submission also encourage or require OA.  What's remarkable is that for theses and dissertations, OA is not the hard step.  The hard step is encouraging or requiring electronic submission.  For dissertations that are born digital and submitted in digital form, OA is pretty much the default.  I needn't tell you that this is not at all the case with journal literature....

I believe that's still true.  However, Chicago appears to be one of the exceptions.  As far as I can tell (from ROAR and OpenDOAR) Chicago doesn't have an institutional repository, either for faculty research or for student ETDs.  The new page on ETDs says nothing about deposit in any other OA repository (such as the NDLTD, which functions as a universal or fall-back OA repository for ETDs).  The same page seems to limit ETD access to ProQuest UMI.  That's not necessarily a bar to OA.  ProQuest will provide OA, but it charges an author-side fee to do so and requires an affirmative request.  Chicago students would be much better off if the university launched a repository and deposited all new ETDs there, with reasonable exceptions and permissible embargoes, but without charge.  This is entirely compatible with maintaining a relationship with ProQuest.