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“My argument here is not against publishing online; rather, it is for giving dissertation authors -- the doctoral students themselves -- a say in the disposition of their work,” wrote Schlesinger.
“This practice amounts to outsourcing the digital archiving of locally produced theses and dissertations,” Anderson said in an email.
By putting dissertations in a virtual space that is curated by another entity, institutions can free up institutional server space and staff time for other uses, he said.
“If the university insists on publication in exceptional circumstances where publication is objectively inappropriate, then I believe courts should deal with that situation under traditional contract doctrines,” he said.
The requirement for students to upload their doctoral theses to Pro Quest is “bordering on universal” at U. institutions, said Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communications at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah.
“Most dissertation authors welcome the added visibility that dissemination through Pro Quest offers,” she added. All dissertations sent to Pro Quest become part of the official national collection.
Pro Quest Dissertations and Theses Global, as the database is officially called, has been a designated off-site dissertation repository for the U. Pro Quest is committed to offering flexibility to authors, said Horowitz.
Aside from privacy concerns, Schlesinger believes that as the author of his dissertation, he should have the right to decide how his work is published and distributed.
He also questions whether it is defensible under contract law for colleges to make the publication of a dissertation a degree requirement.
“Pro Quest is governed by any embargo that the author or university places on a work and can, upon request, remove online works within 24 hours.” After speaking with his advisers, Schlesinger was granted an exception to the requirement to publish with Pro Quest.
He has encouraged other students to request the same but said none have yet done so.