Harvard Medical School Launches Submission and Archiving of Electronic Student Theses

By , October 28, 2014

Students logging into ETDs @ Harvard are met with a school specific submission tool. Each submission is estimated to take no more than ten minutes to complete.

The Center for the History of Medicine is excited to be a part of Harvard University’s launch of a new electronic thesis and dissertation (ETD) submission system: ETDs @ Harvard. Bringing together stakeholders from across the Longwood Schools, the Countway Library, and the Harvard Libraries Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC), the project has been over a year in planning and will allow students to submit and archive their scholarly work electronically. The project also aims to bring a new level of visibility and access to student work, through the submission of theses into the DASH repository.

From the OSC’s Open Access Week announcement on October 16th: “The Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication is pleased to use the occasion of Open Access Week to celebrate the adoption of Harvard’s new electronic thesis and dissertation (ETD) submission system: ETDs @ Harvard. The Harvard Medical School (HMS) was the first Harvard school to launch the system, in January 2014. It deposited 20 doctoral dissertations in DASH, Harvard’s open-access repository, and listed them in HOLLIS+, Harvard Library’s new catalog. Since the collection of HMS dissertations went live in DASH in July, these works have been downloaded over 400 times.

As Stephen Volante, HMS Honors Program Coordinator notes, “When I took over [this role] in January 2013, successful students earned an academic distinction and bound copies of their theses went to Countway. There was no evidence of interest in theses beyond each student’s small professional network. [Our program’s] ETDs @ Harvard implementation in 2014 resulted in a collection of 20 theses in DASH that has, in less than three months, generated over 800 previews and 400 downloads. We can now demonstrate to students that by earning Honors, they are not just collecting more recognition. They are making active, substantial contributions to their fields that other physicians and researchers will seek out, study, and value.” A second HMS program, Master of Medical Sciences in Global Health Delivery, is currently submitting student work through the tool.

This fall, six more schools will roll out their own instances of ETDs @ Harvard: the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School of Design, Graduate School of Education, Harvard Business School, Harvard Divinity School, and Harvard School of Public Health. Three more will follow suit shortly thereafter.

Getting to this point required the collaboration of these schools with one another, and with other stakeholders across campus, such as the Office of General Counsel, Office for Scholarly Communication, Office of Technology Development, Student Billing, Registrars, program administrators, librarians, archivists, and students. Thanks to cooperation from every quarter, Harvard now has a University-wide open-source ETD submission system with the efficiency of central support and the flexibility of school-level customization.

Submitting a dissertation now takes a student just 10 minutes. In the process, students supply some metadata about their work, some contact information for themselves, and a copy of the final text. At the same time, they have the opportunity to submit an ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) and sign Harvard’s license agreement, granting the University a non-exclusive license to preserve, reproduce, and display the work.

Most importantly, these dissertations become open access, enlarging the authors’ audience and increasing their impact.

Garth McCavana, Dean of Student Affairs for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) notes “GSAS students have been submitting their dissertations electronically since 2011 through a tool developed by ProQuest. We were initially cautious of moving our students to a new system, but the Office of Scholarly Communication has made the transition seamless.” He continued that “the new ETDs @ Harvard tool is extremely user-friendly and explains students’ options in a very clear manner. We think that ETDs @ Harvard will allow our students to weigh all the benefits of open access and allow them to promote their research widely.”

OSC Director Peter Suber welcomed the roll-out of ETDs @ Harvard. “Open access removes the cloak of invisibility from this very useful form of research literature. Opening up this work serves readers working on related topics, and serves authors seeking the widest possible audience. Making open access the default, subject to some exceptions and embargoes, is a modern realization of Harvard’s pre-digital policy to make dissertations available to the public, and not to grant degrees for contributions to knowledge that are kept secret.”

The OSC is delighted with the success of ETDs @ Harvard, and looks forward to its further spread across Harvard, helping to realize the vision of One Harvard.”

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