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What We're Reading

NB: This post has been edited to include additional material.

The American Historical Association recently announced a “Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations.” The policy “strongly encourages [but does not require] graduate programs and university libraries to adopt a policy that allows the embargoing of completed history PhD dissertations in digital form for as many as six years.” In a follow-up post, the AHA clarified that embargoes “primarily benefit junior scholars” by affording them the “opportunity to revise their work before it is published.”

The AHA’s statement quickly generated a robust discussion, with Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education offering detailed accounts of reactions as well as analysis of the statement itself. A number of individuals offered their own take, refuting the claim that openly accessible dissertations don’t lead to contracts with a university press, discussing publishers’ reactions and behavior when it comes to openly accessible dissertations, proposing alternatives to the AHA statement, decrying the tone of much of the discussion as unnecessarily polarizingquestioning the AHA’s assertion that publishers are wholly uninterested in manuscripts derived from openly accessible dissertations, and challenging assumptions about why the book remains important for particular disciplines. Though not written in response to the AHA’s statement, this recent Scholarly Kitchen post on dissertations and publishing also makes for an interesting read in light of the current kerfuffle. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter, using the somewhat tongue-in-cheek #AHAgate.

Are you a graduate student who wants to hear about reasons and options for either sharing or placing an embargo on your work? Adeline Koh at ProfHacker provides an excellent overview of why and how she chose to make her own dissertation available.

Here at the University of Michigan, students already have the option to embargo their dissertation for up to three years. According to Jim Ottaviani–the librarian for Deep Blue, our institutional repository–only a very small percentage of students have requested such embargoes. We also teach an open workshop every year on copyright and dissertations, in which UM graduate students can learn more about issues of intellectual property and sharing as they pertain to a dissertation. You can find and register for the workshop (and many others) via the Teaching and Technology Collaborative.

Read anything particularly thought provoking, compelling, or downright interesting on the AHA statement? Let us know in the comments.

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