January 14, 2018

EBSCO and BiblioLabs Announce OA Service for Theses, Dissertations

EBSCO Open Dissertations logoEBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) and BiblioLabs will launch OpenDissertations.org, an open access (OA) initiative that will facilitate the discovery of electronic theses and dissertations (ETD), in early 2018. Students, researchers, and libraries can submit ETD for free. EBSCO will include metadata for the submitted ETD in EBSCO Discovery Service, as well as exposing it on the OpenDissertations.org website to enhance the discoverability of this OA content both within academia and in open web searches. User traffic will be driven to partnering sites, such as academic institutional repositories (IR), which will host full-text versions of the theses and dissertations.

“Universities have long provided theses and dissertations to companies that require libraries to subscribe to their products to gain the added value of aggregated access to this research output,” EBSCO explained in an announcement. “With more and more universities now hosting and distributing their own ETDs on the open web, EBSCO and BiblioLabs are seeking to add an enhanced service that freely aggregates and exposes this valuable content, extending access to any interested reader worldwide.”

At launch, the project will include the British Library’s EThOS Service, as well as ETD metadata from Cornell University, Florida State University, the University of Florida (UF), the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the University of Kentucky.

Enhanced visibility

The project got its start through EBSCO’s work with the H.W. Wilson Foundation beginning in 2014, Kathleen McEvoy, EBSCO’s VP of communications, told LJ. “They came to us with an A&I [abstracting and indexing] database that they wanted to digitize—Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by American Universities, 1933–1955,” McEvoy said. “So, we put that online at opendissertations.com, and it really sparked a lot of interest from universities who said, ‘If I tie that to my institutional repository, my users could have full-text access’…. As we expanded it [with the addition of post-1955 content beginning in 2015] it really started to mushroom, with more and more people starting to say, ‘This is a great way to showcase our institutional repository.’”

BiblioLabs developed the ETD submission platform, following Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) standards and ensuring future compatibility with the FOLIO open source library services platform, a separate project on which EBSCO, BiblioLabs, and several other major library vendors are collaborating.

Mitchell Davis, founder and CEO of BiblioLabs, said OpenDissertations.org will help graduate students increase the visibility of their own work while also offering access to OA research that might otherwise take months or even years to be published.

In discussions with graduate students while the platform was under development, Davis found that they “understood how slowly publishing works. And they had an awareness that having access to these theses and dissertations was [access] to the rawest and newest research that they can get their hands on…. The pace of their curiosity wasn’t necessarily going to track with the pace of academic publishing.”

Christine Swanson, a PhD student who helped organize some of the early feedback on the project as VP of UF’s graduate student council, noted that, as an OA platform, OpenDissertations.org could also help facilitate research and collaboration in countries where faculty and students don’t have comprehensive institutional access to subscription databases and journals. Her own work, for example, includes collaboration with international researchers in South America and elsewhere involved with the Amazon Dams Network.

“In general, science does need to move toward being open—to anyone who wants to read the science—especially when its funded by the government,” Swanson told LJ.  “It’s extremely important, not just as a public service, but also for sharing science and moving science forward.”

EBSCO anticipates that more than 20 partner libraries will be participating in OpenDissertations.org by the time it goes live, likely early February. Over the course of 2018, the company expects to make announcements regarding innovations related to multimedia ETDs and research data sets.

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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