Open Access Dissertations

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In the late 1980s and early 1990s, while working in NYC academic libraries, Polly also worked with the Lesbian Herstory Archives and the AIDS activist group ACT UP.

She became a conduit for non-academics seeking access to medical and scholarly work sequestered behind library doors and paywalls.

Some universities require dissertations to be posted publicly.

Peter Berkery, executive director of the university press association, said the historical association's concerns “came at us out of left field.” Berkery said he called the directors at 15 university presses after AHA’s statement became widely publicized.

But, like many librarians advocating openness, we have also met resistance—disinclination to make time to upload works to repositories, confusion about variations among publishers’ policies regarding authors’ rights, certainty that niche work has no broader audience, concern about the viability of scholarly societies in an open-access world, etc.

Most of all, we have heard apprehensions about open access dissertations.The more comprehensive our database is, the more useful it is to everyone!Theses and dissertations are an excellent source of in-depth technical information often not published in detail elsewhere.Specifically, we have heard students and advisors express fear that making a dissertation open access would sink the author’s chances of publishing a book based on the dissertation.We could have responded to these worries with our usual refrains about the many benefits and moral necessity of open scholarship, but we felt the weight of our responsibility to our students.To review theses and dissertations by subject area, try these links, chosen for their wide appeal and timeliness.Of course, you can find documents on any topic using our keyword search.Even though the American Historical Association is warning that young scholars could be denied book deals and therefore tenure-track jobs if they do not keep their dissertations off the Internet, the actual danger of such career hampering remains hard to quantify.One recently published study suggests some publishers reject material that is already available online.“My perspective is that if we’re intending to advance knowledge, that requires open communication and it seems to me that the policy may be more effective at protecting a business model than at promoting the building of knowledge,” she said.The AHA has tried to make clear that while it suggests embargoes of up to six years, its formal statement is aimed only at ensuring that universities give young scholars the option to embargo their research.


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