Recently the AHA (American Historical Association) released a Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations. This position sparked quite a bit of discussion, on ETDs and embargoes as well as on larger issue around Open Access, Scholarly Communication, and tenure.
Below we have gathered selected quotes from a variety of responses, with the intention of giving an introduction to this conversation before the Department of History Brownbag Series talk on 9/25/13 .
In addition to this blog entry, we also request that you please take a moment to read this overview on Open Access and the Historical Profession
- Scholarly Communication
- Open access
- ETDs & Embargoes
“The problem is that the apparent economic imperatives of the academic publishing industry run directly counter to a central value of our profession: the open dissemination of historical knowledge.”
“The percentage of university funds allocated to academic libraries shrank for the 14th straight year in 2009, dipping below 2 percent for the first time, according to updated figures from the Association of Research Libraries.”
“Just because the existing scholarly publishing system has served the academy fairly well in the past does not mean that it has an intrinsic right to continue to exist in perpetuity. It should not, and must not, become a barrier to our aspirations and our innovations. If the day has come when the scholarly publishing system impedes scholarship, teaching, and learning it should—indeed must—be replaced by a new and more responsive system. As Don Waters of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation famously reminded us, “It’s the scholarship stupid.”We need to remember what’s really important here, and what our ultimate goals are.”
Cliff Lynch as cited in Scholarly Monograph Publishing in the 21st Century: The Future More Than Ever Should Be an Open Book
Prioritizing the print book in the Historical Profession
Library budgets are decreasing, as serial publication costs are increasing exponentially. In order to cover their expenditures on serials, many libraries are cutting their book budgets, which in turn causes University Presses to cut their acquisition budgets or to look for texts that will have crossover appeal.
“One university press director commented, “Some manuscripts, even if published electronically as dissertations, are appealing regardless of their electronic availability because the audience for them in print form is substantial enough that it does not matter. There is a substantial market for certain works of Civil War history, for instance, that is quite broad. The lay readership for Civil War history, for instance, wants to have the book and would not likely know or have access to the text in dissertation (electronic) form. Even if they knew, they would likely still want the book.”
via Do Open Access Theses & Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences & Humanities? (College & Research Libraries, PDF, p.376)
“On the side of the library, Duke University’s Scholarly Communication Officer Kevin Smith twice addresses the misinformed claim that academic libraries, the primary market for academic monographs, are purchasing less books based on the open availability of dissertations. He points out the AHA’s lack of substantial evidence to support their claims, and argues that more likely, less books are being purchased due to shrinking budgets, and the need to support broad curricular resources not specific academic niches.”
“Since 1996, history was—by one measure—the only field where university presses produced more than 40 percent of all new titles.”
via History and the Future of Scholarly Publishing. This entry was written in 2003 about how the field’s reliance on academic presses “could become a critical problem in the coming years, if many junior faculty members can’t publish their first books.” The issues the author pointed out have only become more pressing in the intervening years, and this article makes no mention of ETD or Open Access.
via ARL Statistics 2010-11
"The Historical Profession, the Book, Embargoes, and Open Access"
“…the book has in many ways become an end to itself. Rather than creating research outputs that are best suited to content and audience, academic historians must produce a particular kind of object. The effects of this are not inconsequential. Promotion and tenure committees within academic institutions have little impetus to reconsider the markers and measures of academic quality. As such, non-traditional research outputs – including those produced in open access formats, such as blogs, data sets, and websites — are not only devalued, but most promotion and tenure committees have poor measures in place to assess them. It is this, rather than any threat to publishing prospects, that threatens the success of junior scholars who might be eager to produce scholarship in the open access environment. Likewise, the open access movement has much in common with the aims of Public History, a field in which openness and accessibility play a prominent role and in which research outputs diverge from traditional academia. Prioritizing the book over other forms of scholarship reinforces a division between those who produce work for other scholars and those who produce work for and with the public when, in fact, both academic historians and public historians should be producing work for and with other scholars and the public.”
What is Open Access?
“Open access is a broad term that describes the principles, practices, and movements associated with the attempt to make information, especially digital information, freely available. For many open access advocates, the desire to share knowledge is a socio-political project. At its core is the the principal of global social equality in which everybody, regardless of background, should have equal access to knowledge.”
“What open access isn’t, of course, is an attempt to seize the intellectual property of dissertators, nor is it a tool to facilitate plagiarism. Nor is open access an attempt to prevent new PhDs from pursuing a career in academia. As Kelly points out, the evidence that publishers choose not to work with scholars whose dissertations are available via open access is very weak indeed, perhaps even non-existent….In a cogent response to the AHA’s policy statement, editors at Harvard University Press pointed out the obvious: if you can’t find a dissertation, you can’t sign a dissertation.”
Past examples of technology, the Historical Profession & anecdotal evidence
“The historian in me, of course, looks for past examples of how technology has changed the way we work—often for the better. And in the controversy over open access, I remembered the blog hysteria of 2005…. That summer, an academic going by the pseudonym ‘Ivan Tribble’ wrote a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education warning of doom to all job seekers who chose to also blog. Tribble indicted blogs for not being peer-reviewed and therefore also illegitimate as forms of disseminating scholarly knowledge. The response to Tribble’s (rather inane) column in higher education hiring circles was pretty dire. I went to a forum for job candidates that fall during which the facilitator begged us to delete everything about ourselves from the internet and to never, ever post pictures of our cats. In other words, the anecdotal experience of one person who could not even share his name with the world suddenly became concrete evidence that within the blogging world, the sky was falling. The rumor spread: blogging damaged one’s chances at an academic job.”
ETDs & Libraries
Expanding on the library’s voice in this discussion, the anonymous Library Loon writes,“…the academic library’s central mission with dissertations produced on its campus is the dissemination thereof. (The records-management, cataloging, and preservation functions twine neatly into this mission, of course.) Open access to etds, and advocacy for open-access etd policies, clearly fulfill the library’s mission.”The university library’s role, now more than ever, includes advocating for author’s rights and supporting the broad reach of scholarship to the benefit of faculty authors, emerging and senior. Its not our place to get in the middle of disciplinary modes of research, but to suggest that they have the opportunity to be reinvented, for the good of the discipline. In terms of the dissertation, the library serves not only as a preservation and access agent, but also the legal and ethical one, ensuring the evidence of the scholarly record at our particular institution... In the case of AHA vs. ETDs, the inherent miscommunications between acquisitions editors at university presses, faculty advisors in academic departments and subject-specialist librarians has led to a battle between them and the emerging scholar, over policies dictated by the administrative body of the Graduate School. ... Too long the system has leaned in favor of the middlemen, rather than for the creators and consumers of knowledge.”
ETDs & Publishers
“Audience is a key consideration for university presses: ‘We normally consider theses or dissertations for publication only if the author is willing to revise them for a broader audience; this is our practice regardless of the availability of an ETD.’”
via Do Open Access Theses & Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences & Humanities? (College & Research Libraries, PDF, p.375)
“Publishers continue to comment on the lemming-like rush of doctoral students to try to get their dissertations published. The blunt fact is that the vast majority of doctoral students in the social sciences and humanities will never see their theses published in traditional monographic form by university presses. Australia alone has around 35,000 students undertaking doctorates by research. The vast majority of theses in the social sciences and humanities are of no commercial interest and only a small minority can be rewritten for a general trade readership. Students would be better served by their supervisors advising them to make their theses available on the Internet through the various national digital theses programs.”
Via Scholarly Monograph Publishing in the 21st Century: The Future More Than Ever Should Be an Open Book
Position of current graduate students in the discipline of History
“Let me start by saying that I entirely understand why individual graduate students want to embargo their dissertations and I don’t question their decisions to do so. A recent study seems to suggest that, while most university presses are still willing to consider publishing books based on openly accessible dissertations, a significant minority will not. And given the incredibly difficult professional situation in which new PhDs in history find themselves today, they cannot be faulted for doing what they must to maximize their chances for professional success.But as Rauchway and others have pointed out, a situation that effectively forces young scholars to keep their work out of circulation is fundamentally bad for the profession…and for young scholars themselves. Faced with the dual crises of academic hiring and academic publishing, our best response as a profession is not to try to approximate a status quo ante that is unlikely to return, especially if doing so discourages the dissemination of historical work, as the embargo strategy does”
“I am not defending the AHA’s statement, per se. It does indeed ignore the broader issue of what the AHA intends to do about the long-term, systemic problem of the undue influence and interest of university press publishers in the profession and the profession’s transition into the digital era, more generally. I am, however, going to defend the policy of allowing students the option to embargo.The profession is in a liminal moment. That is, while the rest of society and many professions have moved into the digital realm, the academic history profession has not. Historians have taken it upon themselves to bring our work and other perspectives into the digital world. There are exciting new digital history projects being created all the time. But the administrative structure of the profession (i.e., universities, departments, university presses, and professional organizations) has been much slower to adapt to the digital environment. This disconnect between practicing academic historians and the administrative structure of the profession has led to some of the frustrations with the AHA and the profession, more generally....All that said, as an academic history blogger and podcaster and a proponent of digital humanities, I am especially concerned with the profession becoming more digitally proactive and with issues of how we define the dissertation and the practices of hiring and tenure committees. Nevertheless, dealing with the present does not preclude one from also working toward improving the future. The AHA has done the former; now, it must do the latter.”
Graduate Students at UTA & the ResearchCommons
Currently, graduate students can choose an embargo of 6 months, 1 year, or up to 2 years
Resources & Guidelines:
For Profit Publishing
Elsevier Fact Sheet " According to The Economist, Elsevier made $1.1 billion in profit in 2010 for a profit margin of 36%. T&F’s profit margin is 25%, per T&F."
"I did not initially pay much attention when publisher John Wiley announced early in September that they would impose download limits on users of their database “effective immediately.” .... And it also reminded me that the best weapon against unilateral decisions that harm scholarship and research is to stop giving away the IP created by our faculty members to vendors who deal with it in costly and irresponsible ways. One of the most disturbing things about the original announcement is Wiley’s reference to “publishers’ IP.” Wiley, of course, created almost none of the content they sell; they own that IP only because it has been transferred to them. If we could put an end to that uneven and unnecessary giveaway, this constant game of paying more for less would have to stop.via An odd anouncement by Kevin Smith, J.D.
And it also reminded me that the best weapon against unilateral decisions that harm scholarship and research is to stop giving away the IP created by our faculty members to vendors who deal with it in costly and irresponsible ways. One of the most disturbing things about the original announcement is Wiley’s reference to “publishers’ IP.” Wiley, of course, created almost none of the content they sell; they own that IP only because it has been transferred to them. If we could put an end to that uneven and unnecessary giveaway, this constant game of paying more for less would have to stop. - See more at: http://blogs.library.duke.edu/scholcomm/2013/09/20/an-odd-anouncement/#sthash.0eTjcT27.dpuf
And it also reminded me that the best weapon against unilateral decisions that harm scholarship and research is to stop giving away the IP created by our faculty members to vendors who deal with it in costly and irresponsible ways. One of the most disturbing things about the original announcement is Wiley’s reference to “publishers’ IP.” Wiley, of course, created almost none of the content they sell; they own that IP only because it has been transferred to them. If we could put an end to that uneven and unnecessary giveaway, this constant game of paying more for less would have to stop. - See more at: http://blogs.library.duke.edu/scholcomm/2013/09/20/an-odd-anouncement/#sthash.0eTjcT27.dpufOpen Book Publishers
- open access books are available in the Portal to TexasHistory
- here is an example of a UNT press published book based on OA dissertation
Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC): Open Access
9/26/13 ETA Bibliography for 09/25 Discussion on the Scholarly Monograph & University Presses
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