doctoral candidate

New Stanford Electronic Dissertation Program enables CC licensing

Jane Park, January 21st, 2010

Last November, Stanford started accepting digital dissertations for the first time, allowing students to opt out of hundreds of dollars in printing and processing costs. The new program also enabled CC licensing, allowing students to make their work available under a license of their choosing. Of the 60 doctoral students who submitted their dissertations electronically, 52 went with CC licensing, choosing the CC BY-NC license. 47 doctoral theses will be displayed in their entirety in the Stanford Digital Repository. From the Stanford Report,

“The doctoral students who chose the digital route last quarter came from five of Stanford’s seven schools: Earth Sciences (1), Education (2), Medicine (7), Humanities and Sciences (15) and Engineering (35).

Gunnarsdottir’s 160-page dissertation, “Modeling the Martian Surface Using Bistatic Radar at High Incidence Angles,” honed an existing method for evaluating the roughness of the planet’s terrain – one of many factors NASA uses to select landing sites for spacecraft.

She used “The Dish,” the 150-foot diameter radio telescope located in the Stanford foothills, to beam a signal to Mars. Then she analyzed the surface echo detected by the orbiting 2001 Mars Odyssey, the NASA spacecraft carrying science experiments designed to improve understanding of the planet’s climate and geologic history.

“Our results were incorporated into the landing site selection of the 2007 Mars Phoenix Lander,” said Gunnarsdottir, who earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Iceland in 1999, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Stanford in 2002.”

Since the program is already in place, Stanford expects greater numbers of electronic dissertations this quarter. We hope other universities will take Stanford’s lead in enabling the CC license option for their students’ work. For past dissertations that have been CC licensed by individuals, see my post “CC Licensing Your Dissertations.” “CC licensing increases your creation’s visibility, even if by only a small margin at first. It lets current and future students access and read (and even derive, based on the specific CC license you choose) your work so that they can build and improve upon it—all the while giving credit where credit is due, namely, to you.”

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CC Licensing Your Dissertations

Jane Park, February 17th, 2009

PhD students slave for years on researching, writing, and drafting a final product, usually text, that marks the culmination of their candidacy for the highly esteemed doctoral degree. This product is then reviewed by a tenured member of the faculty in their domain of expertise, or a small committee of said members. Upon passing this review, the student is finally rewarded the title of “Doctor” along with its perceived reputation. The dissertation, unfortunately, usually falls to the wayside and is, for the most part, never read again.

Furthermore, because most dissertations are fully copyrighted, these significant pieces of work cannot be reproduced or redistributed for future students’ research. So why not do the obvious? Why not work with copyright law and publish your dissertation under an open license, thereby increasing its exposure to the world, academic or otherwise?

Two UC Berkeley graduates from the School of Information have gone ahead and taken a stab at doing this by CC licensing their dissertations. In the words of The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley’s independent, student-run newspaper:

This license opens up many possibilities in the academic world such as free online course readers, zero cost educational multimedia, gratis online tutorials-even the price of paper textbooks could be drastically reduced. Perhaps more important than cost, however, by using Creative Commons you are essentially “paying it forward” by sharing your intellectual output with the academic community because future generations of scholars will have greater access to your work.

Two recent Berkeley students to file their dissertations using a Creative Commons license are Joseph Lorenzo Hall and danah boyd. Hall navigated through much bureaucratic red tape, but found that most of his difficulty came from simple formatting issues, not any ideological disagreement by the univerisyt. Another School of Information graduate, danah boyd, also filed her dissertation under Creative Commons shortly thereafter.

On Jan. 28, the Dean of the Graduate Division committed to make Creative Commons licensing available to future students. All students interested in contributing to the effort to make education more affordable and accessible should consider using Creative Commons instead of traditional copyright.

Both danah‘s and Joseph‘s dissertations are licensed CC BY-NC-ND and are respectively entitled “Taken Out of Context — American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics” and “Policy Mechanisms for Increasing
Transparency in Electronic Voting
“.

We hope that other institutions and individuals will also embrace the significant benefits gained by CC licensing academic outputs such as dissertations. For one thing, CC licensing increases your creation’s visibility, even if by only a small margin at first. It lets current and future students access and read (and even derive, based on the specific CC license you choose) your work so that they can build and improve upon it—all the while giving credit where credit is due, namely, to you.

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