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Should You Make Your Thesis More Widely Available Online? Part 1

A brief note from Anna: Being Managing Editor of PhD2Published has been a fantastic opportunity for me so far. It has introduced me to lots of interesting people and has helped me to think about key issues I am facing post-PhD. My current thinking is about whether or not to make my PhD thesis more readily available online. This post, which is the first in a series, explores this idea in more detail.

Impact has increasingly become an academic buzzword and requirement, which has led me to think much more about my PhD thesis, its accessibility and the impact it could (and should) have on a variety of audiences, both academic and public. I have heard from several colleagues that the only people who are ever likely to read the actual thesis are yourself and your supervisor (my family and friends certainly haven’t read it!). Frankly this seems wasteful and a bit sad (just look at the picture!), especially considering all of the hard work that went into it, including by myself, my participants and my supervisors. Even with the potential of developing publications and monographs from it in different formats, later on, in its unpublished form, my thesis is meaningful to me and took time and effort to construct.

This thinking prompted me to consider how I could make my thesis more accessible and more widely read, particularly in an age of social media and open access. Before launching into making it available online however, I wanted to do some research into the potential barriers to publishing online and the current debates that will inform this decision.

Following these musings, I posted this question on Twitter: “What are people’s opinions on making theses available online?” Several interesting and important issues and questions were raised. While limited,  there is already an emerging debate about the digital dissertation, which you can read about in this interesting and informative post by Alex Galarza for @GradHacker. There are several positives for doing this, and indeed many universities are now making it a requirement, if it isn’t already. @Gradhacker outlines that online material such as the unpublished thesis for example is still protected by copyright, useful to know if there is concern about the acknowledgement of your work. At the same time, in being overly cautious about protecting your thesis/dissertation you may risk restricting the development of your academic identity, online and otherwise. Furthermore (and some publishers may vary on this) putting your thesis/dissertation online may actually aid in the communication and appeal of your research to a variety of audiences and may even encourage sales of subsequent published work should you wish to publish it elsewhere in a different form. Twitter follower Christina Haralanova (@ludost11) has also received positive replies from people who have read hers.

Despite the many positives, I still think it is important to consider the range of different issues relating to putting a PhD thesis out there; issues that I will explore in a short series of blogs that will be posted here on PhD2Published in the coming weeks. These include posts I have constructed myself, and also opinion posts, and feedback from academic publishers. If any of this resonates and you have anything to add that has occurred to you, please do get in touch, either by Email or Twitter (@PhD2Published). Should you wish to join an online discussion on Twitter about the debate please use hashtag thesisonline (#thesisonline).

Weekly Wisdom #60 by Paul Gray and David E. Drew

DOWNLOAD COUNTS. Tenure and review committees like candidates who develop a personal reputation and hence reflect glory on the institution. Impact factors are one crude measure.  Another is the Download Count.  That is, if you have an academic publication that is accessible on the Internet, is anybody reading it or, better, downloading it?  Some publishers maintain download counts and send them to authors.  If you are fortunate to receive download counts, keep them.  They are handy at tenure and performance review time.

Graham Steel – Publish or Parish

This post is by  Graham Steel who has been been actively involved in Patient Advocacy work for over 10 years. Graham acted as Vice-Chairman for a UK Charity, the Human BSE Foundation 2001 – 2005 and then as Information Resource Manager for the CJD International Support Alliance (CJDISA) 2005 – 2007.

More recently, his activities have been focused more on Patient Advocacy generally, but mainly upon Neurodegenerative conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease. He also is involved in and advocating for Open Access/Science/Data and now acts in un-renumerated advisory capacities to the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and most recently, Digital Science

–So pretty much completely out of the blue, I received this tweet from Charlotte to which I tweeted back with “sure”. Read more

Martin Paul Eve on Open Access Week

This post is by Martin Paul Eve,  a researcher at the University of Sussex working on the novels of Thomas Pynchon. Until recently he was chief editor of the postgraduate journal Excursions and he has just launched a gold-standard, libre OA journal, Orbit: Writing Around Pynchon. He is speaking as the opening plenary at the UK Scholarly Group next year on auto-subversive practices in academic publishing and has a forthcoming book chapter on Open Access in the edited collection, Zombies in the Academy.

For several years now, academic libraries worldwide have played host to Open Access week, an international celebration of the revolution in academic publishing. For the same number of years, a question has circulated among participants at these events: “is 20XX the year of the tipping point?” It is that question, after a brief excursion into the history of Open Access, that I wish to address. Read more

Journal of Peace Conflict and Development: Making Our Own Mark

In today’s post the Editorial Board behind the Journal of Peace and Conflict Development talk about how their journal is marking its mark in the changing world of academic publishing. This post was written by Benita Sumita and Roberta Hollanda Maschietto, doctoral researchers in Peace Studies, University of Bradford with input from the editorial board members of the Peace Conflict and Development journal.

“Can we improve our credibility without being ranked?” This potent question raised by one of the editorial board members defines the struggles that lie ahead for the Journal of Peace Conflict and Development (PC&D) nearly a decade since its founding. Apart from the continuing – now ever-more severe – funding constraints, the Journal is faced with having to prove its credibility through more mainstream avenues. It seems the PC&D is not visible within the UK’s mainstream cottage-industry of academic publishing and assessments, which has presumably led to a loss of the meagre financial backing the Journal received the last nine years. All these concerns need to be viewed within the contexts of the current climate of financial pressure in UK’s Higher Education and the increasing tendency to measure the quality, impact and ranking of journals by the number of times their articles are cited. It is perhaps time to question and rethink the systemically flawed nature of academic impact assessment rather than the credibility of a Journal such as PC&D that has made its own mark by reaching a wide and diverse national and international readership and attracting submissions from established scholars and practitioners. Read more

We Ask Ken Wissoker: Do We Need to Rethink Academic Publishing?
Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pumpkincat210/with/3416918382/

Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pumpkincat210/with/3416918382/

Continuing to gather responses to the Guardian article by George Monbiot on the broken model of academic publishing, we asked Ken Wissoker, Editorial Director at Duke University Press, to wade into the debate. Here’s what he had to say:

I thought Monbiot’s article was very valuable for getting the word out about how the big publishers – especially Elsevier – but also Taylor and Francis and Wiley-Blackwell have extracted as much money as possible from university libraries. Elsevier pioneered this, coming up with big packages of journals that universities needed and pricing them as high as possible.  Universities with researchers in those areas (mostly science and medicine) had to pay or they weren’t supporting their professors. Since every journal was unique intellectual property, there was no competition and no market. If a library wanted to cancel a journal, Elsevier didn’t lower the price of the collection. This really was wealth extraction in a frightening and damaging form. So the article’s account of all that was a good wake-up call for those, including many academics, who were not aware of these changes over the last ten or fifteen years.  He is totally right about the infuriating way these arrangements cut out anyone without access to a university library. Read more

We Ask Martin Paul Eve: Do We Need to Rethink Academic Publishing?

In his Guardian article, George Monbiot makes an excellent case against the existing academic publishing industry. Knowing that Martin Paul Eve would have much to say, we asked if he’d like to address Monbiot’s points in advance of his talk at the UKSG next year.

George Monbiot builds a good case against the corporate publishing machine that dominates the academic world and his article has had portions of the Twittersphere buzzing. I am due to speak in the opening plenary of the UK Scholarly Group conference next year – the biggest gathering of librarians and academic publishers – to make a similar argument: we don’t need academic publishers. While I won’t reiterate every aspect of Monbiot’s piece, there are several aspects, here, that are worth unpicking, especially where I diverge from Monbiot’s stance.

Firstly, Monbiot approaches, but never directly engages with, the driver of prestige in academia. He mentions the necessity of publishing with high impact factor journals and states that we can “start reading” new OA journals, but can’t “stop reading the closed ones”. Actually, we can, but only if people stop publishing therein. This will not happen in the UK because of the Research Excellence Framework and its insistence that the higher “impact” band a journal, the more weight a piece will have. This is a delegation of the critical task of the researcher into the arms of a commercial entity. While peer review serves as a useful filter, merely trusting this, based on journals which achieve their prestige based on rejection rates, is a foolish move, driven by the equally foolish baseline of a research assessment dependent on corporations. The REF, alongside competition for academic jobs, drives this system.

Secondly, publishers are able to use institutional libraries as a shield to hide a researcher’s autosubversive behaviour. Consider that, by publishing in a closed, proprietary journal, a researcher actually limits his or her own access to material by constricting his or her own institution’s library budget. This is not how it appears to the researcher, though, because the spend is at one remove. Researchers publish for prestige and it is the library’s fault if material is not forthcoming. Open Access supported by commercial entities does make a researcher aware of the problems, because in this case they will be asked to pay up front. However, most reactions from researchers to this tend to be: “I don’t want to pay, let us revert to the model where I didn’t pay”. In this way, publishers have built a “command and control” system for an entity that functions, in its obfuscation, distribution and resilience, in a mode most akin to a piece of computer malware. Libraries must educate researchers of their own complicity in this web. Read more

Getting from PhD to Published at InterFace 2011
I was really excited to speak at the amazing InterFace 2011 humanities and technology conference on the 29th July at UCL. It was organised by a really diverse and highly-skilled group of PhD students and it was such a pleasure to be involved with.
I spoke on ‘Getting from PhD2Published’ as part of a session on publishing. My Prezi is below and for the rest of the contributors head over to the publishing page on the InterFace website.

The Road from Dissertation to Book Has a New Pothole: the Internet

An article on The Chronicle of Higher Education called: The Road From Dissertation to Book Has a New Pothole: the Internet raises some important points about whether a thesis that exists online can still be published.

The important thing to consider is  that most publishing has to function as a viable business model. If a thesis has been freely available online, why would anyone buy it? And you need to bear in mind that when your book is sold, it’s likely to be funding not it’s own production, but that of the next book in line, so you’ve got more weight on your shoulders than just your career.

That said, as Gary Hall elegantly argues in Digitize This Book, these business models are being rapidly redeveloped by forms of online content sharing. So for example, your work might reach a bigger audience by being freely available online and this might become a surer route to career success.

Also, remember that presses seldom publish a thesis as is. We have a series coming up by Sarah Caro, author of How to Publish Your PhD, that explains how much redrafting must go on before your average thesis is even remotely book-shaped.

Or you can take my route and work on a book that expands one element of your thesis and maybe come back to tackling the whole thing later (losing that element if need be). Or just have done with your thesis altogether, see it as a ladder you climbed to get this far and then kick it away and start on the next one…

PhD2Published will be at ReSkIN Spring 2011

On Saturday 12th March I’ll be representing PhD2Publsihed and Arts Future Book at UCL’s Spring ReSkIN event. ReSkIN is a compulstory  seminar and support scheme for PhD students working in the field of Art History and Visual Culture. This means it unites students from  six different colleges within the university who all work across the same discipline so that they can meet each other and find out more about the issues they face going forwards. The spring event looks closely at writing and publishing in the arts and I’m delighted to be on a panel with a diverse range of expertise.

I’m going to do two things in my talk that reflect aspects of my  projects. One is that I’ll look at how you can use the web and social media in particular to build your platform as a researcher and author. The other is that I’ll provide a quick tour though some inovative uses of technology in academic publishing. Anything from Open Humanities Press to Gamer Theory. I’m really looking forward to this event and hope to see you there!

It’s Official: PhD2Published Works!

ell, it’s official: the PhD2Published method works!

We’ve had our first success story: me (Charlotte Frost PhD2Published’s founder)!

Yes, that’s right, I’m writing this blog post as someone who has signed a contract to get their first academic book published! You may have already seen me get excited about this!

Around the time I set up this resource, I wrote my first book proposal and had an instant rejection. I licked my wounds and set about learning how to make a successful pitch (which led me to establish this site – why not pass on my research?!). I then wrote draft two, which did get sent out to another publisher, but before they had the chance to reply I made a third even sharper draft (after receiving some excellent advice from Gary Smailes of BubbleCow). It was this third version that received the following response from Gylphi editor Anthony Levings: Read more