Tuesday, January 06, 2009

How many student theses public?

In the past year I have been responsible for a organising a system to archive all the students' master theses here at Social Sciences, Utrecht University. The university library programmed a very practical web interface which acts as a front end to the rather more complex interface of the repository itself. I must say I am very pleased with the system they came up with.
The challenge was to think up a procedure which would comply with all the checks the management required (had to be a real student, truly graduated, and indeed his/her real thesis). At the same time the teaching staff did not want to have spend any time on the process at all. This resulted in the workflow described here. (in Dutch I am afraid)
From June onwards the system was taken into production and a large number (587) theses were submitted. These were not all of the theses. We missed a number of the theses of students which had been handed in before the 1st of June. I also expect that the late adoption meant that a lot of teachers did not submit the theses they had received earlier on in the year. We still managed to collect 77% of all the theses. For a first attempt I am not certainly not dissatisfied, the coverage should go up in the coming years though.
I was very interested how many students would choose to make their thesis public and how many would choose to keep theirs private. 69.5% chose to make their thesis public. The main reason not to make it publically available was that they wished to submit the thesis as an article in a scientific journal and in many cases publishers will not accept it if it has been made public on an earlier date. Some students also indicated that they wish to continue in the field of research and do not want to others to take over their ideas... In fact even some abstracts were not made public for this very reason.
The report on the implementation can be found here (in Dutch too I am afraid).

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