Should dissertations be posted online?

Historians in the News
tags: AHA2015

Michael D. Hattem, is a PhD candidate at Yale University. He is also a contributing editor at The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History and producer of The JuntoCast: A Podcast on Early American History.

Related Link The 2015 AHA Annual Meeting: Videos, News, Everything

On January 3, the 2015 AHA annual meeting hosted a panel entitled “Choosing to Embargo? What to Do with Your History Dissertation.” Chaired by Mary Louise Roberts, a member of the AHA’s Professional Division, the panel included Peter Berkery, the executive director of the Association of American University Presses; Rick Anderson, a librarian at the University of Utah; myself, a PhD candidate at Yale University; and Jacqueline Jones, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and former vice president of the AHA’s Professional Division. The original statement released by the AHA in the summer of 2013 set off a firestorm of reactions, resulting in subsequent clarifying statements by the AHA and Noam Cohen’s article in the New York Times Business section. Eighteen months later, this panel was convened not to re-fight the initial debate over the statement so much as to offer a variety of individual professional perspectives.

The panelists’ remarks raised a number of questions surrounding the changing landscape of academic publishing. Peter Berkery acknowledged that the monograph is “under critical stress,” which, in turn, has put increasing pressure on the university press business model. Berkery went so far as to suggest that the model will eventually need to be “flipped from consumer pays to producer pays,” as some open access journal publishing in Europe has already done. Rick Anderson pointed out the oft-misunderstood difference between “open access” and “public access.” With public access, authors retain copyright, and Anderson noted that true open access would represent a significant change in the way we think about authorship and content ownership. Finally, Jacqueline Jones mentioned how the debate had caused her to think back to her own dissertation, and she stressed that many grad students (and faculty) simply did not fully understand what an embargo is. In the end, she supported “students’ ability to make a choice,” which closely echoes my own position....

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