Workshop recap: Should I embargo my dissertation?

Last week, The IU Scholars’ Commons sponsored a workshop on the hotly contested topic of whether or not soon-to-be PhD’s should embargo their dissertations. Attendees learned the many ways that this seemingly minor decision may have significant implications for their academic careers. The workshop brought together panelists representing a variety of stakeholder groups to share their viewpoints, which are summarized below.

Image 1: Photo of panelists for “Should I Embargo My Dissertation?”
Celestina introduces the panelists for the workshop, “Should I embargo my dissertation?”

Introduction

At Indiana University, graduate students are required to submit their dissertations to ProQuest, a commercial database provider, where they have a choice of two publishing options: Traditional or Open Access. With the Traditional Publishing option, only those with access to ProQuest through a library subscription or who purchase an individual copy of the dissertation will be able to view the full text. With the Open Access Publishing option, anyone with an internet connection will be able to read the entire dissertation. To avoid the $95 fee for Open Access Publishing in ProQuest, students can submit their dissertations to IUScholarWorks, a free service provided by the IU Libraries.* In addition to choosing between Traditional and Open Access Publishing, students may also select an embargo length of up to two years (or more, with special permission from the Graduate School). Placing an embargo on a dissertation means that no one in the world will be able to able to view its contents for the specified length of time. So, to embargo or not to embargo?

*Submitting to IUScholarWorks alone does not fulfill the requirements for graduation; the dissertation must also be submitted to ProQuest. Students who wish to make their dissertation Open Access are advised to select the Traditional Publishing option in ProQuest and then submit to IUScholarWorks. Learn how at https://scholarworks.iu.edu/deposit.

Reasons to embargo

  • Your dissertation contains patentable intellectual property for which you have not yet received a certificate.
    • While you automatically own the copyright to your dissertation upon its creation, copyright only protects the fixed expression of your work as a whole, NOT any of the ideas or facts presented within it.
  • You want to avoid getting “scooped.”
  • Your dissertation contains sensitive data.
  • Your dissertation contains work that is still in copyright that belongs to a third-party who has not given permission to redistribute it and your use in the dissertation is not a fair use.
  • A publisher is interested in turning your dissertation into a book and has expressly told you they will not do so if the dissertation is available online. Read more about future publication concerns.

Reasons not to embargo

  • The more accessible your dissertation is, the more likely it is to be cited.
  • Making your dissertation accessible allows it to be scrutinized by others in the field, promoting collegiality.
  • You don’t want to be plagiarized.
    • If you’re worried about copyright infringement and/or plagiarism, then you should get your idea out there as soon as possible so that it’s publicly documented and accessible. That way, you have proof that the idea originated from you and that the alleged infringer had access to your work. While copyright protection is automatic, people who are concerned about copyright infringement can also register a copyright in it with the U.S. Copyright Office. ProQuest will do this for you for an additional fee of $55, or you can do it yourself for $35 at http://copyright.gov/eco/. Registration provides statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in the event of infringement.
  • Having dissertations available helps teach future scholars about the process of scholarship.
  • You do not intend to pursue a tenure-track position.

A note about future publication

Many students and their advisors have unfounded fears that publishers will not publish a book that is based on a dissertation, yet there are no facts to support this. When a dissertation goes through the publication process, at least 50% of the information changes in some shape or form. Dee Mortensen, Senior Sponsoring Editor at the IU Press, compares the relationship between a dissertation and a book to that of a chrysalis and a butterfly. Furthermore, Ellen McKay, Associate Professor of English, relates that faculty are now expected to be able to statistically describe the difference between their dissertation and book, and less than a 50% difference is considered an insufficiently edited work. Because of the substantial alteration involved in the transformation of book to dissertation, there is no commercial disadvantage in having the original dissertation available. The study “Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities?” supports this claim, finding that most publishers (93% of university presses) do not consider an ETD a prior publication that would completely disqualify the revised version from publication.

Final thoughts

Deciding whether or not to embargo your dissertation is an extremely personal decision that should not be taken lightly. In the end, the question really comes down to what you want to do with your dissertation. Many of the reasons to embargo assume that the author intends to turn it into a book to fulfill the requirements of tenure and promotion. If this is not your intention, then by all means free your dissertation and let it be unembargoed. The topic of dissertation embargoes also brings into question whether the current system of tenure and promotion should place so much value on the book, when new technologies afford alternative possibilities that permit broader and more efficient knowledge dissemination.

A big thank you to all of the panelists: Judith Allen (Professor, Department of History), Ellen McKay (Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of English), Dee Mortensen (Senior Sponsoring Editor, IU Press) Nazareth Pantaloni (Copyright Librarian, IU Libraries), and Shayna Pekala (Open Access Publishing Manager, IU Libraries). Thank you also to Shelly-Gerber Sparks and Celestina Savonius-Wroth for their contributions to the event.

IUScholarWorks Journals: More than Just a Hosting Service

The IUScholarWorks journal service helps you, the prospective journal editor, publish your journal in open access. While IUScholarWorks does not identify as the publisher of any of the journals we support, we do so much more than simply host your content. Here are some of the services we provide:

  • Indexing – We’ll make sure your journal articles show up in Google and Google Scholar.
  • ISSN registration – We’ll apply for an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) to uniquely identify your journal.
  • DOI registration – As a member of the DOI registration agency, CrossRef, we will help you assign and register Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to uniquely identify your articles.
  • Editorial workflow management – We’ll train you how to use Open Journal Systems (OJS) software to effectively manage your editorial workflows.
  • Cataloging – We’ll create a record for your journal in IUCAT and WorldCat.
  • Content preservation – We are committed to maintaining the content of your journal in perpetuity, even if ownership of the journal moves outside of IU. All of our journals are archived with CLOCKSS.
  • Copyright & Licensing – We will work with you to draft your journal’s copyright policy and can advise on how to license outside content for reuse in your journal.
  • Multimedia content support – Want to include audio or video content alongside your journal articles? We’ll help you use the Avalon Media System to make this possible.
  • Usage statistics –We’ll provide annual reports on article views for your journal.

As you can see, IUScholarWorks strives to go above and beyond simply providing a home for your journal on our server. If you are thinking about starting a new journal, or are interested in migrating your current journal to an open access publishing platform, please contact us at iusw@indiana.edu.

Predatory Publishers and IUScholarWorks

My name is Brianna Marshall and I am the Scientific Data Curation Assistant in the Scholarly Communication Department. While my responsibilities primarily pertain to helping researchers manage their data, I also work with IUScholarWorks (IUSW) quite frequently. Making your work available in IUSW ensures that it is preserved and made available to researchers around the world. Unfortunately, individuals submitting work to IUSW and other institutional repositories may find themselves targeted by predatory open access publishers.

What is a predatory publisher?

Often, predatory publishers do not offer traditional editorial services, such as peer review (although they may claim that they do). Many of these journals will accept an article then let the author know that they owe an exorbitant publication fee.

These predatory publishers can seem legitimate – they may have fully functional websites and authors rights statements that are similar to those of well-respected publishers, but this is no guarantee of their quality. The rise of online publishing has made it easier for these groups to masquerade as legitimate publishers.

How can I identify a predatory publisher?

Predatory publishers don’t serve any risk to researchers if you can identify and discount them as an option for disseminating your work.

Predatory publishers are seeking to make a large profit, so they are known to aggressively seek out new authors or editors. Receiving a form email that requests your submission to a particular publisher should be your first clue. Some publishers are bold enough to find authors who have submitted to institutional repositories: a librarian within our department experienced this firsthand after submitting her work into IUSW.

Don’t be fooled by these publishers. If you have any suspicions about the publisher, we recommend that you consult Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers. Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado-Denver, publishes a list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers” on his website. If after consulting his list you still have questions or concerns, consult your local librarian.

How can I avoid unwanted reuse of my work?

Clearly licensing your work with a non-commercial Creative Commons license is a possible way to thwart unwanted reuse of your work, but it’s not fool-proof. The rise of predatory publishers means that scholars need to be more vigilant than ever about researching where they choose to publish and what rights they have over that work.

Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations at IU

My name is Shayna Pekala and I am thrilled to have joined the Scholarly Communication Department this fall as the IUScholarWorks Assistant. I would like to use this post to highlight one of the IUScholarWorks services I have worked with extensively over the last month: open access publishing of electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs).

What is this service and why is it important?

The IUScholarWorks ETD service allows you to make the full text of your ETD available online for free. The main benefits of using this service can be summed up in two words: preservation and accessibility. If you publish your ETD with IUScholarWorks, we will preserve your work in perpetuity, even as technology changes. In addition, by making your ETD open access in our repository, your work will be exposed to major search engines, rendering it more discoverable. (Fun fact: there have been several studies conducted like this one that show open access articles are cited more frequently than non-open access articles.)

How does the service work?

All graduate students must submit their ETDs through ProQuest via the Graduate School website. These submissions are automatically ingested into a dark archive (one that can’t be accessed by any users) within the IUScholarWorks repository. IU requires that permission from the copyright holder be obtained before these ETDs can be made openly accessible. So, graduate students must give us permission to release their ETD by filling out this form. Once permission has been received, an IUScholarWorks staff member goes into the system, releases the ETD, and poof! the ETD becomes open access.

If I make my ETD open access, will I still be able to publish it later on as a monograph or in a journal?

There is a widely held assumption that the majority of publishers consider openly accessible ETDs to be prior publications, thus precluding them from future publication. However, a study published in July 2013, “Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities?”, found evidence to challenge this belief. The study reports that only 2.9% of journal publishers and 7.3% of university presses will not consider manuscripts derived from openly accessible ETDs under any circumstances. While the study concludes that submissions derived from ETDs are not considered prior publications by publishers, it is still advisable to check specific publisher policies if this is something you are considering.

What if I have more questions?

To learn more about open access publishing of ETDs at IU, check out our ETD webpage or email us at iuswetd@indiana.edu. You might also consult some of these resources: