An announcement from Richard J. Tarrant
Interim Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
This year, as Harvard moved to an electronic platform for submission of PhD dissertations, the procedures governing the archiving and circulation of dissertations changed. The Office for Scholarly Communication, a branch of the Harvard University Library system, took over the responsibility for circulating dissertations, via the DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) repository. This role was formerly held by University Archives, another branch of the library system.
The new procedures called for the electronic dissertation to be available for circulation through DASH; the bound dissertation, still to be held in Archives, would no longer be circulated.
In recent days, concerns have been raised about the open-access nature of the DASH repository. Simultaneously, questions have arisen about the process of embargoing dissertations when open access is deemed undesirable.
In response, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard University Library are amending the circulation options available to students when they submit their dissertations. We outline these options below and clarify longstanding policies governing the embargo process.
- GSAS students submit their dissertations online, through a tool developed by the FAS Registrar, the Harvard University Library, GSAS, and ProQuest, the standard publisher of dissertations in the United States.
- By default, the submitted dissertation will enter the DASH repository for circulation through open-access channels. But in the online dissertation submission tool, students will now have the choice to opt out of open access through DASH. If they check the opt-out box during the submission process, DASH will not circulate the dissertation.
- Students who choose to opt out of DASH open access will retain a menu of choices for distribution via ProQuest.
- The option to forego DASH open access will be offered to students who submitted their dissertations for the March degree period and to those who have submitted or plan to submit for the May degree period.
- During the online submission process, students will also be asked whether they choose to embargo (that is, delay release of) the dissertation. They are given the option of embargo periods of 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years.
- If a 2-year embargo is insufficient, students may indicate that in the submission tool by writing a note to the administrator to declare an ongoing embargo.
- Once embargoed through ProQuest, the dissertation will then be embargoed through DASH.
- Once an ongoing embargo has been set, the dissertation will not be distributed unless and until the embargo period ends.
- Harvard will once again make bound dissertation copies available for circulation through University Archives (pursuant to embargo status). This return to longstanding policy fulfills the requirement that scholarly results of PhD work, considered a public good, be publicly available.
In all cases, students are encouraged to explore the issues related to embargo, open access, and publication with their advisors, dissertation committee members, and senior colleagues in their fields. Norms vary widely, and open-access norms are evolving rapidly.
Please refer to The Form of the PhD Dissertation for details on all facets of the dissertation process: