Unlocking the knowledge contained in doctoral theses

In most cases, it takes anywhere between three and five years to write a doctoral thesis and a lot of the content is original research. But until recently, once finished, bound, and the degree has been awarded, the doctoral theses would end up inaccessible to most potential readers.

Theses4

So where are all the theses?

At City, the theses would be catalogued and then taken to the library store. The theses would be locked away in this store, which is in the university’s basement, and it would be necessary for them to be requested in advance and brought up to the library by  library staff in order for them to be read. Obviously, the potential readers would have to make a trip to the library.

But then, in 2011, with the launch of City Research Online, our institutional repository, things changed. The bound theses are still stored in the basement, but electronic copies of the theses are made available through City Research Online.

Has it made any difference?

A quick scan of the available data shows that in the past 10 years, the most popular print thesis was requested 37 times. This is in stark contrast to the most popular electronic thesis, which was downloaded over 7000 times in just over 5 year period. Our theses have been downloaded by readers across the globe, and I am doubtful that a reader from Estonia or Zimbabwe would take a trip to City to access the print copy.

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ethesesgraph

The figures also show that only 48% of our print theses have been requested to be read, whereas all our electronic theses have been downloaded at least once. Even if we assume that those downloaded once only were viewed by a librarian, this figure is still below 2% of all City theses available online.

To browse theses in City Research Online, by school or by year, click on the theses icon and discover the amazing knowledge they contain.

Theses button in CRO

 

Lenka Shipton

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The benefits of open access

The principle benefits of open access were first enshrined within the visionary Budapest Open Access Initiative statement released on 14 February 2002 and are still very much alive 16 years later.

The convergence of research sharing with technological distribution via the internet, it declared, would create an “unprecedented public good” by facilitating free, unrestricted access to information for academics, scientists, students and the general public.

“Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge” (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002).*

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In addition to providing an invaluable asset to society, open access publishing has specific merits for you as an academic researcher.

  • You gain more exposure for your work

The traditional publishing route often means work is locked behind a paywall resulting in knowledge for those who can afford it. When publishing open access, your work will be widely discoverable and freely available for anyone regardless of ability to pay.

  • Professionals can apply your findings in their services

Free and unrestricted content enables professionals outside of academia, such as medical practitioners, to obtain access to up-to-date research and information they can use for vital decision-making processes and influencing service development.

  • You can achieve higher citation rates

As open access scholarship increases the visibility of your work, studies have revealed that open articles can receive as much as 18% more citations in other academic papers. The more your work is cited, the more likely it is to be read.**

  • Your work can be accessed by the general public

Publishing research in openly available format will allow access for anyone with an interest in your subject. This provides the potential for your work to become the foundation for future innovative research that can yield greater societal benefit.

  • You can achieve compliance with funding rules

In light of funders increasingly mandating open publishing as a requirement for grant allocation, making your work free at the point of access is an easy way to ensure you are complying with rules associated with your financial support.

  • You can give taxpayers value for their money

With the majority of research being supported by publicly funded research councils, choosing open access publishing routes ensures you are giving back to the taxpayers who made your research possible in the first place, and who have a vested interest in the results.

  • Your work can reach researchers in developing countries

Escalating journal costs underpin a glaring inequality in access to vital information for developing countries which might have difficulty in affording the subscriptions. Making your work open access is crucial for allowing researchers in developing countries to access up-to-date knowledge for research development whilst, at the same time, increasing global visibility of your research.

* Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002) Available at: https://www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org/ (Accessed: 16 October 2018).

** Piwowar H. et al. (2018The state of OA: a large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles. PeerJ 6:e4375. Available at: https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4375 (Accessed: 16 October 2018).

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